Cayman’s coral reefs are showing their true colours once again after last year’s global bleaching event.
The Department of Environment told Cayman 27 it’s pleased with the corals’ resilience, but says the fear is, another season of higher-than-normal water temperatures could result in another round of bleaching.
“The coral remained bleached for most of the winter period but it’s definitely looking like we’ve got some pretty strong recovery in Cayman,” said DOE Deputy Director Tim Austin, who added bleached reefs can be unsightly for divers.
“A bleached reef looks stressed, when you see it the corals are mottled in color, they’re not those vibrant colors that you’re used to or would expect to see on a nice, clear water Caribbean dive,” said Mr. Austin.
While much of the islands’ coral has shed the pallid hues of bleaching, Mr. Austin said it’s been a warmer than average February, and as higher-than-normal water temperatures are likely to persist, putting the corals at risk of another round of bleaching.
“Bleaching is definitely becoming more and more of a frequent phenomenon, so yes, we’ll be monitoring it closely, the long term global predictions are indeed for warmer summers, and we will expect to see bleaching on a much more regular basis,” said Mr. Austin.
While it may be tough to reverse course on global climate change, Mr. Austin said removing additional stressors can give Cayman’s reefs a fighting chance.
“If you stop the kind of effects that you can control, over-fishing, pollution, boat groundings, all of those incidents that add further stress to the reef, there’s good evidence that the reefs can tolerate the temperature rise,” said Mr. Austin.
The DOE said it’s still compiling an analysis on Cayman’s bleaching rebound. It said the statistics will help paint a better picture of the net effects of the bleaching event.