Earlier this week it was announced that a part of the marine park in Cozumel would be temporarily closed to divers and snorkelers from the 7th October until further notice. This closure is due to a disease called Stony Coral Tissue Loss (SCTL). This reef sickness has been affecting all of the reef systems in the Caribbean including the Riviera Maya. The temporary closure is to carry out scientific monitoring work to evaluate the health of the reefs.
Although this may be sad news for those of you wanting to visit El Cielo or to go diving in the southern sites. There are 16 sites still remaining open so you will have plenty of options to choose from. We believe that this closure can only be a positive thing in the long run as it will give the reef time to rest and to bring attention to this very serious issue.
What do we know about this disease?
Unfortunately, there is very little we actually know about this disease and its corses, all we really know is that it was first spotted in Florida in 2018 and it has worked its way down to Mexico from there. It is an issue affecting all of the reefs in the area, not just Cozumel.
We at Kay Tours Mexico first became aware of this disease when our guides were on a training course to certify them to lead snorkel tours at the Marine Park in Puerto Morelos in 2018. The disease had been first spotted there just a few months before.
Will the Puerto Morelos marine park remain open?
At this time there has been no indication that the marine park in Puerto Morelos will be closed.
What has caused the disease?
As already mentioned there is very little actually known about this phenomenon. Scientists are still researching possible causes. There is speculation it could be to do with pollution, temperature increases in the ocean, people using sunscreen, and many more things.
However, none of this has been proven. The truth is at this point no one knows.
What can we do to help protect the reef?
To that effect, as we don’t know the causes it is hard to know exactly what we can do to help save the reef. There are some things that we always suggest that will help protect the reef in general though.
Don’t wear sunscreen in the ocean.
It is much better to put on a rash guard instead. If you really must wear sunscreen then please use reef safe sunscreen and put on a thin layer at least 30 minutes before entering the water. We really can’t stress enough though that a rash guard is always better than sunscreen. Learn more about sunscreen, its effects on coral and which one not to use by listening to our podcast: Sunscreen and Coral Reefs.
Take it easy in the water.
Many snorkelers underestimate how tiring it can be on a snorkel tour. They get tired and to take a break they stand up on the coral. When you touch the coral with your skin you are in fact causing permanent damage to the coral, often just touching it can kill the coral. Please, if you feel yourself getting tired, either let the guide know so they can either, get you back in the boat, or offer you the ring so you can rest.
Alternatively, you will be wearing a life jacket, so simply float on your back for a few minutes to rest. Once you are rested you can continue the tour.
For more information about the coral reefs and how we can help to protect then take a read of this article.