Stony coral disease. (Internet Image)
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George Town, Cayman Islands – The Department of Environment has asked divers and snorkellers, to look out for any evidence of a new lethal coral disease.
As the divers return to the waters for the first time since March, due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, researchers have called on them to report any signs of the latest threat to reefs, which is currently devastating coral around the Caribbean.
The Department says that Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) first appeared on Florida’s Reefs in 2014 and has spread to several countries in the Caribbean, some of which are very close to the Cayman Islands.
Researchers have been unable to determine the cause and method of transmission but evidence suggests it is a bacterial pathogen that is transmitted by touch and water circulation.
“The disease spreads rapidly and is known to affect more than 20 species of corals,” the Department of Environment said in a post social media, as it asked for assistance.
“Once a coral is infected by SCTLD and begins to lose live tissue, it is likely that the colony will die within weeks to months. The loss of these corals affects overall coral reef health and can have catastrophic impacts on the ecosystems,” the department added.
They warned that it is possible the disease is already in local waters and it is important to understand where the disease is located in order for the DoE to respond effectively.
“This disease has a similar appearance to other known diseases such as White Plague Disease,” officials added.
Divers and snorkellers are asked to report any suspicious sightings directly to Tammi Warrender, a marine researcher working specifically on coral diseases with the Department of Environment. (CMC)