This Texas Coral Reef Is Dying and Researchers Don’t Know Why

They’re “waiting to hear anxiously” from Tuesday’s water sampling results.

By Joy DiazAugust 2, 2016 11:40 am| ,

Researchers say there’s large-scale coral death of unknown cause at the East Flower Garden Bank marine sanctuary off of Galveston in the Gulf of Mexico. The area has been previously hailed as one of the most healthy and vibrant coral reefs in the northern part of the gulf. But now divers have spotted unprecedented numbers of dead or dying corals, sponges, stars, clams and other invertebrates.

Now federal scientists are involved, like marine biologist Emma Hickerson with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“Unfortunately, we can’t stop it,” she says. “All we can do it learn from it.”

NOAA researchers have mobilized quickly, along with colleagues at Texas A&M, to go out and take water samples throughout the area. Divers returned from the dock Tuesday morning.

“We’re waiting to hear anxiously what they learned through the water sampling,” she says. “We’re not closing the area, but we are recommending that people give us some time until we know exactly what we’re dealing with.”

One concern, Hickerson says, is divers transmitting bacteria from one site to another with their wetsuits. Whatever the cause, the corals won’t be coming back anytime soon.

“These corals that are dying are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years old,” Hickerson says. “We’re not going to see those corals back in our lifetimes or in the next couple of generations.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.