“Making coral restoration Fun”: Barbados hosts an innovative approach to coral reef restoration 12 May2023

ReefVitalize is a new endeavour which, as I understand it from what I have read, seeks to help restore coral reefs while being self-sustaining economically and contributing to local well-being economically and socially.

The main activity of ReefVitalize is the coral frame building activity where a coral frame is getting built by the tourists, corals get attached to it, and then the frame is exposed to the reef. After six months to one year, the corals are getting exposed to the wild reef. The corals get taken off, and the frame can get reused for new corals, which means that there is a consistent cycle of taking young corals, growing them and moving them out to wild reefs. This is helping restore local ecosystems and entire reefs.

…ReefVitalize was founded in 2020, but due to Covid-19, operations were minimal until 2022. So far, the startup operates on two islands – the US Virgin Islands and Barbados.

Read more in Making coral restoration Fun by Heinrich et al. on AIM2flourish.com (accessed 12May2023)

UPDATE same day: I suspected the ReefVitalize folks had contacted and were interacting with folks at CORALL; I was pleased to confirm that is so.

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AGRRA confirms presence of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in Barbados 10May2023

Screen Captures from AGRRA Interactive Map for the whole region.  Below: on Feb 24 (Barbados purple).  Above:  on Nov 8 (Barbados red). Barbados lies  east of and upstream from the other islands of the Lesser Antilles.
Click on images for larger version

UPDATE 30 May, 2023: McGill students release their final report: Occurrence of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease on Vauxhall Reef and a Breakwater in the Folkstone Marine Protected Area of Barbados (28.7 MB)
“Stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) is a highly lethal coral disease that was first reported off the coast of Florida in 2014 and has since spread rapidly throughout the Caribbean. The disease affects over 20 coral species… The large geographic scale of this outbreak, high lethality of the disease lesion, and broad susceptibility among coral species make SCTLD unprecedented in its ecological impact, and likely make it the most deadly coral disease outbreak in history.” – Coral Disease Health Consortium (U.S, Government sponsored)

I have been on the lookout for this disease during annual visits  to Barbados in the Jan to March interval since I first learned about it in 2019 (view post Jul 9, 2019). I missed visiting Barbados in 2021 and 2022, but I observed possible cases early on in January of 2023 (view post Jan 25, 2023). I began submitted observations to the AGRRA Interactive Map/Database on SCTLD, 25 sets in total those  mostly on sites in the Folkestone MPA (Marine Protected Area) on the west coast.

Up until the time I left (April 7, 2023), the Barbados tag on this map was still coloured purple, meaning all Barbados observations remained under review. The tag was still purple on April 28th. However, on May 8 the tag had flipped to red, meaning enough evidence had accumulated to confirm the presence of SCTLD in Barbados.

Continue reading

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Causative agent for die-off of long-spined sea urchin in 2022 identified 2May2023

Long-spined sea urchin on breakwater in the area of Vauxhall Reef, Barbados,  in 2015

The long-spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum) is an important herbivore on Caribbean reefs. In 2022, there was a mass die-off of this sea urchin all over the Caribbean, echoing a similar die-off in the early 1980s.

A paper reporting on the identification of the causative agent was published recently: A scuticociliate causes mass mortality of Diadema antillarum in the Caribbean Sea, by Ian Hewson et al. (48 authors in total), SCIENCE ADVANCES 19 Apr 2023, Vol 9, Issue 16. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adg3200.

Echinoderm mass mortality events shape marine ecosystems by altering the dynamics among major benthic groups. The sea urchin Diadema antillarum, virtually extirpated in the Caribbean in the early 1980s by an unknown cause, recently experienced another mass mortality beginning in January 2022. We investigated the cause of this mass mortality event through combined molecular biological and veterinary pathologic approaches comparing grossly normal and abnormal animals collected from 23 sites, representing locations that were either affected or unaffected at the time of sampling. Here, we report that a scuticociliate most similar to Philaster apodigitiformis was consistently associated with abnormal urchins at affected sites but was absent from unaffected sites. Experimentally challenging naïve urchins with a Philaster culture isolated from an abnormal, field-collected specimen resulted in gross signs consistent with those of the mortality event. The same ciliate was recovered from treated specimens postmortem, thus fulfilling Koch’s postulates for this microorganism. We term this condition D. antillarum scuticociliatosis.

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Sargassum blooms are here for the foreseeable future 15Mar2023

UPDATE May 3, 2023
Strange sighting among sargassum seaweed
YouTube Video uploaded May 2, 2023. by Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation


“A blob twice the width of the US is heading towards Florida’s coast”  So reads the title of a March 15, 2023 YouTube video in which  CNN’s Rosemary Church interviews a leading scientist about a 5,000-mile-wide stinky seaweed blob that’s headed for Florida beaches in the coming months. In the video, Barbados is cited as a place where recently 1600 dump truck-full loads a day were being taken from beaches. Continue reading

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Presumptive Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease on Vauxhall Reef & Environs (Barbados) 25Jan2023

UPDATE Feb 16, 2023: SCTLD or White Plague Disease? – we don’t yet know. Based on some discussion I had recently with an authority on this disease, it’s not clear right now whether SCTLD is present in Barbados or whether what we are looking at is an outbreak of WPD (White Plague Disease)…Reviewing my photos to date with reference to descriptions of WPD and SCTLD in Croquer et al., 2021, my interpretation would lean toward WPD rather than SCTLD.However, I  must defer to experts for a definitive ID and as of yet, I am told, there is not enough info. to make  one. Read more


Records of  Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in the Caribbean by year as reported on AGGRA 25Jan2023.

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease was first observed off the southeast coast of Florida in 2014 and appeared in the northern Caribbean by 2019. It kills the soft tissues of at least 22 species of corals and has been described as “deadliest coral disease ever recorded” (Wikipedia 25Jan2023).

After reading about this disease in 2018 and the ominous forecasts of what it could do to Caribbean reefs, I kept an eye out for it in the Vauxhall Reef area during my visits in 2018, 2019 and 2020 but saw no sign of it.

In early 2023 we returned to Barbados, Holetown area, after missing a couple of years due to Covid-related issues at home. On January 11, conditions were perfect for snorkelling at the Vauxhall  Reef* and I looked out for infected corals… read more

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Disturbing news about cruise ships’ damage to coral reefs 23May2021

From Barbados Today, for May 21, 2021

Continue reading

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Coral Reef Report Card issued for Barbados 16Mar2021

Screenshot of  page 6 from the Report Card. At a glance, you can compare relative abundance of major groups on 3 reef types in Barbados

CERMES, the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies at Cave Hill, Barbados has issued a “Report Card” for the coral reefs of Barbados. From the publication (JA Irvine et al., 2021) reporting on how it was developed:

The 2020 coral reef report card for Barbados serves to collate decades of existing data into an appealing and easily understood document, to inform policy makers and the general public about the status and trends of the island’s valuable coral reefs.

Indeed it does just that.

View the Report Card on PDF pages 31 to 52 of this publication:

A coral report card for Barbados: Development, design and metadata
JA Irvine,  HA Oxenford and R. Suckoo. 2021. CERMES Technical Report No

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Successful re-invigoration of staghorn coral and a lot else at the Oracabessa Bay Fishing Sanctuary in Jamaica 26Apr2020

““We search for dying coral colonies. We take the best coral pieces to the undersea coral nursery, cut them in bits and hang them on vertical lines, 15 feet apart supported by moorings and buoys. After 7 to 8 months we tie them to the reefs with cement (using a technique adapted from Belize).” – Lenford Dacosta, fisher and coral gardener”
A really good story

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Spectacular A. prolifera in Belize 16Apr2020

Photo and more to be viewed on Fragments of Hope, Belize

From Fragments of Hope, Belize Facebook page

From About for Fragments of Hope, Belize

To re-seed devastated reefs with genetically robust, diverse and resilient corals that will mature to spawning age/size, and at the same time begin to understand the biology and mechanisms of coral bleaching (i.e. the role of the coral host versus its symbiotic algae, the zooxanthellae when it comes to resiting or recovering from bleaching events)

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