In the 1970s, black band disease (BBD) emerged as a mass coral killer and caught the attention of scientists. Although BBD has been studied for more than thirty years, it continues to confound scientists due to the complexity and composition of the bacterial mat which varies among BBD cases. In previous studies, BBD was found in correlation with small environmental changes. Because the distribution of BBD has not been previously documented for Bonaire, I studied its distribution and measured environmental parameters (depth, temperature, pH, phosphate and nitrogen) at six sites. I also recorded the number of BBD incidents on 3 replicate transects, each 10 m 2 in area and 10 m apart at both 15 and 30 feet. BBD was found at Andrea II (both depths), Angel City (both depths) and Jeannie’s Glory (15 ft), but not at Karpata, Captain Don’s, or Yellow Submarine. Informal surveys at other dive sites on Bonaire and Klein Bonaire showed BBD cases at Monk’s Haven, Monte’s Divi, and Handsoff reef, but it was not present at Boca Bartol or Nukove. Most BBD cases were found shallower than 20 feet. I found no statistically significant differences between environmental parameters and observed BBD cases.
In 2004, as part of a GEF funded project entitled “Coral Reef Targeted Research and Capacity Building” (CRTR), to assess the current status and future of these important communities, six groups of researchers looked at different aspects of the dynamics and degradation of coral reefs worldwide (i.e. Coral diseases, bleaching, connectivity, remote sensing. One of these groups, the Coral Disease Working Group (CDWG), assessed the number, prevalence, distribution, impacts and host range of coral diseases and their spatial and temporal variability in the wider Caribbean.
Curacao was selected as one of six localities spread over the Caribbean, and one of two southern localities. Results presented here represent our preliminary approach and surveys in Curacao. Surveys were done in permanently marked transects using the CARICOMP sampling protocol. Overall, coral diseases in these sites had, on average, a relatively low prevalence (5.74 ± 3.7%) at the community level (all colonies from all species included). Curacao was the second country with higher disease prevalence of the 6 countries visited across the Caribbean during the Summer-Fall of 2005, the weight of this prevalence coming from one of the two sites surveyed on the island. The most common diseases observed were dark spots syndrome (DSS), white plague type II (WP-II) and secondary infections by ciliates. Noteworthy was the lack of bleaching in these two reef localities and in general, in the Netherland Antilles when most of the eastern, northern and western were suffering the worst bleaching event on record for the Caribbean. Bleached colonies were only mild paling patterns and the overall prevalence was below 1.0 %. Octocoral diseases were almost two times more prevalent (9.6 ± 16.9%) than coral diseases in Curacao.