Hawaii’s Coral Reefs Are Now Covered Under an Insurance Policy

by Craig Garrett
Sea turtle, Hawaii - stock photo

Hawaii’s coral reefs now have a special insurance policy of protection, which is the first of its kind in the United States. The policy will help to fund the repairing of coral reefs from the natural disasters that often result in major damage.

Makale’a Ane is the conservancy’s community engagement and partnerships leader. She stated that the fund would be available right after any storm where wind speeds exceed 50 knots. “With climate change and increasing intensity of storms in Hawaii, and we’ve seen more tropical storms than hurricanes, hopefully this is a way we can help to respond to damage from tropical storms and hurricanes,” Ane told KITV

The conservancy spent sleepless nights after Hurricane Delta struck Mexico in 2019 and regretted not having insurance for their reefs. So, they developed the world’s first reef insurance policy for future hurricanes.

The availability of the money would allow for quick action. This is because the conservancy wouldn’t have to prove damages when a storm of a certain strength hits. “The coral gets damaged and is rolling around in the ocean and it only has a certain survival time. So we have to respond immediately,” Ane explained. 

Hawaii’s Coral Reefs provide protection to the shore

The survey would encompass the damages, clearing away debris, and picking up corals that could still be used. If the water is dangerous for scuba divers to attach coral fragments, they’ll temporarily store them in a nursery until it’s safe. The amount of money given will be damages-based, with a maximum payout of $2 million.

“Coral reefs provide protection against flooding on our coastline and protect our infrastructure like roads and buildings. So just the basis of us living here and being able to live in Hawaii I feel like it’s very important to protect this ecosystem,” Ane explained. The conservancy is looking for volunteers to help next year with the coral reef restoration project.

Coral is threatened by many human activities, such as coral mining, which can damage marine ecosystems. Other threats include blast fishing, and marine pollution from banned chemicals. These activities are rare in developed countries with better environmental protections. However, they continue to happen in places with weak protection laws.

The chemicals often found in sunscreens may activate latent viral infections lying dormant within zooxanthellae, which could then impact reproduction. However, directing tourist activities to offshore platforms is one solution. It has been shown to stop the spread of coral diseases people might otherwise bring with them.

When corals are harmed, they “bleach” by releasing their colorful zooxanthellate endosymbionts. Corals that have Clade C zooxanthellae are usually vulnerable to heat-induced bleaching, while those with the hardier Clade A or D are resistant, as well as tough coral genera like Porites and Montipora.