News & Blog

AGRRA Newsletter – Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Updates – September 2021

Read AGRRA’s latest newsletter on Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease and discover more resources and recent updates related to this topic.

Featured in this issue

SCTLD Dashboard Updates

Information on updates to the Datasheets

SCTLD updates from USVI and Puerto Rico

Latest additions to the AGRRA Webinars page

Additional reports and Resources now available

Click here to read the full newsletter

U.S. Geological Survey – Coral Disease Represents Ecological Crisis Greater Than 1988 Yellowstone Fires

Story by Caroline Rogers, Ph.D., U.S. Geological Survey

Star Corals and Brain Corals with dead white portions, in Mennebeck Bay, Virgin Islands National Park/NPS, Jeff Miller

A disease that threatens an entire ecosystem lies below the surface of the sea – out of sight and out of mind.

The disease, which is rapidly killing corals in Virgin Islands National Park, is a crisis at least on the scale of the 1988 fires that roared across Yellowstone National Park and the continuing infestations of hemlocks and other old growth trees in Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah national parks.

But unlike the forest challenges, this malady is hidden where it can’t always be seen and it is killing corals, which are particularly slow growing; recovery, if it even occurs, can take a particularly long time.

This deadly disease is still killing over 20 species of corals. Stony coral tissue loss disease is now present in national parks in Florida and the Virgin Islands, including Biscayne National Park, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, and found most recently, in May, in Dry Tortugas National Park.

Click here to read the full story on National Parks Traveler.

Aggressor Joins Turks & Caicos Reef Fund for Coral Conservation

Photo: Aggressor Adventures – Volunteer divers with the newly adopted coral ladder

Aggressor Adventures has recently joined forces with the Turks & Caicos Reef Fund (TCRF) to conduct a coral reef conservation initiative from the Turks & Caicos Aggressor liveaboard.

During the course of the trip, the volunteers were trained in the identification of 14 different coral species and the diagnosis of the diseases that might be infecting them. Working together, the TCRF dive leaders, trip customers and Aggressor staff completed six critical Atlantic Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) surveys, as well as 40 roving diver surveys to document and quantify impacts from stony coral tissue loss disease on the reefs of the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI).

Read more about the Turks & Caicos Reef Fund, the trip and their findings here.

June 4, 2020 – MPAConnect and AGRRA Launch Caribbean Coral Disease Dashboard

The English language version of the Press Release appears below. Click for Spanish version/Comunicado de Prensa versión en Español

June 4, 2020As stony coral tissue loss disease spreads in the Caribbean region, a new online tool is tracking its progression and recording the efforts made to control and respond to the threat that it poses to Caribbean coral reefs.

Stony coral tissue loss disease spreads rapidly and affects some of the slowest-growing and longest-lived reef-building corals, including the iconic brain corals, star corals and pillar corals that provide habitat, shelter and nursery areas for numerous other marine organisms. The loss of these corals affects overall coral reef health and can have cascading impacts on the ecosystem services they provide – like food security, tourism economies, and coastal protection for local communities.

Natural resource managers and their partners across the Caribbean region are actively exchanging information and sharing best practices about coral disease monitoring, treatment and outreach.

“Last year, Caribbean coral reef managers from 17 countries and territories came together in Key West to learn about stony coral tissue loss disease. They suggested the creation of a regional dashboard to share the status of the disease within the Caribbean,” explained Emma Doyle, MPAConnect Coordinator.

“In response to this request, MPAConnect (a partnership between the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute and NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program) and the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment Program (AGRRA) collaborated on the development of a GIS-based dashboard as a new online tool for managers.”

Intended to assist with response to stony coral tissue loss disease, the dashboard contains topline statistics that can be viewed at a glance. It also contains insightful information from many hours of in-water coral reef monitoring that can now help managers to shape their response to the disease.

“Maps on the dashboard show the presence of stony coral tissue loss disease around the region, a time lapse of its progression and which coral species have so far been most affected by stony coral tissue loss disease,” commented Patricia Kramer, Program Director of Ocean Research and Education Foundation.

“A new tool is also available that helps to indicate where corals that are most susceptible to SCTLD are located based on existing AGRRA coral reef monitoring data,” she added.

The dashboard is made possible with support from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and Ocean Research and Education Foundation. It’s hosted by AGRRA using Esri ArcGIS software.

Interactive Caribbean SCTLD Dashboard – English & Spanish :

For more information please contact or

For more resources on SCTLD, visit the AGRRA Coral Disease Outbreak Portal.

May 19, 2020 – Reef Resilience Network “Treatment and Intervention Approaches for SCTLD” webinar

We are sharing the news from our colleagues at the Reef Resilience Network for their upcoming webinar on May 19, 2020, 2pm EDT.

Register for the webinar HERE

This webinar focuses on the Treatment and Intervention Approaches for SCTLD. It will feature talks from Reconnaissance and Intervention Team co-lead Karen Neely, Val Paul, Marilyn Brandt, and Mike Favaro of Ocean Alchemistics, LLC.

An outbreak of an epizootic coral disease, known as Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD), is severely impacting coral reef ecosystems in the Atlantic-Caribbean region. While the disease was first identified on Florida’s reefs in 2014, it has now spread to nine countries and territories in the Caribbean. Coral reef scientists and practitioners in the affected locations have been working to develop and apply existing and new intervention techniques in an effort to halt the spread of the disease, maintain reef structure and function, and protect rare species. Join our webinar to hear from leading experts on their experiences with different SCTLD treatment approaches as well as exciting new efforts to develop alternative treatment options using natural ingredients and probiotics. Presenters include Dr. Karen Neely from Nova Southeastern University, Dr. Marylin Brandt from the University of the Virgin Islands, Mike Favero from Ocean Alchemists LLC, and Dr. Valerie Paul from the Smithsonian Institution.

This webinar is co-hosted by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on behalf of the Caribbean Cooperation Team of the Florida SCTLD Response Effort and the Reef Resilience Network.

All of the Reef Resilience Network webinars are recorded and posted on their website for viewing any time after the webinar. They can be accessed at:

February 13th, 2020 – The Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) releases its 2020 Mesoamerican Reef Health Report Card.

PRESS RELEASE – Mesoamerican Reef – February 13th, 2020, issued by Melanie McField , Director-Healthy Reefs Initiative /Smithsonian Institution


To read the full report and findings see: 

PRESS RELEASE February 13th, 2020 -­ The Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) today released its 2020 Mesoamerican Reef Health Report Card. For the first time in 12 years of tracking the health of the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, the overall condition of this vital ecosystem has deteriorated. The Reef Health Index (RHI), which synthesizes ecological data into a “Dow Jones” style index, decreased from 2.8 in 2016 to 2.5 in 2018. Despite the recent decline, reef health still shows improvement compared to 2006 when the HRI monitoring efforts began.

About the Healthy Reefs Initiative:  Founded in 2003, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People (HRI) is a collaborative international initiative, hosted by the Smithsonian Institution and made up of more than 70 partners, that quantitatively assesses coral reef health and informs science-based management recommendations for the Mesoamerican Reef Ecosystem (MAR). HRI aims to improve reef management and decision-making to effectively sustain an economically and ecologically thriving MAR eco-region. Together with our partners, we are scaling-up and improving coral reef conservation, restoration and management throughout the region.  Find out more at: 

Seasons Greetings from the AGRRA team

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) feeds on seagrasses and algae causing their body fat to turn green which is the source of their common name. October 2019, Bonaire. Photo by Ken Marks

Seasons Greetings from the AGRRA Team

Thank you to all our partners and contributors who helped make 2019 a great year.

We look forward to sharing more news and details of our work in our January newsletter.

May the wonders of the seas continue to inspire you in the coming year.  

Happy Holidays! 

Philip Kramer, Patricia Kramer, Judith Lang, Kenneth Marks
Shirley Gun, Lynnette Roth

Florida Dept of Environmental Protection issues Summer 2019 Florida Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) Response Bulletin

This bulletin is the first quarterly bulletin provided by the Florida Dept of Environmental Protection – Coral Reef Conservation Program and Coral Reef Conservation Program. These bulletins will be Florida’s primary tool for communication to the wider community and will provide high-level updates on the SCTLD outbreak and response efforts with a focus on Florida.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) – DEP is working with dozens of partners from federal, state, and local agencies, non-governmental organizations, universities, and members of the community to investigate and solve this problem

Read the bulletin for more information on General Updates as well as Response Team efforts.

Conservation strategy for healthy reefs in Cozumel, Quintano Roo, Sept 23, 2019

Conservation strategy for healthy reefs in Cozumel, Quintana Roo, September 23, 2019

Conservation strategy for healthy reefs in Cozumel
The National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) in coordination with the three government orders, and in close alliance with the Cozumel Reef National Park’s Advisory Council, will maintain a temporary and partial suspension of activities to tourism and recreation of the Protected Natural Area (ANP), starting at the “Palancar” reef and covering the restricted use zone.

The Cozumel Reef National Park has available, as of October 7, eleven Reef complexes and the wreck “Felipe Xicotencatl” for tourist activities.

See Spanish Language Press Release.

Cozumel, Quintana Roo as of September 23, 2019

As part of the strategies for the attention to Stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD), the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas, in Collaboration with the Advisory Council of this National Park, a temporary suspension will be implemented as of October 7, 2019, of underwater activities from the “Palancar” reef and the area of restricted use, which includes the reef “Colombia” and the site “El Cielo”.

Temporary suspension of activities is a positive and necessary action for the health of the reef. The objective of this strategy is to give rest to the best preserved sites of the National Park and contribute to its recovery before the progress of the SCTLD. At the same time, other actions are being taken to meet water quality standards within the National Park.

These actions are supported by the results of scientific and technical studies carried out in conjunction with the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of the UNAM, with the Autonomous Metropolitan University, Campus of Iztapalapa, civil organizations and of CONANP itself. The strategy will be coordinated with the Secretary of the Navy (SEMAR), the Port Captaincy, the State Government of Quintana Roo, the City Council of Cozumel, and a close alliance with the Advisory Council of this Protected Natural Area.

The partial and temporary suspension of activities will be for tourist and recreational activities in the zone; remembering that according to studies conducted by the German Cooperation Agency (GIZ) 80% of the diving and snorkeling activity in Cozumel takes place within the National Park, which receives one million 800 thousand direct users per year; and that, on average, these visitors would be willing to pay 3,052 pesos per person on each trip to keep the reefs in better state of conservation. If no action was taken, missing attributes such as water transparency and biodiversity would cause Cozumel and its reefs to lose 12% of tourism per year, which is equivalent to one thousand 510 million pesos every 12 months.

Along this line of thought, to ensure that the conservation objectives of the area are met, the aforementioned sites will have supervision and surveillance, scientific monitoring and social communication actions, which include periodic meetings to assess the progress of the taken actions. It is important to note that the Cozumel Reef National Park has fourteen reef complexes for underwater activities, of which only three will have suspended activities. Eleven sites will still be available plus the wreck “Felipe Xicotencatl”.