DoE allocates funds to fight deadly coral disease

Boulder star coral infected with stony coral tissue loss disease.

Just under $100,000 from the Department of Environment’s budget has been diverted to help combat the spread of the deadly stony coral tissue loss disease, which has been wreaking havoc across Grand Cayman’s reefs since June 2020.

Speaking at a government press conference on Friday, 19 March, DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said the department did not receive any additional funding, instead they were reallocating a portion of their budget which had been approved in 2019.

“[W]e are currently working to try to get additional resources to assist the DoE…,” she said, adding that the diverted money was sourced from the Environmental Protection Fund and originally designated for other projects.

This coral seen at Penny’s Arch in the Rum Point Channel is infected with stony coral tissue loss disease. – Photo: DoE

The disease was first spotted off Grand Cayman’s northern coast at the Penny’s Arch dive site in June last year and began swiftly spreading west – which forced the DoE to shut down 43 dive sites in October. Since then, the disease has continued to spread and earlier this month it had reached dive sites off West Bay.

Currently not much is known about stony coral tissue loss disease. The DoE has been administering an amoxicillin antibiotic paste to the infected coral, but despite these efforts the disease continues to spread. The treatment, however, has been found to be 100% effective in stopping the pathogen from spreading to unaffected parts of the coral.

Ebanks-Petrie said the reallocated funds would be enough to get her team through the year, after which they would then re-evaluate the problem.

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