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Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease

Underwater image of a coral with tissue loss disease

Florida's coral reefs are experiencing a multi-year outbreak of stony coral tissue loss disease. While disease outbreaks are not uncommon, this event is unique due to its large geographic range, extended duration, rapid progression, high rates of mortality and the number of species affected. The disease is thought to be caused by bacteria and can be transmitted to other corals through direct contact and water circulation. Researchers are working to identify potential pathogens and relationships with environmental factors, strategies to treat diseased colonies, and identify genotypes of corals that are resistant to the disease.


Inside the Event

Florida’s Reef Tract is one of the largest reef systems in the world with 45 coral species. Florida’s corals are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth and provide habitats for fish and invertebrates – the quintessential rain forests of the sea. They also provide coastal protection from storms and have pharmaceutical benefits. Their economic impact in Florida is more than $7 billion annually.

Animation showing disease starting on the North Miami-Dade coast and spreading up and down coastline

FWC Response

FWC and partners are leading a multifaceted, collaborative coral disease response. This multiagency effort is at the forefront of global disease research and restoration and our work today will continue to be instrumental to inform future coral disease outbreak response around the world.

A diver places a brain coral in a mesh bag


Additional Resources

Given the scale of stony coral tissue loss disease, FWC relies on collaboration with multiple conservation partners. Disease identification cards are free to download to assist in determining if a variety of different corals have been affected by this disease. Stay abreast of this quickly developing situation by following the news link below. 

Rescued corals in an aquarium