Florida Reef Tract has been experiencing an outbreak of a coral disease termed Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). First reported off the coast of Miami-Dade County in 2014, this outbreak now spans from the northern extent of the reef tract in Martin County down to Sand Key in the Lower Keys. In long-impacted areas, SCTLD is considered an endemic disease. SCTLD impacts roughly half of Florida’s 45 stony corals, including key reef building species, five species listed pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, and many charismatic coral species. SCTLD has high species-specific prevalence rates and high whole-colony mortality rates, leading to significant declines of susceptible species on impacted reefs. Similarly-appearing coral disease signs have been reported elsewhere in the Caribbean, including Jamaica, Mexico, St. Maarten, the US Virgin Islands, and the Dominican Republic.
Since 2015, DEP and numerous partners from federal, state and local governments, universities, nongovernmental organizations and the South Florida community have been collaborating and working together on a multifaceted response effort to:
Document the distribution, prevalence, severity and impacts associated with the disease outbreak;
The exact cause and contributing factors for this event will likely take years to identify; however, addressing other known coral stressors (i.e., water quality, turbidity and sedimentation, etc.) will increase the ability of the corals to recover. We can all do our part to increase the resilience of our reef systems.
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.