Stony coral disease continues to spread

This map shows the progression of stony coral tissue loss disease along Grand Cayman's coastline. - Image: Department of Environment

Stony coral tissue loss disease is continuing to spread around the coast line of Grand Cayman, from West Bay, along the northern edge of the island, as far the eastern edge of Frank Sound.

The disease has also been found at individual dive sites off Seven Mile Beach and George Town, such as at the Doc Poulson wreck off the northern end of Seven Mile and at Armchair Reef off Smith Cove.

The Department of Environment, which has put together an expanding team of staff and volunteers to tackle the disease, is reiterating its appeal to divers and boaters to disinfect equipment after visiting sites where the disease is present.

New members recently joined the department’s SCTLD response team. That team takes part in intervention work, such as identifying sites where the disease is present and administering an antibiotic paste in a bid to stop the infection from spreading to a healthy part of the affected coral.

In a Facebook post on the additions to the response team last week, the DoE said, “As we battle this issue head on, our team has grown to include boat captains, response divers, numerous volunteers, and even an East End strike team.”

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The DoE is urging divers and snorkellers to consult the latest map and be aware of the sites they are choosing, and to ensure that they thoroughly disinfect their gear before going to another unaffected site.

“When doing multiple dives, it is very important to decide whether to stay inside or outside the infected area and not alternate. After every shore dive and every boat trip, remember to soak your snorkel and dive gear in disinfectant solution for 10 minutes, and disinfect boat bilges using a 1% bleach solution,” the DoE said in its post.

The highly infectious, coral-killing disease was first spotted locally in June 2020 at Penny’s Arch, near Rum Point.

SCTLD was initially discovered off Miami-Dade, Florida, in 2014, and has since spread along the Florida coast and to several locations across the Caribbean.

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