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Coral Disease Outbreak: Urgent Call for Help

by | Apr 24, 2023 | Local News, Nature, SCTLD, Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, Watersports

Maze Coral - Coral Disease captured by Ellen Muller on April 6, 2023

Urgent call for help from STINAPA.

Bonaire’s reefs are currently experiencing an outbreak of what we suspect is Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). SCTLD is a highly contagious disease that affects corals, leading to the loss of tissue and eventually killing the coral colonies. It was first identified in Florida in 2014, and since then, it has spread to 22 countries in the Caribbean. The southern Caribbean was one of the last places where SCTLD was undetected until recently. Since recent outbreaks on the Dutch Caribbean islands and now lastly, Bonaire, it seems the disease has now spread throughout the entire region. The cause of the disease is still under investigation, but it’s suspected to be caused by a bacterial pathogen.

The progression of the disease.

You can read about the disease, but seeing the documentation is horrifying as someone who cares deeply about the ocean. Ellen Muller, a well-known underwater photographer on Bonaire, captures the most stunning underwater photos you can imagine. However, lately, she has also been capturing the devastating disease progression at one of the infected dive sites. While STINAPA highly recommends to AVOID all red and orange areas, Ellen has been assisting by documenting the disease progression while following the decontamination rules.

The photos were taken between March 29th and April 17th for comparison.

March 29, 2023

Coral Disease at the end of March

April 6, 2023

Coral disease April 6th

April 12, 2023

Coral disease April 12th

April 6, 2023

Ellen Muller recorded a meter-wide Maze coral with two tiny spots of coral disease (the size of a quarter) on April 6, 2023.

April 12, 2023

Coral Disease2 at the end of March

April 17, 2023

Ellen Muller recorded a meter-wide Maze coral with two spots of coral disease (the size of softballs) on April 17, 2023.

What can you do to help.

STINAPA is collaborating closely with experts from local and international communities to enhance their situation management. Help us preserve our beloved marine ecosystem by following the Marine Park rules and new SCTLD guidelines, including the “How to decontaminate your gear” video in our previous article.

  • Decontaminate ALL gear before the first dive on Bonaire as well as at the end of each diving day, or after visiting an orange or red dive site. Allow gear to dry fully before your next dive. Please see the instructional video in the previous article on how to decontaminate your gear.
  • Limit dives to ONE area per day (North, South, or Klein Bonaire) to limit the potential spread of the pathogen.
  • AVOID all areas in the red and orange infected zones listed on the map at https://arcg.is/1eCTD80. Please check the map regularly for updates on infected dive sites.
  • Report any sightings to AGRRA by listing the dive site, location of the coral, date, and photos.

We remain hopeful that our collective efforts will mitigate the impact of this disease and allow our corals to thrive.YOUR help is vital!

(Source: STINAPA, Photography by Ellen Muller)





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Tanya Deen has been living in Bonaire since December 2016. She is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Instructor and enjoys underwater and bird photography. Tanya is the Editor-in-Chief of the Bonaire Insider tourism news blog.
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