Volume 72

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

Berkebile, N., S.A. Schopmeyer, R. Ruzicka, J. Moore, L. Gregg, K. O’neil, A. Bruckner, D. Gilliam, M. Martinellie, M. Johnson, E. Goergen, and K. Kerrigan
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Date: November, 2019

Pages: 289

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

City: Punta Cana

Country: Dominican Republic


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 in Martin County and southwestward through the lower Florida Keys 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) of SCTLD, 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 captivity, and 3) plan for future propagation, restoration and reintroduction of such corals to the wild. The CRT has determined priority target species for rescue, initiated pilot coral collections, developed coral care plans, and started delivery of rescued corals to Florida-based non-governmental organizations and universities as well as long-term housing facilities from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums outside Florida.

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