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Coral damage more catastrophic than sargassum says biologist

Cancun, Q.R. — The deputy director of Natural Protected Resources says that in the short term, coral damage from white syndrome could be more catastrophic that the effects of sargassum in terms of economic losses.

Marine biologist Nallely Hernández Palacios, deputy director of la Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (Conanp), says that while white syndrome is exclusive to coral, the sargassum reaches the beaches and mangroves, affecting the underground system which in turn, contributes to the coral disease.

“The picture in the Mexican Caribbean is devastating,” she said. “In six months, the same amount of reef has died as in the last 40 years, which corresponds to 30 and up to 60 percent in the most affected areas. We’re looking at a very alarming figure,” she stressed.

Adaptación al Cambio Climático basada en Ecosistemas con el Sector Turismo (Adaptur), which is funded by Ministerio Federal de Medio Ambiente, Protección a la Naturaleza y Seguridad Nuclear, points out that white syndrome is caused by poor quality marine water due to wastewater discharge.

Hernández Palacios explained “We are now working with people from the National Water Commission and what we have right now, is we are training the operational people who work the residual plants to have proper functioning because one of the concerns is about whether or not the plants of hotels are working properly. That is one of the approaches and actions that we are initiating with the people of Conagua.”

Adaptur cautioned that both white syndrome and sargasso are directly related, stressing that as the threat of the destruction of coastal habitats such as mangroves increases, it is likely to worsen with the brown tides generated by the decomposition of sargassum, which have serious effects on the health and dynamics of coastal ecosystems.

Hernández Palacios added that they are working with the United States on a project to isolate coral colonies which will be sown after a remedy is found for the coral-killing disease.