Regional workshop at marine institute

The Central Caribbean Marine
Institute hosted its second major regional workshop at its Little Cayman
Research Centre this month.

The Coral Disease Outbreak Response
Training Workshop, held from 1-5 June in partnership with the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration and the National Coral Reef Institute, provided
hands-on disease outbreak response training for 11 scientists and managers from
the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, faculty from St. Matthew’s
University’s Coral Reef Research Club, CCMI’s in-house research team, and local
dive masters.

It followed a similar workshop last
year involving 18 marine scientists to develop a Caribbean strategy to measure
and monitor changes in ocean chemistry that might affect coral reefs.

The aim of the most recent workshop
was to train local resource managers to identify and quantify coral diseases in
the field, how to collect samples of these diseases, and how to correctly
analyse them and report them to the regional response teams.

Lead scientists Esther Peters,
Cheryl Woodley and Andrew Bruckner selected local participants who were then
trained to teach others how to identify, monitor and report on diseased corals.

“The idea is that we want to build
the capacity in the Cayman Islands region to be able to go out and teach/train
other local resource managers, thereby significantly and rapidly increasing the
chances of immediate response within the Cayman Islands,” said Carrie Manfrino,
Central Caribbean Marine Institute president and director of research and
conservation.

Following the training workshop
this month, St. Matthew’s University faculty members and the Department of
Environment hosted two similar mini-workshops on Grand Cayman. Individuals trained
at these workshops are now qualified to recognise and respond to episodes of
bleaching and disease.

Mr. Bruckner, in a recent press
briefing, revealed that some of Cayman’s oldest corals are under attack from a
disease known as white plague, most likely as a result of stressors like the
coral bleaching seen in Cayman last year. Some corals that are 500 years old
have fallen victim to the disease, which can spread one to two centimetres per
day. Many of these corals grow at a rate of only one centimetre or less per
year.

The Central Caribbean Marine
Institute was founded in 1998 to conduct and facilitate research, education and
outreach to sustain marine diversity for future generations. The Little Cayman
Research Centre was opened in May 2006.