Sunday, October 25, 2020

A Disease is Consuming the Country’s Coral Reef System. What You Need To Know

The Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease is destroying the coral reef system on the south coast of Grand Bahama and Minister of Marine Resources Michael Pintard fears the disease is attacking corals in other parts of the country.

Scientists from Perry Institute for Marine Science confirmed that the threat seems to be making its way to New Providence.

Pintard warned that this is a challenge that lies ahead for the Bahamas as the disease has largely gone unnoticed by the public.

Why it matters?

Corals house fish species and provide protection from storm surge as it shields the shorelines from waves, storms, and floods, helping to prevent property damage and erosion.

The Bahamian local economy receives billions of dollars from tourists through diving tours and recreational fishing trips.

In response to the disease, Cabinet has approved the formation of a task force to mitigate its spread. Pintard said the Ministry of Tourism recently approved to underwrite the cost of an assessment of western New Providence, where the disease has also been spotted.

What causes the disease?

ipoloria labyrnthiformis (grooved brain coral) Infected with SCTLD at Traveler’s, Sandyport, Baha Mar and Lighthouse Boulders © Hayley-Jo Carr (PIMS & Reef Rescue Network)

There is little knowledge on why the disease occurs and scientists do not know the definitive pathogen that is attacking the corals.

Since late 2019, the ministry was notified of the outbreak in Bahamian waters but the suspected bacterial disease was first discovered in Florida in 2014, and has since been detected in a number of countries in the wider Caribbean.

How widespread is the problem?

This disease is a problem because it has a very high mortality rate and it affects over ten species of corals.

Perry Institute for Marine Science said the following corals were most commonly infected:

  • Montastrea cavernosa (large-cup star coral)
  • Pseudodiploria strigosa (symmetrical brain coral)
  • Dilporia labryinthiformis (grooved brain coral)
  • Pseudodilporia clivosa (knobby brain coral)
  • Orbicella annualaris (lobed star coral)

Scientists said its survey of 1,257 corals in New Providence, 37% of them were infected with the disease.

The Perry Institute said urgent attention is needed to protect the corals from the disease.

“Based on the data we have now, we believe vessels commuting between Grand Bahama, New Providence and Florida may have expedited the spread of SCTLD.” 

Featured Image: Perry Institute for Marine Science

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