Ship wastewater linked to fatal coral disease

| 22/07/2021 | 57 Comments
Cayman Neww Service
Cruise ship visits Grand Cayman

(CNS): Commercial vessels, including cruise ships, could be linked to the virulent and rapidly spreading coral disease that has swept through the Caribbean region over the last two years killing significant amounts of coral reefs in its wake, according to the latest research. Stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) has already had a devastating impart on reefs around the Cayman Islands in just one year. First spotted along the north coast of Grand Cayman in June last year, it has now spread all around the island and is killing over 20 species of reef-building corals on local reefs. Little is known about this coral threat but scientists are now discovering support for the theory that the disease is linked to waste-water dumped from ships.

A study that focused on the patterns of SCTLD outbreaks in the Bahamas, which was published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Marine Science, found that the patterns of mortality and infection rates for the most vulnerable species of coral were greatest close to international commercial shipping ports and it is likely the international ships brought the disease, which then spread via local currents and other means.

“Results from this study stress the need for early detection and suggest that preventing the spread of the disease between islands via vessel traffic is of utmost importance,” the researchers said.

The disease was found to be widespread in the coral reefs of New Providence, where the Bahamas capital, Nassau, and the main port are located. The study notes the presence of international container ships, cruise ships and pleasure boats at that location, as well as a fuel shipping station.

The Cayman Islands Department of Environment has been raising awareness about this disease since last year among divers and boat users and has issued a number of guidelines to mitigate the impact. It is also employing divers to apply a topical antibiotic amoxicillin paste to corals, which appears to have some positive impact, implying that the disease has a bacterial origin.

Although treating the symptoms is important in the short term, for the long-term the researchers involved in this study pointed out that the possible human-made causes will need to be addressed. “Given a chance, nature can heal naturally,” one researcher stated.

Four years ago the International Maritime Organization implemented the Ballast Water Management Convention, which requires ships to discharge their ballast water some 200 nautical miles from shore in water at least 200 metres deep before entering port, to ensure they do not bring in harmful foreign pathogens. But cruise ships have been guilty all over the world of breaching the regulations and dumping grey or ballast water in ports of call.


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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (57)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The coral will become yet another part of Cayman’s “remember back when there used to be [fill in the blank].

  2. Anonymous says:

    8:43 I have been working for the antibiotic companies for 24 years. I know far too well how they work, thank you. It is a horrible idea.
    There are no, repeat, no rational risk assessments ever completed to negate a potential side effect of doing this. Yes, it degrades rapidly in the environment, but there are concerns about antibiotic resistance. There is positive evidence that amoxicillin can disrupt photosynthesis of algae, and we also know the breakdown products of this compound can become potentially more toxic than the parent compound itself. It sounds like YOU think you know better.
    What do I suggest? I don’t have one, other than offering a prayer.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Watch BBC’s Planet Earth:Blue Planet II. Dr. Attenbourough explains the direct relation between coral bleaching (Great Barrier Reef) and rising water temps. He doesn’t mention cruise ship effluent or any pollutants – but of course they don’t help!

    Remember, it’s our local “marine scientists” who’ve jumped on the SCTLD bandwagon. Are they absolutely sure?? The same rising temps would affect Bahamian waters, so tying it to cruise ship waste just because the routes matche is “expeditious” but is it correct??

    • Anonymous says:

      Why would the BBC open itself to the liability of a ‘could be’ link. As the article states, ‘scientists are now discovering support for the theory’. You’re bringing oranges to the apple stand when it seems coral bleaching and SCLTD are perhaps unrelated

  4. Anonymous says:

    Revenue stream alternatives to those monstrosities:
    High net worth cruises allowed to stay over for two nights (no more than 300 passengers per vessel) – visitors can go to a movie, have dinner on shore, shop, visit the tourist attractions, etc.
    The film industry (only quality screenplays approved, no trashy material)
    Climb-the-bluff experience
    Three day KX package for marine biology groups from major US or UK universities – the trip could include two wall dives, a visit to one tourist attraction and learning how to prepare one traditional Caymanian dish (for example)
    Anyone else has ideas?

  5. Not a doctor says:

    Aha! My thesis is confirmed. I am no marine biologist nor forensic pathologist; I just tracked the onset of the disease and the cruise route and it was became obvious to me that it was a matter of cause and effect.

  6. S. Hit says:

    You see these tanker trucks every day that empty sewage from cess pits all over the island. Exactly what do they do with this muck?.

    • Anonymous says:

      They treat it at the treatment plant and pump it out to Sea, Just like a ship BUT a ship will not do it till its 12 miles away.

      What about all our local boats their pumping raw untreated sewage all over our waters which is completely illegal!

      CNS – How about asking what all our local tour boats do?

    • Anonymous says:

      Good question. You should video it and then send it to the media.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am not in favour of ever having cruise ships return, but if we have any we should limit the number of passengers to no more than 500 per day, have them arrive at staggered times and only accept passengers that leave as much money in Cayman as the average stay over tourist.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The cancellation of cruise ships for the past year has been good news for the environment everywhere.

    “The effective cancellation of Canada’s 2020 cruise ship season due to the COVID-19 pandemic has saved British Columbia’s coast from exposure to billions of litres of pollution spewed by dozens of cruise ships that usually visit the Pacific Coast province, says a report by an international environmental group.

    The report by Stand.earth released earlier this week, claims that more than 32 billion litres of sewage, greywater and washwater from scrubbers – systems designed to “scrub” exhaust fumes generated by the ship’s engines of harmful sulphur pollution – are dumped in Canadian coastal waters in the Salish and Great Bear seas every year by the cruise industry.

    These discharges – with about 30 billion litres generated by the scrubbers – contain a variety of pollutants, including fecal coliform, ammonia, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are harmful to aquatic organisms and coastal ecosystems, the report says.”

    https://www.rcinet.ca/en/2020/07/17/covid-19-spared-canadas-west-coast-from-cruise-ship-pollution-report/

  9. Anonymous says:

    The earth are in a bad shape and getting worse all the time. The big,big problem are that they too many people on this earth. And these fools here wants more people on these Caymanian Islands.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This sounds like a perfect case for Cayman’s most passionate former defender of our seas and father of the Ambassadors of the Sea, Jean Michel Cousteau himself. Since he traded in his lifelong passion and activism roles to join the Carnival Cruise Line cause (and payroll), why don’t we invite him back as a true example of a global citizen and let’s see how passionate he is now about having Carnival held accountable and demanding reparations. N’est pas?

    Unfortunately, I don’t know if his own endowment with Carnival survived Covid but then again, poor Carnival Cruise Lines received all of the Trump stimulus payments so he may well be better off than most.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Carnival Cruise Lines received all of the Trump stimulus payments” Got a source for that big fat lie besides The Onion?

      • Anonymous says:

        7:13 is that type of person that spews excrement since their brain is filled with it.
        Useless in daily life as they are on the keyboard.

  11. Anonymous says:

    If the government was interested in transparency they would begin a public debate on whether cruise ships are ever allowed to return. If they are to return we should also be allowed to have a say in what size and type of ships are allowed to return and the maximum number of passengers. If any ships are allowed they should be limited to one or two of the ultra high end ‘expedition’ ships that carry no more than 250 passengers in my view.

    • Anonymous says:

      Strongly agree! Many people don’t want a complete ban on cruise ships but we want it to be more manageable. smaller elite ships with fewer passengers of a higher class who will actually bring money to the island and not swamp our streets and beaches. If we import trash (carnival/Disney) we get trash.. literally everywhere.

    • Anonymous says:

      The people are making the voices known. Best listen PACT.

  12. To Digest says:

    SCTLD got here (North Side) when we were closed to cruiseships so the only boat coming in was a pleasure boat that anchored off the main channel and cargo ships. A look on google indicates there are some 93,161 cargo ships and 10,000 superyachts vs 317 cruiseships worldwide. Shipping produces more carbon emissions than most countries and pollutes our oceans, not to mention oil spills or the dumped containers floating in the ocean.

    • Anonymous says:

      All good points. However very few cargo ships and superyachts are dumping sewage in our waters. Don’t think that could be said about cruise ships before the pandemic.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The worst part about this is that it can be mitigated but the cruise lines, All of them, the “Stewards of the Sea” don’t want to spend their profits on the fix to stop this. Same as throwing bags of trash overboard.

    Alaska is waking up, Key West has already woken up as well as Venice. Now to fight those that get the backhander in their own pocket. In the USA it is the Lobbyists with the politicians and in Cayman, our entire government.

  14. Anonymous says:

    All of this over cheap nasty tourists that just cause traffic in George Town. Haul ya ass!

  15. Anonymous says:

    So after the last year plus, things should be improving right?

    • Anonymous says:

      Sadly like many biological afflictions once they have been introduced/established it is very difficult to eradicate said disease/virus/bacteria. There are many examples in both wild and domesticated animals (salmon anemia, bovine TB, swine flu, FIV, etc). This is the case with SCTLD. There are things that can be done to slow it down. The DOE has been applying an antibiotic paste to afflicted coral and implementing disinfecting protocols at dive shops to help slow down the spread. At this point, however, I believe it is more an attempt to keep enough coral alive to reproduce and save genetic diversity and preserve reef structure. This is why places like the Galapagos (for example) are insanely strict on biosecurity.

  16. Ka-ka DoDo says:

    “Ship wastewater linked to fatal coral disease”

    No shit, I say.

    • Anonymous says:

      “No Shit” should be the rallying cry demanding that government does not simply bring back the cruise sector as it was but looks first at whether it should be brought back at all.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I think we need to be careful. The cure could be worse than the disease

    • Anonymous says:

      It WILL BE worse than the disease. ANYONE arguing that DOES NOT understand etiology and antibiotics. It is a terrible idea. Another one that Cayman will pay for.

      • Anonymous says:

        Have you actually looked into how they are treating the corals? They are just dumping tons of antibiotics straight into the water column. They are mixing a certain type of antibiotic (amoxicillin) in a bio-paste paste and applying it directly onto the coral. Subsequently, the antibiotics are absorbed straight into the coral and not into the general environment. This type of antibiotic has a short half-life so is only useful for a day or two. There’s always someone in the comment section who thinks they know better than the scientists… SMH. You can’t please everyone. If the DOE did nothing people would complain that they were in fact doing “noting”. What would you suggest they do?

  18. Anonymous says:

    This is why they should NEVER be allowed to return.

    • Anonymous says:

      OK then, please come up with a revenue source that will replace the $30 million or so that floats into government’s coffers as a result of cruise head tax and other charges.

      • Al Catraz says:

        If only there were a few people somewhere with an incredible amount of money, or perhaps an entire industry premised on moving it around.

        But, alas, there is no way to make up $30M in cruise revenue.

        Coral is highly overrated anyway. Just go down and dye it and nobody will be able to tell the difference anyway.

        • anon against ignorance says:

          5.00pm the tourist port facility was funded by way of loans to be repaid from the cruise ship head tax, have they been paid off?.

      • Anonymous says:

        2:50 The government has already confirmed that the monetary amount made from cruise ship tourists is almost tripled by the finance sector. The loss of revenue from cruise ships is minimal. We should be focusing on high-end tourism which comes predominantly from start over tourists. If we do invite cruise ships back we should limit the number and cater to small high-end ships that will actually benefit the economy. Not like the carnival monstrosities which are cheap and do little to improve our economy.

      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t forget to offset the $50 million in infrastructure and security costs, the effects of the mass importation of poverty required, and the pollution and reduction in quality of life.

      • Anonymous says:

        Growth in the financial services sector more than offset whatever was lost on cruise head tax but the main considerations ought to be that life in Cayman has been so much better for the residents since the cruise ships stopped coming, and hopefully the quality of our environment will improve if we eliminate pollution and disease coming with the cruise ships.

      • Anonymous says:

        Cannabis, national lottery and casinos. You’re welcome.

        • Anonymous says:

          I support cannabis and a national lottery if they are both supported by strong legislative framework, but I draw the line at casinos. Whoever wants that, is free to board a BA flight to Bahamas in the future.

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t know if I want my name out there if I were to win any type of lottery. The place is too small for me to have comfort over my safety. but hey, I might change my tune if it were to be implemented but that’s my initial stance.

      • Anonymous says:

        No just cut government spending by the same amount. The way the CI Government wastes money it could easily be done with no adverse impact to anyone. All we need is some politicians with common sense and a backbone.

        • anon says:

          7,15pm Make civil servants pay for their medical treatment, that will save a lot more than $30 million a year.

      • Anonymous says:

        Legalized cannabis will far surpass that paltry $30m. Next question.

      • Anonymous says:

        Simple – the airport and stay over tourists.

        Allow direct flights from Europe – we have the right size runway now.

  19. Robert Mugabe IV says:

    The most important environmental problem facing us is the ongoing carcinogenic contents of the dump and whatever else is running off of it into our seas and lands.
    The problem is a conveyor belt of gutless politicians over the decades that havnt the courage to stand up and do the right thing.
    We get what we sow, always have and always will.
    How much did it cost to put lipstick over that pile of s*** that we belovedly call Mt Trashmore.
    The electorate need to prioritize the dump in the next election and hopefully form a govt that can and will move it.

    • Anonymous says:

      We can focus on both cruise ships and the dump. They both are environmental disasters.

    • Environmental sellouts need be held to task says:

      Moving it just creates the same problem elsewhere. Don’t know why in the Dart plan to cap the top of the dump a wasn’t there a plan to install a pumped grout barrier beneath it. This type of encasement has been successfully done in other countries with the same geological conditions, which have been forced by their own or regional regulations. But we don’t have any such regulations here so looks like again Dart together with our own impotent DEH came up with the cheapest solution.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Waste water from ships in our waters could also contain Sars-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid.

    https://www.newsweek.com/testing-cruise-ship-sewage-coronavirus-could-prevent-spread-scientists-say-1519007

  21. Anonymous says:

    More reasons to ban the polluting floating disease factories permanently

  22. Anonymous says:

    Exactly why they should NOT be allowed back to our shores.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Not ruling-out ship wastewater and other pollution as a culprit, but coral bleaching is occurring all over the globe, including the Great Barrier Reef.

    Perhaps global warming/warning is a more viable suspect?

    There is clear evidence that water temps are rising so that very likely has a negative impact on coral.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is no reason to assume multiple causal agents including warming water enhancing the effects of the poison that ships dump in our water.

    • Anonymous says:

      10:31 Climate change has been shown to cause more frequent bleaching events. Corals can survive a bleaching event but they often are weaker afterward and have a harder time fitting off infection. Scientists still aren’t sure if SCTLD is viral or bacterial but it has nothing to do with bleaching. Ship ballast water is a very likely source of the infection. It started on the North of Grand Cayman which is the side of the island with a high movement of boat traffic. It has also been shown to be spread by divers, currents, and fish. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get to the sister islands anytime soon.

    • Anonymous says:

      As mentioned SCTLD and coral bleaching are NOT the same thing.
      Once a stony coral gets SCTLD its tissues die off permanently eventually killing the entire coral. It can wipe out an entire colony in DAYS. This is a serious threat and not enough people grasp this.

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