Monday 23 September, 2019

IMA issues coral bleaching alert for Tobago

The Institute of Marine Affairs is urging anyone who has observed signs of coral bleaching in Tobago to contact the relevant agencies.

This as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch advised that over the next three months, Trinidad and Tobago’s coral bleaching stress gauge is currently at “Watch Level.”

According to the IMA, this means that the waters around Tobago are above average sea surface temperature (SST) for this time of year.

"NOAA predicts that over the next five to eight weeks, Tobago and the rest of the Lesser Antilles have a 60 percent chance of reaching “Bleaching Alert Level One,” (high likelihood of coral bleaching), while the outlook for next nine  to 12 weeks indicates a 60 percent chance of reaching “Bleaching Alert Level Two,” (widespread coral bleaching and coral mortality)," the IMA said in a release.

Explaining coral bleaching, the IMA said when corals become stressed, such as when water temperatures are too warm or too cold, the coral-algae relationship breaks down and the algae is expelled from the coral. This loss causes the coral to turn white and is therefore referred to as coral bleaching. The loss of the algae means that the corals lose their major source of food; and if unfavourable conditions persist, the coral will starve and eventually die.

The IMA said over the next three months, it is important for citizens who utilise the waters around Tobago to keep an eye out for changes to our reefs.

"Please report any observations of coral bleaching to local environmental authorities – The Institute of Marine Affairs, The Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, THA, and even NGOs in your area – Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville, Buccoo Reef Trust, and Environment Tobago to let them know what you have observed. It will be great if pictures and notes such as the location, depth, and extent of bleaching observed can be provided," the IMA said.

Caribbean corals are typically shades of brown or green.

Corals that appear pale and eventually fade to bone-white are showing signs of bleaching/ Bleached corals will also have macroalgae and turf algae growing over the coral skeletons and the reefs begin to take on a furry appearance. Corals that are dying also have a black band or patches of white around the coral tissue and partial tissue loss and death.

For more information, please contact the IMA at 634-4291*2531, *2406, *1327, *2407 or alternatively at imadirector@ima.gov.tt; tmedina@ima.gov.tt; lchadee@ima.gov.tt; incidents@ima.gov.tt.

Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: