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Divers are battling a disease posing danger to coral reefs and marine ecosystems around the world

Deep divers are putting their best forward to deal with a deadly disease that is attacking coral reefs all across the world.

Divers are battling a disease posing danger to coral reefs and marine ecosystems around the world
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Tom Fisk; BBC | Arenthia Baker

At present, environmental protection is one of the biggest focus points in the entire world. After years of exploitation, the world is facing the consequences of its actions as ecosystems are getting damaged left, right and center. One of the biggest problems at hand is the devastating disease haunting coral reefs all across the world, per BBC. Now, passionate deep divers have taken it upon themselves to provide relief to these creatures. These divers have come into the field from a variety of professions only because of the love they have for these marvelous creatures. They hope that their work makes a bigger difference in the world.

Representative Image Source: Pexels |  Francesco Ungaro
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Francesco Ungaro

Reginald Beckford never imagined in his wildest dreams that he would end up being a deep sea diver. He had a debilitating fear of sharks and therefore preferred dry surfaces. But all of this went out of the window when he had the first taste of what lay beneath the ocean's surface while working as a night watchman. "The first time I went scuba diving it was surreal, it was like a different world," he recalls. "Once I saw what we had down there, I wanted to help preserve it in any way I could." He loves his job and the impact it makes so much that he is encouraging others to join in his pursuit. The deep-diver wants more people to join as the coral reefs are in a vulnerable position because of a recent predicament.



 

At present, he is working in the Turks and Caicos Islands which has been regarded as the planet's third-largest barrier reef. In 2019, the place was confirmed to be afflicted by stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD). The disease was first seen off the coast of Florida, a decade ago. Since then, it has gone on to attack 28 nations across the world, becoming a headache for conservationists everywhere. It impacts more than 30 species of coral reefs killing them in mere weeks. For five years Reginald has been training students to help these coral reefs from total destruction.



 

The efforts against SCTLD are led by TC Reef Fund, a donation-dependent NGO comprised almost entirely of volunteers in collaboration with the government's environment department. The deep divers go under the sea and apply an antibiotic paste to sick corals, a method that has seen significant success in halting the spread. Though this method does not stop re-infection it preserves the colony long enough to reproduce.



 

Another deep-diver involved in this project is Arenthia Bake. She came to Turks and Caicos Islands with her mother during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In her two years, she has become a certified fish data scientist and divemaster actively volunteering with the Reef Fund. "To be on that side of conservation, you can't describe it; it's such a fulfilling feeling," she tells the BBC. Whenever she sees someone bleaching the coral reefs her heart breaks into pieces. She explains, "People don't understand corals are animals, they're living creatures, and when they're fighting for their lives because of bleaching they're more susceptible to disease."



 

To give coral reefs the best conditions to thrive many have been transported to tanks that act as a "coral ark." They mostly house susceptible species as explained by the Reef Fund's executive director Alizee Zimmermann. Some of the coral babies have become a dear part of her life. "I can walk in and tell if they're happy or not," she says. "They show me when they're hungry too by opening their mouths very wide." Zimmermann like every other conservationist is hoping that her team can win against SCTLD. More progress has been made by researchers with the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History who have come up with the first effective bacterial probiotic for treating SCTLD. Everyone is looking forward to its large-scale application.

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