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Coral Restoration

Scuba Diver Reattaching Coral for Coral Restoration

Reattaching coral to the substrate

Immediate Return of Ecological Services (IRES)

Kuleana Coral is taking a straightforward and direct approach to coral restoration in Hawaiʻi.  Our basic strategy is to collect large dislodged coral colonies — some with over 25 years of growth —and determine if they are likely to survive immediate outplanting.  Since these Large Rescued Colonies can heal once reattached to substrate, they provide the most efficient and opportunistic approach to reef gardening.  After a health assessment, we move the coral colonies to better, nearby conditions and plant them back on the seafloor.


Once transplanted, these mature coral can immediately return ecological services to the reef —we’ve seen fish and eels take up residence by the second day of transplant! 

Scuba Diver Collecting dislodged Coral

Collecting dislodged coral


Kuleana Coral is developing, testing, and refining methods for Hawaiʻi that are efficient, affordable, scalable, and modular for statewide Hawaiian reef restoration efforts. By using existing coral colonies and keeping the coral in the ocean (in situ) throughout the process, we avoid the risks, expenses and time of a land-based nursery. 


Kuleana Coral is hopeful that by working with nature and employing methods that are simple to replicate, we can address reef damage at scale throughout Hawaiʻi.  With every new site, technique, and process we test, our team is developing systems that can easily be moved to different restoration areas.  And since mature colonies with high survivability rates are the most efficient scalable technique in Hawaiʻi,  we are optimistic that localized, in-situ restoration is an efficient method for Hawaiian coral reefs.

Scuba diver moving coral with lifting device

IRES—A Second Chance at Life

Once a live coral colony is outplanted back on the reef, it immediately can do what it does best: provide habitat, support biodiversity, and sustain fisheries and other marine life.  Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment (NOAA).  As the foundation of a healthy marine food chain and keystone species, corals play a critical and irreplaceable role in ocean ecosystems.  They  offer critical ecological services (such as shelter and food) to an amazing diversity of species that are not only important to humans, but to the entire ecosystem as a whole.  

The larger the coral colony, the greater the ecological services.

More space = more life!

Larger coral colonies are also more likely to be sexually reproductive, which further helps seed reefs across the State,  promoting genetic diversity, a key approach to fostering resilient reef ecosystems.

Scuba Diver restoring coral on the ocean floor
Fish and Coral in Pacific Ocean


Scuba Diver and Coral on the Sea Floor

Coral reefs around the world are suffering devastating loss.  A global effort to mitigate and recover reefs with affordable and scalable solutions is making coral restoration a critical and developing field. 


Kuleana Coral studies and collaborates with organizations that are developing successful restoration techniques, both locally and internationally.  Relying on scientifically-sound methods, Kuleana Coral is committed to employing localized coral restoration strategies to the reef-building species in Hawaiian waters.

But our unique location requires a unique restoration approach.  One of the biggest challenges to reef restoration in Hawaiʻi is the slow growth rate of Hawaiian corals, meaning recovery takes much longer.  In other parts of the world, like the Caribbean or Great Barrier Reef, growth rates average 12-18 cm per year, compared to Hawaiʻi coral growing a mere 2 cm.

In addition to the slow growth rates, Hawaiʻi is placed in the middle of the open ocean.  Storm surges, intense wave action, and open ocean swells can batter the reef, destroying newly transplanted coral and the underwater structures used to “farm” them.  In order to restore the reef, our approach must be tailored to our unique coral species and ocean environment. 

With these challenges in mind, Kuleana Coral works with the guidance of subject matter experts and local communities to focus our applied research in the following areas:

Coral Restoration

Why do corals dislodge,

and why interevene?

By intervening and recovering disrupted corals and permanently reattaching them back to the seafloor, we offset parts of the reef that would otherwise die.  These "casualties" face a number of anthropogenic stressors, but dislodged corals in Hawaiʻi are typically a result of storms, waves, ship groundings, anchor damage and destructive fishing methods.  These dislodged colonies will tumble down the reef slope into deeper water and eventually die in the poorer conditions (low light, low water flow, sediment, unstable substrate).  Dislodged corals also pose a physical threat to healthy and fragile coral colonies.  Normally long-term survival of displaced corals is extremely low, but if corals can be recovered early enough and returned to the reef permanently, they can survive and even thrive without further intervention.

Types of Restoration

Corals of opportunity can be utilized for a variety of applications. Using a place based approach, we aim to provide a set of tools that can be applied broadly for restoration needs as identified by the community. This includes emergency repair, and enhancing the many benefits coral reefs provide including building fish habitat, climate resilience, and coastal protection. 

Restoration Blueprint

Keeping interventions at pilot scale, we aim to evaluate if coral can withstand anthropogenic stressors at specific sites. We seek to provide site-specific actionable data to a diverse group of stakeholders in different regions throughout the State.

Community Based Approach

Kuleana Coral Restoration has been scaling coral restoration on West Oʻahu since 2019, and is proposing to pilot a community-based restoration approach at specific sites. The focus of piloting a Community-based Coral Restoration Area (CBCRA) is to bring together fishers, residents, and resource stakeholders to participate in protecting reefs and fish stocks in their own backyard. Integrating the site-specific knowledge of local communities will allow us to develop and lead a restoration strategy that supports all stakeholders of each community. Priority areas for 2023 will include Pōka'i Bay Zublans (Nānākuli).

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© 2020 Kuleana Coral Reefs

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