The Turks and Caicos Islands joined the list of Caribbean countries affected by stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) in 2019, but a dedicated team of reef protectors are battling to save their beloved reefs. This devastating disease, which first emerged off the coast of Florida nearly a decade ago, has rapidly spread across the region and is now present in 28 nations. The picturesque coastline of the British territory has long been a magnet for tourists. However, the relentless spread of SCTLD has left no part of the archipelago’s reef untouched, raising concerns for both the marine ecosystem and the livelihoods of those dependent on it. Since becoming a certified dive instructor five years ago, Reginald Beckford has trained over 100 students, some of whom have joined him in the fight against SCTLD. “The first time I went scuba diving it was surreal, it was like a different world,” he recalls. “Once I saw what we had down there, I wanted to help preserve it in any way I could.” The TC Reef Fund, an NGO heavily reliant on donations and staffed mostly by volunteers, is leading the efforts to combat the disease. Working closely with the government’s environment department, they are implementing various strategies to mitigate the devastating effects of SCTLD. Their role includes applying an antibiotic paste to infected corals, a method that has shown promising results in halting the disease’s progression.
[Image: Patricia Guardiola: Antibiotics are used to treat diseased corals]