Aulani reef fish contributing to science

  • Fish swim near a head of coral in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. Scientists are trying to speed up coral's evolutionary clock to build reefs that can better withstand the impacts of global warming. For the past five years, researchers in Hawaii and Australia have been conducting experiments to prove their Darwinian theories work. They say they do, and now they're getting ready to plant selectively bred and other lab-evolved corals back into the ocean to see if they can survive in Nature. If successful, the scientists say the more heat tolerant corals could help save vital reefs that are dying from climate change. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

At Disney’s Aulani Resort &Spa at Koolina, the colorful reef fish in Oahu’s only human-made snorkeling lagoon are doing more than just swimming about looking pretty for the hotel’s guests.

They are contributing to science.


The Aulani aquarium program is working with the Oceanic Institute of Hawaii Pacific University to help in the breeding of reef fish that historically have had only limited success in captive reproduction.

“Their efforts to collect eggs have significantly improved our ability to conduct hatchery research on some key species,” said aquatic researcher Chad Callan, director of Oceanic Institute’s finfish program.

In fact, eggs collected from the Aulani’s Rainbow Reef snorkeling lagoon since 2016 have resulted in the first-ever successful captive breeding in Callan’s lab of the milletseed butterflyfish, potters angelfish, Hawaiian cleaner wrasse, yellowtail coris and yellow longnose butterflyfish.

Callan said the Aulani eggs have allowed his lab to test its culturing methods on more reef species, to see how broadly applicable they are.

“So far, it’s been a really great partnership and we’re really excited to see it continuing to grow, ” he said, adding that he’s working with other aquariums in the state as well.