Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease detected in the Cayman Islands

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in the Cayman Islands. Photo: Cayman Islands Department of Environment, via Cayman Compass.
Oceans

The Cayman Islands Department of Environment has discovered several incidences of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, the devastating infection that was first discovered on Florida’s coral reefs in 2014 and has since spread across the Caribbean region. Cayman Compass reports:

Cayman’s reefs are under attack from the mysterious, but deadly Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease that has ravaged Florida’s coral reefs.

Staff at the Department of Environment are racing to try to save local corals from the devastation witnessed there.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reported that the Upper Keys has lost more than 40% of its coral cover due to disease.

Last week, a diver in Cayman came across coral that had been impacted by the disease at Penny’s Arch, along the north coast.

Deputy Director at the Department of Environment Tim Austin said that, while only one local area of infection has been found so far, the DoE team is “very, very concerned”.

He said about one mile of infected coral has been discovered.

The disease, he said, has spread in both directions from the epicentre of infection and the DoE research team is monitoring it.

“We put out stakes and nails into the coral so we can determine how fast it’s spreading, and it will help us determine how quick of a response is needed. Obviously, if it’s moved hundreds of metres or to lots more corals, we’ll know we’ve got to get going faster than we currently are. But if things are relatively stable, then we’ve got some time to really think up a more solid response,” Austin said.

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease is a lethal, rapid-spread disease that affects hard corals, which are critical species for reef-building. Since its discovery in Florida in 2014, there have been confirmed cases in 13 countries/territories in the Wider Caribbean region.

The Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) programme has launched a Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Dashboard for the Caribbean. The Dashboard provides data on the locations of disease monitoring, disease outbreaks, and coral species affected. AGRRA also provides resources and guidance on identifying, monitoring, and preventing the spread of Stony Coral Tissues Loss Disease. Reef researchers and other divers who see any instances, or suspected instances, of the disease are encouraged to submit information about the suspected outbreak to AGRRA via the survey forms on their website.

Previously on Green Antilles: Stony coral tissue loss disease spreads through the northern Caribbean.

[Image: Cayman Islands Department of Environment via Cayman Compass]

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