DPNR Warns of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, Asks Public’s Help

Damaged Star Coral in Leinster. (Photo by Caroline Rogers)
Damaged Star Coral in Leinster. (Photo by Caroline Rogers)

The Division of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) is alerting the Virgin Islands community of the emergence of the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD), which has recently been found on St. Thomas.

SCTLD is a lethal coral disease that can affect roughly half of the coral species in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The cause of the disease is unknown, but scientists do know that it is transmittable through water. SCTLD will attack all stony corals, but will affect brain and pillar corals first, and then move quickly through the rest of the stony coral, leaving behind large areas of bright white skeletons.

SCTLD doesn’t pose a threat to human health, but will damage corals that provide food, tourism value, and physical protection from waves during storms, according to Commissioner-Nominee Jean-Pierre L. Oriol of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

DPNR is asking the general public to be on the lookout for this disease when swimming, snorkeling or diving throughout the territory. Look for large areas of bright white skeleton on corals, especially on brain and pillar corals. Report sightings and visit www.reefconnect.org/bleachwatch then download the Bleach Watch app, or report directly through the website. Be sure to include photos and location information. If unable to make a report, call Coastal Zone Management at 774-3320 or email czm@dpnr.vi.gov

A public meeting is being scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 20, on St. Thomas. Location is TBD. Information will be published on the Coastal Zone Management website at www.dpnr.vi.gov/czm/SCTLD as well as on the DPNR Facebook page.
For more information about this topic, call DPNR at 774-3320 extension 5115.

Please protect all coral! Don’t anchor on coral; know what’s below when you drop your anchor. Stand only in sand. Don’t touch, kick or stand on coral. Every living piece of coral is valuable.