Divers could be spreading fatal coral disease

| 02/06/2021 | 47 Comments
Cayman News Service
Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in the Cayman Islands (Photo courtesy of the DoE)

(CNS): The deadly Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease has until very recently been advancing in a uniform path, but with reports of it appearing in random unconnected sites, the Department of Environment is now worried that divers and boat operators may unwittingly be spreading the disease. This latest fatal coral disease was first spotted in Cayman waters last June at Penny’s Arch in Rum Point. It has since steadily advanced west round the North West Point and east along the north shore, despite efforts by the DoE to arrest the spread. Even more worrying are the recent random outbreaks around the south coast.

Because these outbreaks have appeared at random dive sites as far apart as the northeast and southeast coastline, DoE officials believe it might be being spread by scuba divers and boats. With an outbreak at the isolated Anchor Reef dive site in the southwest, intervention to stop the spread of the highly infectious disease has become even more challenging.

Speaking at a special meeting recently hosted by the DoE and tourism stakeholders at last week’s CITA meeting, DoE Deputy Director Tim Austin said that finding disease at dive sites unconnected to the original line of infection has led the department to the “real horrible inkling” that it is likely “related to diving practices”.

Even with the marked reduction in diving since the borders closed, local divers’ equipment and boats appear to be getting contaminated and are shifting the disease, Austin warned. When the disease was first recorded near Rum Point, some 10% of the hard coral had died, with 35% of it appearing unhealthy. By April this year, 57% of the site’s coral had died, and the disease was still progressing.

Some hard corals, such as elkhorn and staghorn, appear to be immune to SCTLD, but it is directly impacting around two dozen species. Austin urged operators to disinfect their kits and boats to help control the spread, which he said the DoE was fighting through a variety of measures, such as applying an antibiotic formula directly to the coral and using fire-breakers. Given the numerous threats to coral, including climate change and many other diseases, Austin stressed the concern that this rapidly spreading and debilitating threat was now causing.

So far, the reefs around Cayman Brac and Little Cayman have shown no signs of infection, and under new DoE guidelines divers taking their own gear there from Grand Cayman must have it thoroughly disinfected. Divers and operators in Grand Cayman are also being discouraged from making multi-site trips between infected and uninfected areas.

Read more about SCTLD and how to disinfect gear on the DoE website here.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (47)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    if you want to protect coral reefs…ban the dive industry…simple.
    anyone got the guts to do that?

    • Anonymous says:

      Can someone tell me on what scientific basis this conclusion has come from?

      Where else in the world has this been scientifically shown?

      I know we are a brilliant people but do we know something no one else in the world knows?

    • Billy says:

      Sure ban that too, because covid and the local government did not kill the island enough, yet

  2. Anonymous says:

    Death of the reef is inevitable. Enjoy them while they last.

  3. Not a physician or Marine Biologist says:

    The facts: the disease was initially detected off Miami-Dade in 2014 and now we have it in the Caribbean; it is thought to be caused by BACTERIA and poses great risk to the coral and by extension our fish and our tourism.
    My suspicion (so far merely a theory): ships dumping raw sewage triggered this, and the currents did the rest.
    I wonder: since coral is a living organism, would it recover if treated with a combo designed for an excreta-related infection such as cryptogenic chronic hepatitis? 🤔

  4. Jaalee says:

    We love to bring our own gear. Some tips on what to do to disinfect it would be good in this article.

    CNS: I’ve added the link.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ban diving in the sea. Quarantine!

  6. Anonymous says:

    DOE hires divers to help treat the corals and they can’t even work because they ran out of the antibiotic treatment a month ago….. this is Cayman’s “national response plan”

  7. Anonymous says:

    Is it not possible the coral infection is spread by…The Currents? At no time since its appearance have we heard the DOE posit that the seas natural circulating currents driven by wind & tide might be a cause , to consider. Or does DOE know that the local sea currents are unable to transport microbe sized embryo’s of infectious coral tissue disease, hence it must be divers and boats? Small Fish, sharks, eagle rays, sting rays, larger pelagic fish that swim a long way, could also be responsible . Parrot Fish in particular eat hard coral polyps from the surface of the corals , swim A LONG WAY & then do #2 to deposit the coral as sand; parrot fish do-do. A more informed opinion (: Courtney) would be nice to hear.

    • Anonymous says:

      They definitely thought it was the currents in the beginning. Unfortunately Science does not know how exactly it is spreading so neither does the DOE. There was a study about butterfly fish eating and preferring to eat the infected portion of coral so that could be it. But it has been proved that the pathogen can live for days on dive and snorkel gear so easily transmittable. It could also be currents, or boats, or it could be a combination of all of the above.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Then why has it already happened in many other places? Its been in Turks&Caicos for 3 years as well as many other places.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Vaccinate those divers and close the waters, NOW!

    • URDumbasarock says:

      OMG, what ignorance. This is about ‘coral disease,’ not covid. Really, think before you type!

      • Anonymous says:

        URDumbasarock – the irony as you are clearly the idiot who doesn’t comprehend what a joke is.

        • Anonymous says:

          Here’s directly from the author of the 2:00 comment…. it was a joke you moron! You should think or perhaps put down the drinks before you type.

      • Anonymous says:

        Bacteria in the ocean thrives with warmer water temperatures. Has nothing to do with divers as same thing is happening in Indian Ocean around Maldive Islands.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Doesn’t matter, the government has taken the decision to keep us all locked up here for ever and not to let anyone in. We have no need for reefs.

  11. GottaLoveIt says:

    Gee, let’s blame the tourists… Oh wait, this must be Caymanian’s diving. Those who love their reefs and hate the tourists.

    • Hubert says:

      I have seen the same thing in the South Pacific. The death of the reefs is due to warming water temperatures around Grand Cayman. Nothing to do with the divers.

      Check the temperatures of our waters from 10 years ago and now.

      • Anonymous says:

        Careful plenty people here don’t believe global warming even though yes there’s clear cut evidence of it such as rising tempatures.

        How much longer till it’s too hot to live here or is the boiling frog analogy correct.

        • Anonymous says:

          Can somebody tell us what the water temperature was in that area in June 2011 and the water temperature now?

          Bet the temperatures have gone up a few degrees.

      • Anonymous says:

        This is just not true – Coral bleaching is linked to global warming – but this is not coral bleaching.
        This is like a contagious infection and its not linked to global warming or the temperature of the ocean.
        It it not yet known how it is spreading but it is likely humans through diving and boating.

    • Anonymous says:

      What is your problem. You sound like a real Karen

    • Anonymous says:

      Its actually more foreigners that dive than caymanians, if you want to take it there lol.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully the government will recognize the immediate need for on-site conservation research officers in the sister islands rather than wait until it’s too late for them, too.

  13. Eco Cayman warrior says:

    We are destroying our little place and for who? So some can live the life and siphon off our economy and wreck our environment. It’s time for Cayman to put a stop to this terrible situation. This Cayman kind rubbish is destroying our very Future,and threatening our very existence.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Gotta love this shit. Even before COVID, corrupt government and scientists have been using these words, could, might, possibly, probably, perhaps.
    Listen. I went to university for 4 years to study a scientific discipline.
    If I had written E might equal MC squared, I would have been failed on the spot.

    Stop disrespecting science with your dubious adverbs. You are pathetic…. Maybe.

    • Anonymous says:

      Made my day, thanks for the chuckle.

    • Anonymous says:

      I know one thing that your so-called 4 years at university didn’t teach you, common sense.

    • Anonymous says:

      Someone doesn’t actually know how science works

      • Anonymous says:

        Science used to be absolute which is why it is so beautiful. It gives us something to have faith in.
        You have faith in gravity. You cannot see it, but it is bloody reliable. A falling object in a vacuum will always accelerate at the same rate. How incredible that our “randomly” created universe has so much order?
        The science we have today has been politicized and monetized.
        These days anyone will say anything for money.
        Yes, I do know how science works. Perhaps you are really the one that doesn’t?
        Next time some major announcement is made about COVID, watch for the words, “might” and “could”.
        I am sick and tired of being fed bullshit by ignorant gits who want to control my life because they refused to exercise critical analysis and let somebody else control theirs. Your mistake is not mine.

        • No Einstein but new in town says:

          “Falling object in a vacuum will always accelerate at the same rate”

          First off how do you know the object is moving/falling?

          How do you know you’re moving in a straight line inside a car for example?

          The outside reference is the only way of being able to disintguish motion.

          So let me ask you again how do you know this “object” is falling in a vaccum? By what background reference are you measuring this falling object by?

          How do you know the earth is moving?

          Answer – By the outside reference of the distant stars, Sun and the moon.

  15. Segbert says:

    Call Mr Langevin and voice your concerns he wants everything open up for every tourist so divers can come and spread this even more .shut this shit down and solve our traffic problem too Those who have to go home to reduce the burden on our infrastructure let them go home ! Preserve Cayman new motto!

    • Anonymous says:

      Well lots of Caymanians I know are already pickled!

    • Not afraid of my shadow says:

      I agree 100% close both the port and airport. Container ship and plane crews could not only maybe-perhaps-possibly-what if bring COVID to our shores but now could maybe-possibly-perhaps spread stony coral disease from their prop wash.

  16. Anonymous says:

    DOE – please quarantine the unaffected areas now! This is madness. The reefs have to be protected. The use that people and boats are being allowed to move between infected and safe zones is madness!

    • Anonymous says:

      Dart and the other big developers needs to go, over development is causing this to happen.

      • Anonymous says:

        Although I share the feeling towards big developers… this has nothing to do with Dart or any construction project. I wish the DOE would actually take the yime to educate the public on what Stony Coral Tissue Loss actually is, and the devastating effects it has had elsewhere. People are not disinfecting because no one really understands it and they are not going to change their behavior and attitude unless the DOE does their job and educates.

        • Anonymous says:

          how do you suggest they educate people? They’ve been on the radio and in the press and held meetings. What, specifically, should they do different?

          • Anonymous says:

            What I mean is that the majority of boat owners have absolutely no idea how to disinfect their bilge, nor do they understand why it is so important to do just that. The average snorkeler and boater is completely unaware.

            As we have recently seen with the coronavirus, it takes a lot of work to make people change their behavior. Like covid-19, it is a complex disease and there are a lot of unknowns. It must be explained simply to people. The average person is also not listening to a long lecture from the DOE posted on youtube or tuning in to RadioCayman while they are at work.

            I think there should be social media posts all over facebook and instagram every day. I think there should be physical signs in all marinas, watersports stores, dive shops that explain what SCTLD is, how to spot SCTLD, how to report a sighting of infected coral, what people can do to help, and how to disinfect all gear and your boat bilge.

            It should be common practice now for all boats to disinfect their bilge.
            And that is just not happening.
            Lack of education and public awareness

          • Anonymous says:

            There should be educational posters, social media posts and physical signs up at all marinas, dive shops, and at all
            snorkeling spots, public beaches, shore diving spots.

            There should be easily accessible Information from DOE that explains…
            – What is SCTLD?
            – What are the signs of SCTLD? How can i help spot an infected coral?
            – How to report a sighting?
            – What we can do to help? What DOE is doing?
            – How do I disinfect my gear?
            – How do I disinfect my boat bilge?
            – Why is this important?

            There should be coronavirus type education and public awareness. The average person is not watching a 2 hour youtube presentation posted by DOE or listening to Radio Cayman.

            I don’t see the average boater disinfecting their bilge? Why?
            Lack of education and public awareness.

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