DLNR needs your help identifying sick sea urchins

Photo: DLNR/TNC
Photo: DLNR/TNC

The state needs your help tackling a sea urchin disease.

The Dept. of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) and the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center Honolulu Field Station (USGS) are investigating a recently reported disease affecting collector urchins (hawae or Tripneustes gratilla) in Maunalua and Kaneohe Bays.

Reports were initially made in late February by biologists from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) when they observed sick urchins on the mud scow barge, an artificial reef in Maunalua Bay.

The preliminary diagnosis of the sea urchins is it is a disease that causes progressive loss of spines. Laboratory tests to identify the cause of this disease are ongoing, and some causes (e.g. parasites) have been ruled out.

Then, on May 6, 2014, USGS and Division of Aquatic Resources staff responded to reports of urchins with similar lesions in Kaneohe Bay. Approximately 10 percent of urchins on one patch reef showed signs of the disease at that time.

In partnership with TNC, USGS and the University of Hawaii, DAR is coordinating a management team to address the issue and monitor the affected areas on a weekly basis. Lab results and monitoring plans will be continuously updated on the team’s Reef Response website.

Researchers are asking the public to help determine how widespread this disease is by looking for and reporting sickly collector sea urchins.

You can submit a report via an online form via the Eyes of the Reef Network, or email photos of the sick urchins to RRCPcoordinator@gmail.com.

Do not collect samples or specimens at this time, DLNR said.

Related Link: Dept. of Land and Natural Resources website

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