Volume 73

Multi-species Coral Rescue in Response to the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease on the Florida Reef Tract

Berkebile, N; T. Ramseyer; S. Schopmeyer; R. Ruzicka; J. Moore; L. Gregg; K. O'neil; A. Bruckner; D. Gilliam, M. Martinelli
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Date: November, 2020

Pages: 8

Event: Proceedings of the Seventy-Three Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Virtual

Country: Virtual


The Florida Reef Tract (FRT) is experiencing an unprecedented disease outbreak described as Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). First reported near Miami in 2014, SCTLD has since spread to the northernmost extent of the FRT and southwestward through the Marquesas resulting in the mortality of thousands of colonies from >20 coral species, including primary reef builders and species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Efforts to identify the pathogen(s), determine the mode(s) of transmission, and develop potential intervention techniques are currently underway, but our limited understanding of SCTLD greatly impedes management efforts to control the spread of this virulent disease. A multi- agency, multi-disciplinary Coral Rescue Team (CRT) was developed to: 1) design and implement a reef- tract wide coral collection plan for SCTLD-susceptible species, 2) preserve representative portions of the remaining genetic diversity of FRT corals in holding, and 3) plan for future propagation, restoration and reintroduction of such corals to the wild. The CRT has conducted seven successful coral rescue collection cruises, ahead of the disease margin, and an endemic zone collection. Coral care plans have been developed and rescue corals have been delivered to Florida-based non-governmental organizations and universities as well as long-term housing facilities from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums outside Florida. These facilities have started focusing on propagation, rearing, and induced spawning efforts. Lastly, the CRT has started genetic sampling to develop genetic markers from multiple species. The genotypes will help the broader restoration community, while the spawn from rescue corals will be used in more specific restoration efforts along the FRT and will help to understand SCTLD-resilience between species.

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