Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in the Dutch Caribbean

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease is a highly infectious coral disease that has spread rapidly throughout
the Caribbean region in recent years. First reported in Florida in 2014, this disease affects more than
20 species of stony corals, including important reef builders like pillar coral, brain coral, and star coral.
Within the Dutch Caribbean, Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease has been confirmed now on five of the
six islands, starting on St. Maarten in 2018, St. Eustatius in 2019, Saba in 2021 and most recently in
Bonaire and Curaçao (March/April 2023). The outbreak of this coral disease may have significant
ecological, economic, and social impacts within the Dutch Caribbean. The Dutch Caribbean Nature
Alliance (DCNA) urges people to follow the recommendations of the local protected areas
management organizations (parks) by adhering to the rules, regulations, guidelines for water(sport)
users and report sightings to the parks or the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment Program
(AGRRA).
Impacts
Coral reefs are home to many marine life including sponges, crabs, sea turtles, and many species of fish.
Coral reefs are also important to people for shoreline protection, tourism, and fisheries. The loss of
corals due to this coral disease has significant ecological impacts on the region’s marine ecosystem. The
disease can cause extensive damage to corals with a negative impact to the entire reef ecosystems. The
mortality of corals can lead amongst others to the decline of important fish populations and impact the
attraction for recreational tourism. The disease spreads rapidly amongst hard corals but does not affect
human health directly.
Response Options
Various organizations are working to combat this coral disease by identifying causes and developing
management strategies. The disease spreads quickly via the water or direct contact with infected corals.
Time is pressing and targeted management actions to try to limit the spread of Stony Coral Tissue Loss
Disease include closing sites, decontaminating dive gear, authorities can treat corals in the water
according to best practice methods, and corals can be stored in tanks for future restoration efforts.
Existing management strategies that seek to build the resilience of coral reefs to threats such as diseases
are now especially important – like not touching corals, improving water quality, reducing fishing
pressure and adhering to ballast water management protocols. In the meanwhile, research will
continue.
How to help
Residents and tourists can also help. It is important to always follow the local rules, regulations and
guidelines. Make sure to follow along with the local protected areas management organizations (parks)-
Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba , STINAPA Bonaire, CARMABI Curaçao , Saba Conservation Foundation
(SCF), St. Eustatius National Parks (STENAPA), Nature Foundation St. Maarten (NFSXM)- to stay up to
date on each individual island’s change in conditions, rules, regulations and recommendations for
water(sport) users.
Divers are asked to avoid infected dive sites and properly disinfect gear between dives. Please note that
for different dive gear there are different recommendations on how to decontaminate. If possible, it is
best to limit dives to one site per day and fully dry equipment before re-entering the water. Sightings

The post Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in the Dutch Caribbean appeared first on Pearl FM Radio.

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