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Specialists remove sick coral in Kerama Sea

Date Posted: 2007-07-12

Environmental experts are trying surgery to excise diseased coral in Okinawa’s Sekisei Lagoon and near the Kerama Islands.

The coral has been affected by White Syndrome, a disease that bleaches coral and is capable of killing entire coral colonies. The disease is threatening coral not only in Okinawa, but along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and in the Caribbean Sea. The Conference for Natural Conservation of the Kerama Sea Area is overseeing the steps to save local coral.

Specialists had been reluctant to remove diseased coral, afraid that it could make preservation of colonies worse. The rapid spread of White Syndrome prompted them to take the emergency measures. The cause and cure for White Syndrome aren’t clear, but scientists believe higher ocean temperatures possibly caused by global warming could be the culprit.

Since deciding on the action six months ago, scientists have removed portions of two Kerama Sea coral colonies that had turned white and were dying. One of the colonies is now doing well following the surgical measures, while the second did well for a month before being eaten by crown-of-thorns starfish.

An environmental scientist with the Conference for Natural Conservation of the Kerama Sea Area says their actions are only interim measures, and that research must continue to identify the cause of White Syndrome.

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