Apr 24th - Jun 2nd, 2000
27°C to 34°C
Local divers noticed the start of a bleaching epidemic in January 2000 . Some walls have up to 30% corals bleached. In some colonies filamentous and macroalgae have taken root on the bleached corals and there is little chance of recovery. The worst hit species are the huge table Acroporas, some of the large branching Acroporas, the foliose Pachyseris, Seriatopora, Favites and Pocillopora species. There also appeared to be soft coral bleaching, many anemones have changed colour to a dull cream from vibrant purples and yellows. Some sites were definitely worse affected than others but in general bleaching has started here and local divers are seeing a rapid decline in the state of the reefs.
Most elephants ear sponges are being ravaged by some kind of disease. The majority of massive Porites has very uniform strips of white, similar to a fish bite but the coral tissue was still alive.
This averaged at about 20m and was generally very good.
There were none sighted at our study site but the occasional single animal was seen at other dive sites in the area.
Fish: In general in the Solomon Islands, reefs are laid claim to by the communities that live on the nearest shore which can make diving complicated but ensures that there is a control over fishing methods. This area is so far untouched by the live reef fish trade in Hong Kong etc. - large fish are still caught for local consumption, big groupers for sale in the market etc. The reef that we chose for our study site was close to an island inhabited by a community of Gilbertese islanders who were relocated to the Solomons in the 1950s. They do not claim to own the fishing rights of these reefs and the result is an incredibly healthy population of commercial fish. There are reef sharks, napoleon wrasse, large and plentiful groupers and snappers (especially Malcolor niger) and devil rays (Mobula). Small reef fish are also abundant and varied.
Corals: in the shallows(<1m) the corals covered about 30% of the area. Between 2-5m this increased to about 40% as the slope incline increased variably around the reef. As the slope descended from 6-18m, the coverage increased to about 90%. The corals predominant in the study area were mixed Porites with Acropora, as well as Montipora, Favites, Pavona, Fungi, Pocillipora, Lobophillia, Turbinaria, Goniastrea, Cyphastrea, Millepora, Diploastrea, Hydnophora, Favia, Echinopora and Psammocora.
Invertebrates: There were very few urchins in the study site.