The Association of Reef Keepers will be hosting an awareness initiative on Saturday, March 7, on the growing issue of the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) which is nearing the British Virgin Islands.
According to the International Coral Reef Initiative website, SCTLD is a new lethal disease which affects more than 20 species of corals, especially the brain, pillar, star and starlet corals. The cause of the disease is yet to be determined, but scientists have proven that it spreads quickly causing high coral mortality.
Managing Director for the Association of Reef Keepers Dr Shannon Gore told BVI News that the disease has now spread to neighbouring islands in the region, including St Martin, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and St Thomas.
Disease could affect the BVI’s Blue Economy goals
She said the initiative is geared towards informing maritime users on the disease and how they can assist with helping to prevent its spread should it reach the territory.
“We’ve been working with Florida but also with St Thomas and Puerto Rico and I’ve been trying to get the word out here and [find out] if there is a treatment for it because it is eventually going to show up here. We just need people to be aware of it so that if somebody sees something, then we can go out and treat it before it spreads and wipes out everything here because we rely so much on our reefs,” Dr Gore stated.
She added: “It is going to end up killing everything here if we don’t do some kind of intervention. So, it is very important especially as the BVI moves into the ‘blue economy’ since if we don’t have the resources, we’re never going to have a blue economy.”
Origin of Disease
Dr Gore also revealed the origin of the disease, stating that it first was discovered off the shores of Florida, approximated six years ago.
She said: “back in 2014 a new coral disease started showing up off of Miami when they were dredging off the port of Miami, and scientist there was like we need to do something about this but it was kept very quiet because they didn’t want to risk anything with the dredging operation which was going on.”
“But when it started spreading north and south, it just kept on going and the scientist and reef managers realised that this was major issue because it was killing about half of the stony coral species and because Florida rely on the reef for recreation and tourism, they started to get very concerned,” Dr Gore further explained.
In the meantime, today’s (March 7) awareness session is scheduled to begin at 7:30 pm at the Bamboushay Lounge on Tortola.
It will have special guests including Professor at the University of the Virgin Islands Dr Marilyn Brandt who specialises in marine and environmental studies, and Education and Outreach Coordinator from Department of Planning and Natural Resources (USVI) Kitty Edwards.