Florida Reef Tract Coral Disease Outbreak

Scientists, policy makers, and the public are responding to a disease event affecting the continental United States' only living barrier reef.

Florida's coral reefs are experiencing a multi-year outbreak of stony coral tissue loss disease. While disease outbreaks are not uncommon, this event is unique due to its large geographic range, extended duration, rapid progression, high rates of mortality and the number of species affected. The disease is thought to be caused by bacteria and can be transmitted to other corals through direct contact and water circulation. Researchers are working to identify potential pathogens and relationships with environmental factors, strategies to treat diseased colonies, and identify genotypes of corals that are resistant to the disease.


Outbreak Situation

In April 2018, scientists confirmed that the coral disease outbreak had traversed the 7-mile bridge channel and is active at Looe Key, an iconic reef popular with divers. All indications are that it is continuing to move south through Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

animated map showning the progression of coarl disease outbreak extent across the flordia reef tract


Economic Impact

Southeast Florida's coral reef ecosystem supports 70,000+ jobs equaling $6.4 billion in sales and income annually.

In the Florida Keys, 58% of all jobs are tied to the reef with marine activities generating $2.36 billion in sales and income annually.

The reef is a natural buffer for Florida's shoreline, lessening the strength of waves and protecting human life and property.

The Coral Reef Economy is bigger than you think.

How valuable is the Florida Reef Tract? Explore this Ocean Wealth Map


Florida Department of Environmental Protection Coral Reef Conservation Program

Disease FAQ

logos of organizations involved in the response