News & Blog

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 : https://www.agrra.org/coral-disease-outbreak/#sctld-dashboard

For more information please contact mpaconnect@gcfi.org or info@agrra.org

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: http://reefresilience.org/webinars-online/

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

CARIBBEAN’S LARGEST BARRIER CORAL REEF SYSTEM FACES NEW THREATS, BUT ALSO TESTS NEW SOLUTIONS

To read the full report and findings see: https://www.healthyreefs.org/cms/report-cards/ 


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: http://www.healthyreefs.org. 

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”.

USVI Coral Reef Restoration Hero and AGRRA Alum Kemit-Amon Lewis Needs Our Help

Friends Want to Help Stricken Environmental Activist article

All of us on the AGRRA team are deeply moved by Kemit’s condition. We hold special memories of working with him on coral reef restoration projects as well as his vibrant, smart and warm company. Please take a moment to read his story in the link.

Kemit-Amon Lewis (Source file photo by Carol Buchanan)

Shared from the Friends of Kemit-Amon Lewis facebook group:

“Kemit-Amon Lewis continues to inspire all of us with his determined spirit. There have been many small successes as well as the days when spirits are low. We applaud his fight on this road to recovery and look forward to sharing this journey with him every step of the way.

Photo: Kemit-Amon Lewis (Source file photo by Carol Buchanan)

If you wish to support Kemit’s recovery with a donation, you can use Paypal: paypal.me/kemitAmon or make a Tax deductible gift through the 501(c)(3) designated organization Ay Ay Live, Inc. which is the ‘Friends of Kemit-Amon Lewis’ fund. Please make the checks payable to “Ay Ay Live, Inc.” and mail to Bank of St. Croix, c/o Christiana Williams, P.O. Box 24240, Christiansted, VI 00824

Emergency Post-Hurricane Dorian Relief for Abacos and Grand Bahama

Hurricane Dorian, seen here by GOES East on Sept. 2, 2019.

For our friends and partners in the Abacos and Grand Bahama, 

Our hearts go out to you, and we hope that by now you’ve had some contact with the outside world and provisions. We have been asked by others for ideas on how to help your recovery after the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Dorian.

We invite our partners in the Caribbean and beyond to help support recovery efforts in The Bahamas.

From the entire AGRRA Team -Judy Lang, Philip Kramer, Ken Marks, Patricia Kramer, Shirley Gun and Lynnette Roth
 
Here are some options to consider.

To send money, see: 

For more ideas, see:

In Southern Florida, there are opportunities to send material goods to Abaco and Grand Bahama. Here is one suggestion:

Remember that after any emergency, scam artists set up online crowdfunding sites for personal enrichment, not disaster relief. Please be sure to independently check its legitimacy before responding if you are planning to contribute to a crowdfunding site.

USCG releases a bulletin outlining BMPs for ballast water exchange regarding the SCTLD outbreak

Marine Safety Information OES-MSIB Number: 07-19 Bulletin

Ballast Water Best Management Practices to Reduce the Likelihood of Transporting Pathogens That May Spread Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) is a lethal disease that rapidly destroys the soft tissue of many different species of coral. The disease first appeared off the coast of Miami-Dade county, Florida, in September 2014. Nearly half of Florida’s 45 species of hard coral are affected by the disease, including many reef-building types. Once afflicted, the disease progresses rapidly, killing corals within weeks or months. It is estimated to have led to the death of millions of corals since 2014. The causative agent of SCTLD has not yet been identified. Recent work indicates that co-infection of a bacteria and a virus is a possibility.

At the request of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Coast Guard is considering options to mitigate the potential factors that some indications suggest may be contributing to the spread of SCTLD. One such factor may be the potential transfer of pathogens in ballast water.

The Coast Guard wants to ensure that the maritime industry has the information it needs to mitigate this potential contributing factor. Accordingly, vessel representatives are reminded of the mandatory and voluntary management practices associated with the discharge of ballast water (BW) from vessels required to conduct a Ballast Water Exchange (BWE) under U.S. Regulations.

For more detail – read the full Bulletin here.