The deadly stony coral tissue loss disease have been found at two new sites in East End, the Department of Environment has reported.
The disease, which manifests initially as pale lesions on stony corals and eventually kills the corals, has been found at sites off Spotter Bay and Colliers, apparently unconnected to the original outbreak.
Stony coral tissue loss disease was first found on Grand Cayman, at Penny’s Arch near Rum Point, in June last year. Since then, the DoE has tracked it as it spread along the north side of the island, where it stretches from Lighthouse Point in North West Point in West Bay to the Babylon, McCurley’s Wall and Julie’s Wall dive sites off Old Man Bay in East End.
According to the latest DoE-issued map showing the progression of the disease, there are now three distinct sites which are being tracked.
New dive sites affected include Dragon’s Lair and Snapper Hole off Colliers, and Fishtank and Valley of the Dolls off Spotter Bay.
The DoE in a statement to the Cayman Compass on Wednesday said, “We consider this to be a separate, distinct outbreak. We have found no evidence of any other outbreaks in between this location and the leading edge of the disease on the north side of Grand Cayman during our periodic surveys.”
It added, “However, local divers are also reporting suspected outbreaks, and as the map indicates, these areas in between appear to remain disease-free at this stage. Until more is understood about the modes of disease transmission, it is difficult to determine why the disease has jumped to this location. Suspected modes of transmission include boat traffic and diving, which is why dive gear and boat bilge decontamination are so critically important.”
The DoE noted that “thankfully” the areas infected in East End appear relatively confined to a small area.
The department’s Response Dive Team is monitoring the situation with visits planned this week to do an assessment, including antibiotic treatment of the infected corals.
The DoE is in the process of hiring about seven divers to help tackle the disease with an antibiotic paste which has proven to be the only current means of controlling its spread. Several volunteers also make up the response team.