"White Syndrome" is the mysterious disease killing Florida’s only coral reef. (Photo: Florida Sea Grant)

Deterioriation of coral reefs will seriously affect the economy of Quintana Roo.

Specialists seek to reverse the massive death of corals with a special treatment against the disease known as “white syndrome”, which could bring a highly negative impact in the local and regional economy in the medium term.

Since January 9th, this year, a group of experts from UNAM, the National Commission for Protected Natural Areas (Conanp) and the Healthy Reefs initiative apply antibiotics to corals in order to prevent the spread of this outbreak that already affects thousands of specimens.

Melina Soto and María del Carmen García, of Healthy Reefs and the Conanp, respectively, warn that if corals continue to die in the region, important economic sectors for the state, such as fishing and tourism will have complications to survive.

For just over eight months the group of experts detected in Puerto Morelos that a large number of corals were getting sick and dying quickly. Sharing information with the international community, local scientifics confirmed that it was the same “lethal” disease that has been observed in Florida, United States, since 2014. Apprently the illness has spread all the way down to the Mexican Caribbean.

Melina Soto said that while coral “whitening” is becoming more common, this disease is unprecedented, and once infected, corals die in a matter of weeks. Currently all the reef extension in front of the Riviera Maya has been monitored, and it is affected by this outbreak, with the exception of Cozumel, Banco Chinchorro and Isla Mujeres.

“If we lose the reef we lose our main economic activity that is tourism and the second that would be fishing,” declared the specialist. (Photo: SIPSE)

“This massive loss directly affects recreational activities such as snorkeling, that is practiced annually by more than 1,200,000 tourists off the shores of Puerto Morelos and Cancun”, said María del Carmen García.

“At least two thousand families depend on the fishing industry in Quintana Roo, there are 26 “Cooperativas” registered throughout the state”, she continued.

The biggest economic affectation, they agree, is the loss of the barrier function of a reef to contain the force of the ocean against the coast.

The corals generate structure for the reefs and in Quintana Roo these are seriously ill. The specialists explain that from the nineties to date more than 30 percent of the coral cover has been lost, so if the trend continues in the medium term, the reefs will erode, and evetually dissappear.

In the absence of a barrier reef, strong weather events will cause severe damage to urban areas, mainly the tourism infrastructure in places like Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

TYT Newsroom with information from SIPSE



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