Judy Lang, AGRRA scientist, joined experts from around the Caribbean region at a workshop in Key West, Florida, August 1-2, 2019 to share information on Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. During the workshop, AGRRA’s Coral Disease Outbreak portal was presented to show how to record observations of the disease and submit survey information.
The following extract was prepared by Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute.
Key West, August 1, 2019. Experts from around the Caribbean region are meeting at the Eco-Discovery Center in Key West to share information on an emerging and unprecedented threat to Caribbean coral reefs posed by a coral disease first documented in Florida and now being reported at sites across the region.
Since 2014, the Florida Reef Tract has been severely impacted by a newly documented coral disease which scientists are calling “Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease” because it affects only hard stony corals and is characterized by the rapid loss of live coral tissue. The disease has rapidly spread across coral reefs from Palm Beach to the lower Florida Keys and in the last year has been reported elsewhere in the Caribbean, including in Mexico, Jamaica, Sint Maarten, the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Belize.
“Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease affects some of the slowest-growing and longest-lived reef-building corals, including the iconic brain corals, star corals and pillar corals,” explained Dr. Andy Bruckner, Research Coordinator at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, where the meeting is taking place.
“Scientists from NOAA and the state of Florida, sanctuary managers and academic partners have been working to document the outbreak, identify causes and contributing factors, and develop treatments and interventions,” he added.
As the disease has begun to be reported in other parts of the Caribbean, experts from Florida are sharing their valuable knowledge with counterparts around the region to help them identify the disease and learn how to respond once it has been documented. The learning exchange includes 22 participants from 17 countries and territories of the Caribbean.
“The visitors will see first-hand how this disease has impacted Florida’s coral reefs. With local experts, they’ll learn about monitoring for and treating the disease and about local efforts to save this incredibly important ecosystem,” explained Dana Wusinich-Mendez from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program.
“The visitors are not only learning from Florida’s experience but are also sharing with their hosts and with each other. The gathering is an important opportunity to exchange information and experiences about the disease progression and status of response efforts in other affected countries.”
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