HONOLULU (KHON2) — There are six pyramid-shaped coral colonies that are now growing on the rocks a few feet below the water’s surface at Hanauma Bay.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources Coral Restoration Nursery on Sand Island grew the corals for the purpose of restoring the coral colonies that have been damaged by both the commercialization of Hanauma Bay and by naturally occurring weather and/or events.

Get Hawaii’s latest morning news delivered to your inbox, sign up for News 2 You

A team of six DAR professionals affixed 17-inch coral structures into place on the southern side of the bay. This is the spot where a large log fell onto the coral and damaged the colony in 2020.

“This is the first large-scale restoration project in the bay. We’re planting an endemic coral, called brown lobe coral. These are corals that grow faster and larger than they would in the ocean; so, this helps with damage recovery,” said Christina Jayne, DAR’s coral nursery curator. 

A pilot project was created during the pandemic to understand how nursery-raised coral colonies would do at the bay.

“We saw really good results with those corals. They’re still out in the bay and doing well,” added Jayne.

The coral were carefully transported from their creation point to Hanauma Bay in the back of a truck in a water tank.

Once suitable sites for their insertion were identified by DAR, the team performed sweeps to clean the area. They then used adhesive to attach the lab grown coral to the rock substructure.

“Friends of Hanauma Bay has been very fortunate and honored to have a role to play in this first coral restoration project at the bay,” said Lisa Bishop, President of the Friends of Hanauma Bay. 

The condition of the bay has been transformative since Hanauma Bay changed their open hours and visitor numbers and encouraged all bay visitors to use reef-safe sunscreens.

“The COVID closure taught all of us that there are some adverse impacts of over-visitation in places like Hanauma Bay,” Bishop said. 

As the coral make their new home in the bay, the friends’ group said they may look into working more with DAR on additional projects.

Get news on the go with KHON 2GO, KHON’s morning podcast, every morning at 8

“We have to be very careful about what comes into a Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD); and depending on how these coral colonies do and if they thrive and reproduce well in the wild, I think we can open the door to other kinds of projects like this. Not just in Hanauma Bay but all over the state,” concluded Bishop.