One case of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease case confirmed on Ambergris Caye; tour operators and guides are asked to be on the lookout
Saturday, June 29th, 2019
After a recent report of a case of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD), Hol Chan Marine Reserve (HCMR) is kindly asking all tour operators and guides to report any sightings of unhealthy coral. This is the first case reported on Ambergris Caye, and guides and operators are asked to be on the lookout for any similar cases during their dive or snorkel trip.
The disease first appeared in 2014 in Florida, then in 2018 it was confirmed to be in some areas of the Caribbean, and now in summer of 2019, one confirmed case has been noted in Belize, within the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve area of Northern Ambergris Caye. The disease affects nearly half of the stony coral species, including primary reef-building species. Elkhorn and staghorn do not seem to be affected by the disease. According to HCMR, the cause of the disease is still unknown, and all the factors that affect transmission are not fully understood. Scientists are yet to find a way to treat the disease successfully, although many studies are finding short success on small scales. The pathogen is presumably transmitted primarily via water currents (although other vectors may be involved). The degree of susceptibility, signs of disease, rates of progression and mortality vary among coral species, locations and season. SCTLD is a very aggressive coral disease and can have a significant impact on our reef, and as a result the fishing and tourism industries.
As such, HCMR is asking all tour operators and their guides to look out for any signs of corals that appear sick, take a picture and send it via messenger to Hol Chan Marine Reserve’s Facebook page or WhatsApp to 672-0227.
Divers are further asked to kindly decontaminate all dive equipment between dives. Decontamination includes soaking non-sensitive dive gear in fresh water containing a small quantity of bleach for 10 mins after each dive, and sensitive equipment should be washed with mild soap. Seeing as dive tours are conducted daily, there can be more eyes assisting in identifying affected areas and tracking the movements of SCTLD. As such, better HCMR can better work to understand and effectively respond to it. HCMR further provides some links below that can help get more information about the disease, identification, and guidelines for divers. 1.https://floridadep.gov/…/Copy%20of%20StonyCoralTissueLossDi…
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