Florida's Coral Reef has been experiencing an outbreak of a coral disease termed Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). First reported in 2014 off the coast of Miami-Dade County, this outbreak has spread along Florida and to reefs in the Caribbean, including Jamaica, Mexico, St. Maarten, the US Virgin Islands, and the Dominican Republic. Since 2015, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and numerous partners from federal, state, and local agencies, non-governmental organizations, universities, and members of the community have been collaborating on a multifaceted response effort.
Large geographic range. Over half of Florida's Coral Reef has been affected – over 96,000 acres.
Duration of the outbreak. Disease has continued to spread for more than three years.
Number of coral species affected. 20+ of approximately 45 species of Florida’s reef-building corals have been affected. This includes five species listed pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.
Significantly high prevalence. Within certain species, disease is seen in 66-100 out of every 100 colonies surveyed.
High rates of disease transmission and mortality. Once a coral begins to lose living tissue, observations show that the colony will die within weeks to months.
For a more in-depth understanding of stony coral tissue loss disease in Florida, refer to the technical case definition (updated October 2018).
Coordinated Response Effort
Approximately $5 million has been allocated by the Florida State Legislature, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other sources to support disease response efforts in FY 19-20. Priority coral disease response activities include
The exact cause and contributing factors for this outbreak will likely take years to identify; however, addressing other known coral stressors (such as water quality, turbidity, and sedimentation) will increase the ability of the corals to recover. We can all do our part to increase the resilience of our coral reefs.
Report diseased AND healthy corals to SEAFAN - The Southeast Florida Action Network. These SEAFAN reports help the DEP Coral Reef Conservation Program monitor current conditions on the reefs. Reports of healthy corals are just as important as reports of diseased corals!
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.