Applying treatments on reefs affected by SCTLD

With our support one of our key allies have been tackling a highly lethal coral disease.

We've been working to support marine conservation in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) for nearly two decades, building strong links with our local environmental partners.

Tackling coral disease

With our financial support, one of our key allies, the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund (TCRF), have been tackling a highly lethal coral disease: Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD).

SCTLD affects over 20 species of reef-building corals and was first discovered in the TCI in 2019. Once a coral colony is infected, without diagnosis and treatment the entire colony is expected to die within days.

This is a big concern as these reefs, incredibly rich with marine life, help support local fishing livelihoods as well as a vital tourism industry.

Coral research provides a ray of hope for diseased reefs

One ray of hope is that researchers in Florida have developed a highly effective treatment. The treatment – an antibiotic ointment - is applied by scuba diving. Test results from over 200 colony treatments have shown that it is nearly 90% effective in stopping disease progression.

As a waterborne pathogen, the disease cannot be eliminated from the TCI waters, however, the pathogen load can be reduced by starting treatment early when reefs begin to show signs of infection.

Turks and Caicos Islanders getting involved in treating SCTLD

Turks and Caicos islanders getting involved in treating SCTLD

Credit: Alizee Zimmermann

At the first test site in TCI, two weeks after the treatment was applied, 92% of the treated colonies had no progression of disease, the other 8% required a re-treatment. At the two-month post-treatment visit, the success rate was 100%. All the untreated colonies were dead.

The TCRF have recently gained government approval to expand the treatment effort across the archipelago. This will enable various reef sites across the islands to be treated against this disease. They are also spearheading efforts to develop alternative treatments methods, with trialling underway.

Follow the progress of the treatment and of the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund by visiting their website.

Brain Coral having been treated for SCTLD

Brain coral having been treated for SCTLD

Credit: David Gallardo

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