Cayman’s coral in crisis

| 18/06/2010

(CNS): Following a major bleaching event in local waters during 2009, corals around the Cayman Islands have since fallen victim to disease, which is now advancing through some of the oldest types of coral. Andy Bruckner, a well respected coral reef scientist who has done considerable work on coral disease, has been in Cayman for the last few weeks examining the situation and to hold disease workshops to assist the Department of Environment and others working in research and management. The goal is to find out more about what he called the “white plague”, the disease that is destroying the coral, and find ways to contain its progress and slow down the damage which is already quite significant.

The Disease Response Training was organized by the Coral Disease Health Consortium to give scientists and resource managers from the region classroom and in water training on the identification of coral diseases and approaches to characterise a disease outbreak, as well as better determine the causes and links with various stressors. The goal of the training is to help the Department of Environment, dive operators and others respond to the disease and find out what is causing it. Scientists from St. Matthews University also took part in the workshop.
Bruckner has warned that the damage is already quite bad on Grand Cayman and it is now affecting coral around the north of the island, which had survived the actually bleaching but is now succumbing to disease. The coral expertexplained to the media this week that the disease probably began attacking the local coral because it was weakened by the major bleaching event in the area last year but other stressors are now adding to its spread.
Although the bleaching made the coral more susceptible to the disease, Bruckner warned that the bacteria causing the disease itself was probably coming from human impacts on  the environment, in particular sewage runoff. He warned that over development on canals and the waterfront without natural barriers, such as mangroves, would add to the problems.
The assessments he has conducted on the status of Cayman Islands reefs revealing the threats affecting them and the resilience, including the ability for these reefs to survive and recover from major disturbances, will help the Department of Environment determine how to manage the situation. Bruckner’s work will reveal how the reefs have changed since the last Cayman-wide AGGRA assessments (in 1999) and patterns of recovery from the 2005 Caribbean wide bleaching event as well as the massive 2009 bleaching event.  
After two weeks Bruckner said he has seen a lot of white plague on the coral along the reefs around the islands and said the concern was that the disease was eating the type of coral that takes the longest to grow. He also warned that it is not possible to recover the coral which is already dead but the goal was  to try and limit the damage to healthy coral and encourage new coral, by rescuing broken coral from the sea bed in the wake of storms or other damage and put it back on the reef.
Although the DoE has had a reef project monitoring the sate of the local coral for many years, the spread of the disease is causing further challenges at a time when the department’s budget has been severely cut and it hopes the workshop will help support its work.
Coral plays a crucial role in Cayman’s marine eco-system, in particular forming the feeding grounds for the islands’ diverse fish populations, including those we eat as well as the one’s tourists come to look at. Without it the country’s fish stocks could be severely impacted and dive tourism threatened. Bruckner also noted that healthy coral reefs offer protection from hurricanes.
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  1. Finger Coral says:

    When we flush toilets  and use clorox, when we wash clothes using clorox when we clean dishes and use clorox, when we clean house and use clorox it is going into deep wells and out to sea. Figure out what is taking place.

    • Jab-Jab says:

      Actually, nothing. Chlorine breaks down relatively quickly. If you do some fact checking you’ll find that there are plenty of other environmental threats out there more real and more pernicious than Clorox.

  2. Rectus femoris says:

    This article seems to offer some hope!

    Corals living on edge could escape climate change (New Scientist)

    "Evolution is the key to survival for life on Earth"


    Oh, but wait! The Cayman Ministers Association said evolution is not real. Doh!


  3. anonymous says:

    Cayman still has coral reefs?  

  4. paulm says:

    Global Warming is starting to rare its ugly head.

    We need to get on top of this and tackle the climate change that we have induced.

    • anonymous says:

       According to Fox News global warming is not real. Try doing some research before you cite make believe threats. 

      • Anonymous says:

        Try using scientific research and not some biased "Talking Head",especially FoxNews!

      • Anonymous says:

        Fox News?!?  Try citing a credible source for your info and then your statements might carry some weight.

    • Fritz says:

      I can imagine the oil gushing out by the thousands of barrels a day in the Gulf of Mexico, and some hurricane from the Atlantic, pushing the sleaks of oil to our shores. Yes, I can see a disaster waiting to happen; the whole Caribbean is in a mess. We are destroying our own planet. Just wait and see.

      And the good news is, the planet has a way of reacting to these man-made mishaps by creating more hurricanes and natural disasters. Almost like a purging procress, the planet will not take abuse any longer. Just wait and see. This whole hurricane season  which is not over until Novermber will show you we need to become more responsible.

      I know… lol… thumbs down for being so negative, but like what the prophet Bob Marley said, "every action is a reaction"

    • Heraclitus says:

      Which change was induced by us and which is to be considered natural?

  5. Mat says:

    We can never live until we start thinking alot more about our own people and our environment here. The desease of coral reflects the desease of sin; greed, lovers of pleasure and money more than lovers of God, spreading its tentacles and like cancer killing future of our young people.

  6. Raffaele says:

    All these people care about is the next big deal our fragile environment is rejecting this massive assault on it. They are right in closing down our tourism offices when our waters are polluted and environment destroyed we won’t need them. Mega yachts you for real man, you must mean mega problems someone needs to sit these buffoons down and explain to them what is really happening in the boating world. Wishing on a star again jeeeezum Some folks sick bad with TS- Terminal delusions

  7. Anonymous says:

    If the crime doesn’t keep the tourists away, this probably will. When does the dredging of North Sound start?

  8. scubado says:

    This is so Sad! Did see this last year and was praying it would get better..

  9. peter milburn says:

    So very sad that this is happening here.When I remember far back that we put permanent morrings in in the early 70’s and even then we knew that protecting our fragile environment was VITAL to the well being of our tourism product.We had a chance to put in permanent cruise ship moorings but to no avail.and sadly we see what we have to live with today.Diving was the corner stone of our tourism and it was this industry that made Cayman a world famous destination.Oh how things have changed for the worst and we now must fight an uphill battle to keep things as best we can.Clearly this present Govt.does not give a damn about reefs and the things that draw people to these beautiful islands.I well remember the hard work that was put in by the "reef repairers"and the redicule that we all faced in the local media but let me tell you all one thing at least we tried and it was well worth the time and effort put in to the project.I have visited the area recently and am not surprised that the reefs have taken quite well.There are many "new young corals"growing out there.and it will all be for naught if this present Govt.has its way with the new port destruction(sorry I meant construction)!!!!The advent of new roads along the west bay penninsula with their deep wells for run off has I am certain contributed to demise of many of our reefs along the west shores.Its a shame that my two g/daughters may not get to see the wonderful worls that surrounds these three islands due to the ignorance and selfishness of a few greedy people that claim to have Caymans interest at heart.

                  You know who you are and I hope you sleep well at nite.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Is there any good news in Cayman?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps this is the sort of enterprise that our private sector might wish to sponsor/become involved in?

    • Anonymous says:

      They already are heavily involved. It is the private citizens that dump trash and over-fish.

      I saw two kids using a huge coral ball as a diving platform. It was 10′ in diameter and hosted a large assortment of life. Not anymore – as over 75% of the structure has since died. This is in a marine park — 6-8′ of water.

      I also see lots of empty conch (all the time with a hole in the crown) and two massive lobster carcasses (just the heads, right next to each other on the beach last week-end) due to poaching. Again in the same marine park.

      Good luck with the conservation!