Texas coral reef showing symptoms of deadly coral disease, NOAA says

Flower Garden Banks suffering unusual coral mortality

The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is the only sanctuary site located in the Gulf of Mexico and is home to a myriad of sea life including 20 species of hard corals, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This video was provided by the NOAA.

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is the only sanctuary site located in the Gulf of Mexico and it could now be facing a deadly threat.

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are investigating a coral disease, which has not been previously reported in the sanctuary.

The disease is known as Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). It’s highly lethal and can result in the death of entire colonies of coral, according to a press release from NOAA.

SCTLD was first discovered at the sanctuary during a collaborative monitoring cruise between the sanctuary and National Coral Reef Monitoring Program divers.

Brain and star corals appeared to show SCTLD-like symptoms, including lesions and tissue loss, during the expedition, which took place from August 30-September 2.

“Divers photographed the impacted corals, documented their locations, and collected samples and other data that are now being reviewed by coral disease experts to either confirm or rule out the presence of SCTLD at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary,” the press release states. “During a similar mission in the same area the week prior, divers did not report seeing distressed corals.”

NOAA officials say SCTLD is presumably spread by water movement.

Flower Garden Banks is home to a myriad of sea life, including 20 species of hard corals. It’s just 100 miles off Galveston and covers 56-square miles.

An investigation into the possible presence of SCTLD at Flower Garden Banks is ongoing.

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About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.