News & Blog

Save the Date – March 11, Mesoamerican Reef Data Explorer Platform Launch

Press Release March 11, 2019

In commemoration of the Mesoamerican Reef Day, the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) is launching the brand-new Mesoamerican Reef Data Explorer Platform in collaboration with Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) where users will be able to visualize over 10 years of reef health data collected, through interactive maps and pictures.

The Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) spans more than 1,000 km along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras and supports the local economies and culturally rich livelihoods of over two million people. The Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI), through a precedent-setting conservation partnership of over 70 partner organizations, is working to improve the health of this diverse ecosystem through science-based management recommendations.

Over the past 12 years, the Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI) collectively and quantitatively assesses reef health and informs science-based management recommendations every 2 years. Today we are launching our Mesoamerican Reef Data Explorer Platform in collaboration with Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) where users will be able to visualize the change on reef health data collected over 10 years, between 2006 and 2016, through interactive maps and pictures. Data is accessible by site and by indicator used to determine the Reef Health Index: coral cover, macroalgae cover, herbivorous and commercial fish biomass.

Our reliable measures of reef condition allow us to identify the most urgent threats and responses. HRI training workshops continue to strengthen scientific capacity. Our partners are scaling-up and improving management in 47 MPAs spanning almost 60,000 km2. Through our Regional Coral BleachWatch Network, we have quickly mobilized and supported teams of partners across the region to monitor coral bleaching.

The major threats such as coral bleaching events as well as the new rapid coral tissue loss disease detected since summer 2018 in Mexico, are also available in the Mesoamerican Reef Data Explorer Platform.

In the last 2018 Report Card on the Health of the Mesoamerican Reef, we showed an improvement on 3 of 4 indicators over the decade, including coral cover (18%), herbivorous fish (2,731g/100m2) and commercial fish (909g/100m2). The only indicator with no improvement was fleshy macroalgae, almost doubled from 12% in 2006 to 23% in 2016. Overall, the Reef Health Index improved from 2.3 to 2.8 over the past decade. Compared to global trends of widespread reef decline, these encouraging results of recovery are a testament to the benefits of collaborative management.

Each country’s unique history and management efforts affect the status of the four reef indicators. These trends are an urgent Call to Action for country specific management responses. The platform shows a 10-year perspective on reef health and conservation aimed to ensure our reefs will endure and thrive into the future.

Learn more at: /

For more information contact us at:

New fish species discovered: Striped Hamlet

Striped Hamlet (Hypoplectus liberte), Fort Liberte Bay, Haiti, © Ken Marks 2018Striped Hamlet (Hypoplectus liberte), Fort Liberte Bay, Haiti, © Ken Marks 2018

In the fall of 2018,   AGRRA Database Manager Ken Marks helped Benjamin Victor describe a new fish species, Striped Hamlet (Hypoplectus liberte) in Fort Liberte Bay on the northern coast of Haiti that had been initially discovered in 2015.

While surveying with our partners, The Nature Conservancy, AGRRA fish surveyors Dave Grenda and Ken Marks, also the AGRRA Database Manager, noticed this unusual Striped hamlet in Fort Liberte Bay on Haiti’s northern coast. Striped Hamlet (Hypoplectus liberte), the newest member of the fascinating hamlet family as photographed in the muddy sponge-dominated bay where this species was discovered in 2015, was finally described in 2018.

Initially thought to be an novel hybrid (hybrids are common in this genus), the sightings of many individuals soon made it apparent that this was a new species endemic to just that bay.

For more information on this discovery, see Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation,  and Reef Builders.

See the 2016 report from the work conducted in Haiti:  Haiti Three Bays National Park Ecological Baseline . This report is also accessible from the Resources page.

Seasons Greetings 2018

Black Grouper, Eleuthera, The Bahamas. ‘Train The Trainers’ workshop, May 2018. (c)  Ken Marks


Thank you to all our partners for your continued support and inspiration to help conserve Caribbean coral reef ecosystems.

With your collaboration and participation, our collective 2018 accomplishments included:

AGRRA Database Manager Kenneth Marks helped Benjamin Victor describe a new fish species, Striped Hamlet (Hypoplectus liberte) in Fort Liberte Bay on the northern coast of Haiti that had been initially discovered during an AGRRA survey in 2015.

The completion of 356 surveys in eleven countries including Jamaica, Grenada, Saint Vincent, Antigua, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks & Caicos, Mexico, Honduras, Belize and Guatemala.

An updated AGRRA database that now includes 2859 total surveys from 29 countries.

Twelve new AGRRA trainers, representing nine organizations across five countries, were certified at a “Train the Trainers” workshop at the Cape Eleuthera Institute in The Bahamas.

The development of new interactive ARC GIS StoryMaps and tools for Healthy Reefs Initiative and GCFI MPA Connect.

Training young scientists of SCUBAnauts International and conducting coral disease surveys in the Lower Florida Keys.


Challenging this year was the increased incidence of coral disease. Thank you to everyone who has responded so far, and please continue to send us observations and photographs of diseased coral outbreaks.

The year ended on an encouraging note through our participation in the Reef Futures 2018  conference in December, where nearly 500 practitioners and scientists gathered to share innovative approaches to coral restoration.

We look forward to continuing our partnerships with you to expand stewardship and understanding of our coral reefs in the Caribbean in 2019.

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

August Update on Coral Disease Outbreak

Update submitted by Judith Lang

Florida Background

What scientists in Florida now think may be a new coral disease has spread from the Miami-Dade county area to both the northern limit of the Florida reef tract and southwest into the lower Florida Keys. A Disease Advisory Committee has been formed and its teams are drafting information that, we hope, can soon be shared.

Characteristic of this disease is that sick corals display multiple lesions and quickly die. Disproportionately impacted are the meandroid corals–i.e., pillar corals (Dendrogyra cylindrus), elliptical star corals (Dichocoenia stokes), smooth flower corals (Eusmilia fastigiata) and maze corals (Meandrina). Starlet corals that develop numerous “blotchy” lesions, as well as diverse brain and star (boulder) corals, are also dying quickly.

Reef researchers, managers and sport divers should continue to be on the lookout for sites with an unusually high percentage of diseased and recently dead corals. Thanks to everyone who has responded so far, and please continue to send observations and photographs of diseased coral outbreaks to

Jamaica’s north coast

We have now learned that two colonies of maze coral (Meandrina jacksoni) with signs of this new disease were already present at a Mammee Bay dive site in July 2017, i.e., several months before the north coast reefs experienced severe bleaching last Fall. Moreover, they were dead by December 2017, as were two, nearby large pillar corals (J. Hollstein, pers. comm. 2018).

  • July 2017: Maze coral (Meandrina jacksoni) with multiple lesions 8 m, Mammee Bay. Photo by J. Hollstein.July 2017: maze coral (Meandrina jacksoni) with multiple lesions, 8 m, Mammee Bay. Photo by J. Hollstein.

As previously reported, massive starlet corals (Siderastrea siderea) with blotchy lesions were photographed during the Fall 2017 bleaching at a sediment-impacted site near Discovery Bay (Fig. 2, B. Charpentier, pers. comm.).

  • November 2017: Massive starlet coral (Siderastrea siderea) with many lesions, 10 m, Dairy Bull. Photo by B. Charpentier.November 2017: massive starlet coral (Siderastrea siderea) with many lesions, 10 m, Dairy Bull. Photo by B. Charpentier.

After first being sighted at the White River Special Fishery Conservation Area in early February 2018 (D. Anderson and A. Ross, pers. comm.), the prevalence of sick and dying corals increased dramatically along the north coast. Prominent among the taxa with multiple lesions are pillar corals, brain corals (Pseudodiploria strigosa, Fig. 3, Diploria labyrinthiformis, Colpophyllia natans), star corals (Orbicella spp.), great star coral (Montastraea cavernosa), and massive starlet corals (Siderastrea siderea).

May 2018: Symmetrical brain coral (Pseudodiploria strigosa) with a single lesion, 5-7 m, Dunns River. Photo by B. Charpentier.May 2018: symmetrical brain coral (Pseudodiploria strigosa) with a single lesion, 5-7 m, Dunns River. Photo by B. Charpentier.


Cover Photo : Diseased lobed star coral (Orbicella annularis) and partially bleached fire coral (Millepora complanata) at 10 m, Dairy Bull, Jamaica. Photo by Bernadette Charpentier.

Thanks to Dalelan Anderson, Andrew Bruckner, Bernadette Charpentier, Jennifer Hollstein, Esther Peters and Andrew Ross for information and/or photographs.


View seaward of healthy-looking, diseased and dead corals at 10 m on the Dairy Bull fore-reef terrace in early May, 2018, Jamaica. Photo by E. Burge.












July 12, 2018

Caribbean-area reef researchers and sport divers should be on the lookout for sites with an unusually high percentage of diseased and recently dead corals. Many of you will have heard that corals in Florida are experiencing one of the largest disease outbreaks on record. Sick corals first appeared offshore the Miami-Dade County area in September 2014. The outbreak area has since progressed 175 km to the northern limit of the Florida reef tract and southwest to Looe Key in the Lower Keys. Numerous coral species (except the acroporids) have been afflicted, disease prevalence has reached 80% of all colonies present at a site, and a number of coral diseases have been observed.

Meantime, the prevalence of sick and dying corals on north Jamaican reefs has increased dramatically since this area experienced a severe bleaching event in Fall 2017. The species of affected corals and their signs of disease show considerable overlap with the reports from Florida. More details and photos of diseased Jamaican corals will be posted at; permission to collect diseased tissue samples especially from the severely affected Dairy Bull reef is in the process of being obtained by the UWI Discovery Bay Marine Lab.

On July 3 researchers from UNAM and CONANP discovered a reef near Puerto Morelos, Mexico to have a severe outbreak of coral disease affecting similar species and exhibiting similar patters as those in Florida. Although diseased colonies have been observed in other reefs in the north of the Mexican Caribbean, the prevalence seems to be lower (<10%) than at the “fish market” site, where >50% of several species are affected. Photos and information about this Mexico site will soon be posted at

The Florida Disease Advisory Committee is now referring to all affected Floridian corals as having “tissue-loss disease.” It appears to be water borne and may potentially be spread by divers’ gear.

If you are diving in the Caribbean after diving in Florida, please take these extra precautions:
  • – Please soak your gear in a 5% chlorine bleach solution for 30 minutes, then rinse well.
  • – While diving, please be aware of your fins, and don’t let divers casually touch any of the currently diseased corals or they may transmit whatever is killing them to other corals!

Let’s not have reef scientists and sport divers become vectors of disease.

See more information about disinfection here:

If you see any evidence of excessive disease levels on your reefs, please make notes and take photos!

Include the following information :

  • – How many corals are infected: (few – some – many; or count sick and unaffected corals to estimate prevalence).
  • – Note the date, which coral species are affected, along with the location, and depth.

Please send information to and – until an official Caribbean reporting site is established or located.

Photos and information from Florida are available here:

Containment / treatment strategies are being tested in Florida; new outbreaks if localized, should be addressed immediately with recommendations that will be posted soon.

Diseased corals in Jamaica

After having been exposed to a severe bleaching event in the fall of 2017, the prevalence of sick and dying corals on north Jamaican reefs, has increased dramatically. Pseudodiploria strigosa, Diploria labyrinthiformis, Colpophyllia natans, Dendrogyra cylindrus , Montastraea cavernosa , as well as Orbicella , Mycetophyllia , and Agaricia are prominent among the taxa displaying signs of a disease that resembles white plague.

See photos labelled 1-5 below of corals with disease signs resembling white plague in late April-May, 2018.  Click to enlarge each photo.

1 – Diplora labyrinthiformis (L), Pseudodiploria strigosa (R) in 10 m, Dairy Bull fore-reef terrace, April 2018.

2 – Dendrogyra cylindrus, Dairy Bull fore-reef terrace, 9 m.

3 – Montastraea cavernosa, Rio Bueno fore-reef wall, 12 m.

4 – Orbicella annularis, CARICOMP site, Discovery Bay, fore-reef terrace, 10 m.

5 – Mycetophyllia aliciae, Pinnacle 1, Discovery Bay, 35 m, fore-reef slope.


Concern has been raised that the identities of these corals overlap with species affected by an outbreak of a similar-looking disease that, since 2014, has caused extensive losses along the Florida reef tract (W. Precht et al. 2016, Lunz et al. 2018).

Moreover, some ailing Siderastrea siderea photographed in transects during the Fall 2017 bleaching at a 10-m site near Discovery Bay have “blotchy” lesions (B. Charpentier, unpubl.) resembling those of the novel “Siderastrea white blotch syndrome” that was first noted in Florida in 2015 (L. Precht et al. (2018). When examined in April-May 2018, some of these corals had died while others were very sick, this disease had spread to previously unaffected colonies in the area and has been seen at other sites between Alligator Head and Rio Bueno.

See photos below 1-3 as examples of diseased Siderastrea siderea at 10 m depth on shallow fore-reef terrace reefs with signs that resemble Siderastrea white blotch syndrome in late April-May, 2018.

Note the large populations of Diadema antillarum, and abundant crustose coralline algae which are common at these depths in this area.  Click to enlarge each photo.

1 – The Bull, early stage of disease.

2 – . Dairy Bull, late stage of disease.

3 – Dairy Bull, note the three-spot damselfish (Stegastes planifrons) and the abundant fresh bite marks on this coral; could damselfish act as vectors spreading this disease?








Orbicella annularis with yellow band disease. CARICOMP site, Discovery Bay, fore-reef terrace, 10 m, May 2018.

At the same time, the incidence of the yellow band disease in Orbicella annularis, which had already risen between 2015 and 2017 in the area around Discovery Bay has further increased since Fall 2017, especially among colonies that have not recovered from bleaching and remain pale.


Thanks particularly to B. Charpentier, D. Henry and D. Anderson for information about diseased Jamaican corals, and to B. Charpentier, E. Burge and P. Dustan for photos.




Lunz K, J Landsberg, Y Kiru and V Brinkhuis. 2017. Investigation of the coral disease outbreak affecting scleractinian coral species along the Florida Reef Tract. Final Report for Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. vi+14 pp.

Precht L, S Thanner, E Peters, K Rogers, L Kaufman, B Aronson, R Aronson, W Precht. 2018. Emerging Coral Disease Threatens Ailing Caribbean Reefs. ECO Mag March 2018

Precht WF, BE Gintert, ML Robbart, R Fura R, R van Woesik. 2016. Unprecedented Disease-Related Coral Mortality in Southeastern Florida. Sci. Rep. 6:31374; doi: 10.1038/srep31374.



Greetings from  Coral Restoration Community,

ABSTRACTS AND SCHOLARSHIP SUBMISSIONS ARE DUE JULY 31 for Reef Futures 2018: A Coral Restoration and Intervention-Science Symposium, to be held December 10-14, 2018 in Key Largo, Florida. Once you have created an account, CLICK HERE to submit an abstract and/or apply for a scholarship.

Saving the world’s coral reefs requires a multi-pronged approach. Immediate and aggressive action on climate change is paramount for the long-term survival of reefs; however, carbon already released  into the atmosphere will continue to warm ocean waters to a level inhospitable to corals for decades to come. This symposium will bring together experts from around the world to share the latest science and techniques for coral reef restoration while kicking-off a global effort to dramatically scale-up the impact and reach of restoration as a major tool for coral reef conservation and management. Reef Futures 2018 is being planned in conjunction with the upcoming Great Barrier Reef Restoration Symposium and will build on information exchanged there. We are striving for robust international participation and cross-fertilization of disciplines to develop new ideas. Scholarships and reduced registration rates are available to encourage participation from developing nations.

We will be hosting a week of activities with the primary content occurring Dec 11-13. The symposium will include oral presentations, posters, panel discussions, workshops, exhibits, site visits, and fun times! We invite participation from solution-minded individuals from a wide variety of fields – materials science, environmental engineering, wildlife conservation and natural resource management, environmental policy, communications, and of course coral biology and restoration. Please distribute this announcement far and wide via your networks!

The themes of Reef Futures 2018 are:

  • – The Role of Restoration in Reef Management and Conservation
  • – Restoration Operations and Mechanics: best practices for scaling-up restoration
  • – Restoration and Interventions in the Context of a Changing Planet
  • – Demonstrating the Value and Efficacy of Restoration and Interventions
  • – Restoration Vignettes: restoration efforts from around the world

Visit the Reef Futures 2018 website for more information and register to submit an abstract or attend the event. Abstracts are due July 31. Applicants will be notified in September, when a draft program will be available.

If you can’t join us in Key Largo, check out our Coral Restoration Consortium Facebook page or subscribe to the CRC Newsletter to stay up to date on event details, scholarly information on restoration, quarterly webinars, and information on joining the CRC Working Groups.

For questions, please contact

Cheers and Best Regards,

The Coral Restoration Consortium

Scientists Race to Decode Disease Devastating Florida Coral Reefs

Article published by Oceans Deeply May 16 ,2018

Oceans Deeply is designed to help you understand the complex web of environmental, social and economic issues facing the world’s oceans.

Story by Amelia Urry:

As a mysterious but persistent pathogen threatens the last remaining healthy coral ecosystem in the continental United States, researchers are struggling to understand how the disease spreads and to devise ways to stop it.

In 2014, coral reefs in Florida started to turn bright white. But this was not the heat-stress bleaching that has become a familiar and deadly phenomenon in recent years – this was a disease. Coral tissue sickened and died, leaving a bare white skeleton. Like a contagious flu strain, it spread quickly through the corals of southeast Florida and the upper Florida Keys. Then, unlike almost every other coral disease scientists know of, it refused to go away.

Four years later, the mysterious disease – one of a group of tissue-loss diseases that affect corals – continues to spread, though its precise cause is still unidentified. On some reefs it has reached, between 60 and 100 percent of corals are infected; many eventually die.

A group of scientists, government agencies and nonprofits, backed by an emergency $1 million grant from the state, is now trying to understand the disease as it moves toward the lower Florida Keys, where it threatens the healthiest remaining stretch of coral reef in the continental United States – and the estimated $6 billion that reef-related activities bring to the state.

For more of the story, read the full article here.

Photo on front of news item – photo credit Phil Dustan.