SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - There’s a devastating disease impacting Florida’s coral reefs. It’s called Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease and has a death rate of up to 100 percent.
Because scientists don’t know what’s causing it, the fear is it could make its way to the Gulf.
There are more than 80 coral colonies currently being cared for by Mote scientists. NOAA and FWC rescued these corals from in front of the path of that deadly disease making its way through the Florida Keys.
Since it’s already spread quickly from Miami south to the Keys, there’s no telling if the Stony Coral Tissue Loss disease will attack the corals on the Suncoast next.
“The most alarming thing about the disease is its mortality rate," said Adam Dolman, curator of fish and vertebrates with Mote Marine Laboratory. "In areas that have been affected, we’re seeing 80-100 percent mortality rate. So it’s just decimating the corals and wiping them out when it hits.”
Mote is conducting extensive research to determine what the pathogen is and how to stop it, but in the meantime, they’re caring for the ones that haven’t been affected.
“The long-term goal is to collect 3,000 colonies and distribute them across the country for holding at other aquariums and zoos," said Dolman.
Mote said this disease was first detected in 2014. If makes its way here, the impacts could be devastating.
“Especially here in Florida, coral reefs bring in a lot of eco-tourism," Dolman explained. "The reefs also provide protection from hurricane damage, they break up wave action and also they provide shelter for many of the fisheries.”
The disease is primarily affecting all of the corals that actually build up the reef like boulder corals and brain corals, so if they don’t save the ones that are in the path of destruction, scientists said it could take 100 years for the reefs to rebuild.
There is a lot of additional information about this disease and Mote’s effort to save these corals. To learn more, click here.