Another danger to our reefs

Adding to the negative news spiral we seem to find ourselves in with current events around the world is this months blog about Stony coral tissue loss disease or SCTLD.

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) is the newest threat to our reefs. It is a disease which is spreading at a fast rate and affecting 20 different species of hard corals in the Caribbean. Hard or Stony corals grow very slowly and generally live for a long time. They are corals that build our reefs. Scientist believe it is a bacterial pathogen that is spreading either by contact or through waterways. Unfortunately it kills corals fast, within weeks to a month for a colony. Needless so say this could have devastating effects on our corals, reefs, marine life, tourism, economy…
Luckily not all is lost and divers, dive shops, scientist are working around the clock to try to stop this disease from spreading, including us and the other dive operators in the BVI.

Red marks have confirmed SCTLD

The disease was uncovered in Miami in 2014 in a dredging operation, but it wasn’t until 2016 scientists realized that the disease was rapidly spreading along the Florida reefs. In 2017 the first reports of sightings were made in Jamaica and by 2018 it was noticed in Mexica and St Maarten. By January 2019 SCTLD reached St Thomas, Belize, Turks & Caicos and Puerto Rico. Right before our first lockdown in March we went out on a training session with ARK (Association of Reef Keepers) to identify and treat the first signs of the disease at Norman Island.

After a slow start, due to lack of funding and the outbreak of COVID, we are now actively surveying all dive sites in the BVI and treating as many affected corals as we can. All dive operators in the BVI are going out weekly to help stop the spread. How exactly do we do this? We take our syringes filled with a mix of amoxicillin and BASE2B and paste it onto the healthy coral tissue around the disease. This prevents the disease spreading further on the coral.

Did you know that there are over 60 species of coral? Neither did we!
Yes, we are dive guides and we believe we have a good knowledge of the area we dive in, but we still have a lot to learn. One is never to old to learn right 😉
Becoming a dive instructor does not come with an extensive schooling of fish and coral, those things you learn, by experience, projects and necessity. When we started the survey and treatment dives we were rookies. As we did more dives, we are now able to identify the disease and also the different corals we have in the BVI.

We continue to protect our reefs and you can help us!
What can you do as a diver or snorkeler? You can reduce the likelihood of transferring the disease by having good buoyancy, not touching anything under water, things you were already doing. On top of that it is important to sanitize your equipment between dives or snorkels, especially if you are traveling to places that are not infected yet. It is recommended that any equipment that touches coral should be sanitized in a bleach solution and other gear should be washed in a solution of fresh water and antibacterial soap. Make sure you don’t forget to rinse and dry everything well.

If you are interested in learning more about SCTLD have a look at the following link to the ARK website for a good read with plenty of additional resources.