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A Deadly Disease Is Wiping Out Caribbean Coral, Researchers Find

COZUMEL (Washington Post) A regionwide outbreak of coral disease in the Caribbean is killing off up to 94 percent of some coral species in what researchers say could become the “most deadly [such] disturbance ever recorded” in the area, according to findings published this week.

Stony coral tissue loss disease, first reported off Florida in 2014, has rapidly spread, diffusing across the Caribbean. The waterborne disease, researchers say, probably is made worse by coastal development and climate change — and human intervention probably is necessary to prevent regionwide extinction of some species.

Marine ecologist and researcher Lorenzo Álvarez-Filip and colleagues surveyed dozens of sites in the Mexican Caribbean before the outbreak, in 2016 and 2017, and after it began, in 2018 to 2020.

They found what they described as an “unprecedented loss of corals,” according to the new study showing the extent of the problem, published in the journal Communications Biology. Of more than 29,000 coral colonies assessed in the Mexican Caribbean after the start of the outbreak, 17 percent were dead and 10 percent were infected.

A Deadly Disease Is Wiping Out Caribbean Coral, Researchers Find
Several coral species afflicted by the disease in Cozumel, Mexico, in January 2019, as seen in the study published in Communications Biology. (Lorenzo Álvarez-Filip)

It’s a “very aggressive” disease, Álvarez-Filip told The Washington Post, adding that once coral is infected, it can die within weeks, even days. The infected corals’ living tissue begins to disintegrate, sometimes losing color. Of 48 recorded coral species in the area, more than 20 were affected — with varying mortality rates, some as high as 94 percent.

The disease was found to affect several species that are important builders in the ecosystem — posing a threat to the capacity of corals, which are animals, to build reefs that provide habitats for other organisms, offer coastal protection and drive tourism.

While the disease is relentless and its origins are not fully established, a key finding is that humans could be making matters worse: More corals appeared to become sick near areas of coastal development — around urban areas, hotels and tourism spots with pollution and runoff, Álvarez-Filip said.

He offered an example: If you go to a hospital where the underlying conditions are good, it’s more probable that you will recover. For the reefs, pollution is a compounding problem, making diseases harder to kick. “The problem is that everything is changing,” Álvarez-Filip said.

Robert H. Richmond, the director and a research professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Kewalo Marine Laboratory, said the wider region, including the coasts of the Caribbean, Florida and Mexico, has recently experienced a “triple whammy”: severe hurricanes that can topple or smother coral, coral bleaching tied to climate change and elevated seawater temperatures, and now the spread of disease.

“It was kind of insult and injury on top of insult and injury,” he said. “It’s driven these coral reefs and populations to the point where they’re no longer capable of self-sustaining. … They’ve been decimated. And it’s kind of a downhill spiral.”

Corals, Richmond said, require sufficient density to carry out their elegant once-a-year spawning, which is cued by the lunar cycle. They simultaneously release eggs and sperm — gametes — into the water. As corals are unable to move, their gametes float up to the water’s surface, fertilize, then drop back down to begin growing into new coral.

“As corals die and the distance between living colonies increases, the chance of spawning events succeeding drops precipitously,” Richmond said.

Some species’ populations are so low, and their ability to reproduce so compromised by changing environmental factors, including water quality — suffering under a “rogue’s gallery of chemicals” from sewer outfalls — that there is little hope for a recovery without some form of human intervention, he said.

A Deadly Disease Is Wiping Out Caribbean Coral, Researchers Find
Brain coral with full mortality after stony coral tissue loss disease in Cozumel, Mexico, seen in April 2019. (Lorenzo Álvarez-Filip)

Although it would be difficult to stop the spread of the contagious disease, Álvarez-Filip said efforts are underway — including reef restoration, the preservation of genetic material and the administration of probiotics to increase resilience.

But “these efforts will only succeed if we change the regional conditions,” Álvarez-Filip said. “We may invest a lot of effort, a lot of money to try to rescue and restore coral,” he said. “But at the end, if we still have climate change, we still have deforestation; we still have pollution.”

The health of corals can be likened to that of a bank account, with live corals as the principal and reproduction the interest, Richmond said.

“If you put corals back into an area of poor water quality next to an urbanized area, you’re basically putting it into a bank account that not only has no interest but has a high monthly fee,” he said. “Nothing that’s produced there is going to end up receiving a population, and, eventually, those corals are going to die and need to be replenished. And so you go bankrupt.”

By SAMMY WESTFALL/Washington Post

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Colombia Discovers Two Historical Shipwrecks In The Caribbean

BOGOTA (Reuters) Colombian naval officials conducting underwater monitoring of the long-sunken San Jose galleon have discovered two other historical shipwrecks nearby, President Ivan Duque said this week.

The San Jose galleon, thought by historians to be carrying treasure that would be worth billions of dollars, sank in 1708 near Colombia’s Caribbean port of Cartagena.

Its potential recovery has been the subject of decades of litigation.

A remotely operated vehicle reached 900 meters depth, Duque and naval officials said in a video statement, allowing new videos of the wreckage.

Colombia Discovers Two Historical Shipwrecks In The Caribbean
Artifacts found in the wreckage of Spanish galleon San Jose, Cartagena, Colombia are seen in this undated handout picture released by the Colombian Presidency to Reuters on June 6, 2022. Colombian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

The vehicle also discovered two other nearby wrecks – a colonial boat and a schooner thought to be from around the same period as Colombia’s war for independence from Spain, some 200 years ago.

“We now have two other discoveries in the same area, that show other options for archaeological exploration,” navy commander Admiral Gabriel Perez said. “So the work is just beginning.”

The images offer the best-yet view of the treasure that was aboard the San Jose – including gold ingots and coins, cannons made in Seville in 1655 and an intact Chinese dinner service.

Archaeologists from the navy and government are working to determine the origin of the plates based on inscriptions, the officials said.

“The idea is to recover it and to have sustainable financing mechanisms for future extractions,” President Ivan Duque said. “In this way we protect the treasure, the patrimony of the San Jose galleon.”

Colombia Discovers Two Historical Shipwrecks In The Caribbean
Screenshot from a video of the Cartagena shipwreck off the coast of Colombia

The two shipwrecks were discovered near the ruins of the famous San José galleon, sunk off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia, more than 300 years ago, according to that country’s naval officials.

Colombian authorities also released new footage of the San José wreckage, which the government says was discovered in 2015 and which is often described as the “holy grail” of shipwrecks.

The footage was taken during four observation missions by the Colombian navy, using a remotely operated vehicle sent to a depth of some 3,100 feet off the country’s Caribbean coast. The eerie blue-and-green images show gold coins, pottery and intact porcelain cups scattered on the seafloor.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Tropical Wave To Bring Showers; Risk Of Rip Currents For St. Croix

SAN JUAN A tropical wave will bring a few rounds of showers to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico today.

A high risk of rip currents continues across northern Puerto Rico, Culebra and St Croix, the National Weather Service said this morning.

In total, the National Hurricane Center is monitoring four tropical waves in the Atlantic basin, including one in the Caribbean, according to the latest advisory.

But for the Caribbean Sea, North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, no tropical cyclone formation is expected over the next five days, according to the NWS.

Tropical Wave To Bring Showers; Risk Of Rip Currents For St. Croix

Una onda tropical producirá aguaceros durante el día.

El riesgo alto de corrientes marinas continua a través del norte de Puerto Rico, Culebra y St. Croix.

No se esperan nuevos ciclones tropicales durante los próximos cinco días.

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Trinidad and Tobago In Talks With Quanten LLC For Refinery Sale

PORT OF SPAIN (Reuters) Trinidad and Tobago is in talks with U.S.-based Quanten LLC for the sale of the country’s refinery, Energy Minister Stuart Young said on Sunday, more than a year after the government rejected a proposal by a local group to buy the facility.

The Caribbean nation’s government three years ago shut down the state-run refinery Petrotrin, which at the time had a capacity to process about 140,000 barrels per day of crude, due to losses of over $1 billion in the prior five years.

“Quanten LLC is an American company that is engaged in the (request for proposal) process for the refinery,” Young said in a statement.

“The company is engaged with TPHL and has to go through the standard and required processes in these types of matters,” he said, referring to state-owned Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Limited, which is handling the request for proposal process.

Quanten did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trinidad and Tobago’s government in early 2021 said Patriotic Energies, a subsidiary of a trade union which represents oil workers, could not provide any credible offer of financing for the refinery.

Reporting by Linda Hutchinson-Jafar in Port of Spain and Brian Ellsworth in Miami; Editing by Himani Sarkar

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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The History of the Virgin Islands National Park

Laurence Rockefeller owned a huge swath of land on and around Saint John Island. In 1956, he donated his land to the National Park Service, so that it could be set aside and protected for future generations.

On August 2, 1956, the Virgin Islands National Park came into official existence. Nearby, you can find Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument.

Both of these national sites were devastated when two level five hurricanes struck the islands in 2017. While the islands have done a great job recovering from these natural disasters, the same level of visitors took a while to return.

Since then, the islands have been enjoying another boom in ecotourism. Here are some of the biggest sites within the Virgin Islands National Park.

Cruz Bay Visitor Center

This is a great place to start. When you arrive at Cruz Bay, swing by the visitor Center, where you can get oriented and find the next attraction on your list. Here they will have maps of the park for you to carry with you.

Here, you can also book a ranger-guided tour of the park and get the latest updates on conditions in the park, such as downed trees.

Honeymoon Beach

This beach is one of the more remote ones, so it may take you a bit longer to get there, but if you are looking to escape from the crowds, this could be perfect for you!

You can rent a cabana for the day here, which will run you roughly one to two hundred dollars. You can also rent snorkel gear, and visit the small tourist center, where you will find maps, restrooms, a souvenir shop, a restaurant, and a bar.

All of this combines to make this beach ideal for a whole day. Being a bit farther way and having so many amenities, it is worth getting here and staying for many hours!

Hawksnest Beach

This beach is exceptionally beautiful, even for the Virgin Islands National Park. It is also extremely accessible. Located just a few minutes from Cruz Bay and with a large parking lot, you will only have to walk a few feet to get to the beach.

This is a great snorkeling spot, where it is totally worth spending a few hours. You will not have to walk much to get here, so a quick visit is easy.

Peace Hill Windmill

You can find ruins of old windmills throughout Virgin Islands National Park. They often mark excellent viewpoints as high points where great places to enjoy a lot of wind.

From the Peace Hill Windmill, you can see great views of Hawksnest Bay and Trunk Bay.

Everyone Has Their Specific Needs When They Visit the Park

While all of this history is fascinating, and all of these activities are exciting, everyone will have their own cup of tea when they come to the park. In fact, some of us may be accompanying other members of our family who are more oriented towards nature.

If you are the adrenaline-seeking type, check out online casino reviews. You can find here a list of one dollar deposit casinos in New Zealand. Low deposit online casinos are perfect for relaxing at the park. You can claim big bonuses for your small deposit, so you can play for a long time on your mobile device.

Other people with specific considerations are the elderly. They will have different activities that sound appealing, reasonable, or safe. In this case, you can check out AARP’s Guide to visiting the Virgin Islands National Park. They will provide everything you need to have the safest and most enjoyable time at the national park no matter your age.

No matter your disposition, you can find the way to have a great time at the Virgin Islands National Park!

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2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season Begins Today

MIAMI — There is an 80 percent chance that a hurricane will form in the next 48 hours from an area of low pressure located near the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said today.

“This system is likely to become a tropical depression while it moves slowly northeastward over the northwestern Caribbean Sea and southeastern Gulf of Mexico during the next day or two,” the Florida-based forecaster said.

Although the NHC continues to monitor the area of disturbed weather near the Gulf of Mexico with a high chance of development, no impacts are expected for the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.

Near the Yucatan Peninsula and southeastern Gulf of Mexico: A large area of disturbed weather located near the Yucatan Peninsula is interacting with an upper-level trough over the Gulf of Mexico and producing a broad region of disorganized showers and thunderstorms.

Environmental conditions appear marginally conducive for gradual development, and this system is likely to become a tropical depression by the weekend as it moves northeastward into the northwestern Caribbean Sea, southeastern Gulf of Mexico, and crosses the Florida Peninsula.

2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season Begins Today
Truecolor satellite image from NOAA

Regardless of development, locally heavy rainfall is likely across portions of southeastern Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, and Belize during the next couple of days, spreading across western Cuba, southern Florida, and the Florida Keys on Friday and Saturday. Interests in the Yucatan Peninsula, western Cuba, the Florida Keys, and the Florida Peninsula should monitor the progress of this system.

* Formation chance through 48 hours…medium…50 percent. * Formation chance through 5 days…high…70 percent. 2. Southwestern Atlantic northeast of the Bahamas: A weak surface trough located around 200 miles northeast of the central Bahamas is producing disorganized shower activity as it interacts with an upper-level trough. Surface pressures are currently high across the area, and significant development of this system appears unlikely as it moves generally east-northeastward over the next several days away from the southeastern United States.

* Formation chance through 48 hours…low…10 percent. * Formation chance through 5 days…low…10 percent.

Today marks the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, which will run until November 30. Long-term averages for the number of named storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes are 14, 7, and 3, respectively. The list of names for 2022 is as follows:

2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season Begins Today
St. Thomas St. John adjacent Islands-St Croix-
Nearshore Atlantic and adjacent Caribbean Coastal Waters-
5:28 AM AST Wed Jun 1 2022

This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for the U.S. Virgin Islands and the adjacent Coastal Waters.

.Day One...Today and Tonight

.Rip Currents...There is a moderate risk of rip currents for 
all local beaches today.

.Days Two through Seven...Thursday through Tuesday

A moderate risk of rip currents is expected for most of the local 
beaches during most of the period.

.Spotter information statement...

Spotter activation is not anticipated. Please relay any information
about winds, waves, and rip currents to the National Weather Service
in San Juan while following all local and state guidelines.

This report, the Tropical Weather Outlook, briefly describes significant areas of disturbed weather and their potential for  tropical cyclone formation during the next five days.  

The issuance  times of this product are 2 AM, 8 AM, 2 PM, and 8 PM EDT.  After the  change to standard time in November, the issuance times are 1 AM, 7  AM, 1 PM, and 7 PM EST. A Special Tropical Weather Outlook will be issued to provide  updates, as necessary, in between the regularly scheduled issuances  of the Tropical Weather Outlook.  Special Tropical Weather Outlooks  will be issued under the same WMO and AWIPS headers as the regular  

Tropical Weather Outlooks. A standard package of products, consisting of the tropical cyclone  public advisory, the forecast/advisory, the cyclone discussion, and  a wind speed probability product, is issued every six hours for all  ongoing tropical cyclones.  In addition, a special advisory package  may be issued at any time to advise of significant unexpected  changes or to modify watches or warnings. 

The Tropical Cyclone Update is a brief statement to inform of  significant changes in a tropical cyclone or to post or cancel  watches or warnings.  It is used in lieu of or to precede the  issuance of a special advisory package.  

Tropical Cyclone Updates,  which can be issued at any time, can be found under WMO header  WTNT61-65 KNHC, and under AWIPS header MIATCUAT1-5. All National Hurricane Center text and graphical products are available on the web at https://www.hurricanes.gov. More information  on NHC text products can be found at  https://www.hurricanes.gov/aboutnhcprod.shtml, while more  information about NHC graphical products can be found at  https://www.hurricanes.gov/aboutnhcgraphics.shtml. 

You can also interact with NHC on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/NWSNHC. Notifications are available via  Twitter when select National Hurricane Center products are issued.   Information about our Atlantic Twitter feed (@NHC_Atlantic) is  available at https://www.hurricanes.gov/twitter.php. 

CNH vigila zona cerca del Golfo de México con potencial alto de desarrollo, pero no se espera impactos en PR o USVI. #prwx #usviwx
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Coast Guard Takes 35 Illegal Migrants Back To The DR

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard between Tuesday and Friday returned eight Dominican, 15 Haitian and 12 Uzbek nationals to the Dominican Republic, following the interdiction of two illegal voyages in Mona Passage waters near Puerto Rico.

Four other Dominicans apprehended during these interdictions are facing federal criminal prosecution in Puerto Rico for attempted illegal re-entry into the United States. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico is leading the prosecutions in this case.

“We remain gravely concerned for the safety of people embarking illegal voyages across the Mona Passage and ask they not take to the sea,” said Capt. José E. Díaz, acting commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “The dangers are quite evident; each of these voyages is a mass rescue case waiting to happen.  Your life will be in danger as the voyages most often take place aboard grossly overloaded and unseaworthy makeshift vessels that are highly unstable, continuously are taking on water, and have little or no adequate life-saving equipment.”

The interdictions are the result of ongoing local and federal multi-agency efforts in support of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group CBIG.

  • Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley interdicted a 26-foot makeshift boat Monday, initially detected by the aircrew of a Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Enforcement aircraft, approximately 10 nautical miles south of Mona Island, Puerto Rico. The Donald Horsley crew embarked all 21 persons, including six Dominican and eight Haitian men, five Haitian women and two Haitian minors.

  • Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos interdicted a 25-foot makeshift boat May 18, 2022, initially detected by the aircrew of a Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Enforcement aircraft, approximately 11 nautical miles northwest of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The cutter Joseph Tezanos crew embarked all 18 persons, including six Dominican and 12 Uzbek men.

Ramey Sector Border Patrol agents received custody of the four apprehended Dominican men Wednesday in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

Family members in the United States inquiring about possible family members interdicted at sea, please contact your local U.S. representative. Relatives located outside the United States please contact your local U.S. Embassy.

CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action, in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.

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From Undocumented To Entrepreneur – A Caribbean Immigrant Story 

NEW YORK — Undocumented immigrants” or “illegal aliens” are most often stereotyped as migrants who come over the border to take “away jobs from Americans.”

Listen to Fox News or any right-wing propaganda and the adjectives will become a lot more colorful. Few stories are told of undocumented immigrants who are highly skilled and go on to create businesses and jobs.

Caribbean immigrant Felicia J. Persaud fits into the latter category. She came to the United States in 1996 as a high-skilled immigrant but due to unfortunate circumstances became undocumented. Despite having a company sponsor, the process left Persaud in limbo for a decade as she waited on a Labor Certification approval to be able to move on to securing a green card or permanent residency.

Yet, this immigrant managed to turn her struggles into action as a journalist, advocate and later an entrepreneur and green card holder turned US citizen. Today, Persaud owns and heads up the ICN Group of Companies, which owns the brands Hard Beat Communications, a woman and minority-owned, digital PR and AD agency; CaribPR Wire, the PR wire of the Caribbean and partner of CISION PR Newswire; Invest Caribbean, the global private sector investment agency of the Caribbean and News Americas News Network, the Black Immigrant Daily News.

Persaud is now one of 20.2 percent of the self-employed immigrant workforce and one of 25 percent of immigrant startup founders in the US. She has also spent over 20 years of her life advocating for the respect of the region and its people as a leader in the U.S. Caribbean Diaspora, including ensuring Caribbean nationals were able to be counted on U.S. Census forms; is listed in the US State Department Speakers Database and quoted by many media.

For the first time and ahead of Caribbean American Heritage Month, this immigrant entrepreneur and podcaster of #HardToBeat on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon MusicRadio Public, Sticher and Pocketcast, is sharing her story of being undocumented with podcaster Helena J.

Hear the story on ‘Defining You with Helena J,’ Episode #15 on Apple Podcasts at https://apple.co/3HVssg6 on Spotify at https://spoti.fi/3BAII3R; on Google Podcasts at https://bit.ly/helenajgoogle; on YouTube at https://bit.ly/helenajyoutube or directly at helenajoseph.com/podcast and be inspired.

“Listen to the full interview to learn more about the clues that will open your mind to your own power in this inspirational story,” host Helena J commented.

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UVI Hosts USVI-BVI Mangrove Restoration Learning Exchange

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES) hosted a mangrove restoration learning exchange with individuals from the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLCC) in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

The exchange is the first of two that will bring researchers and students together in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the BVI to learn from each other about mangrove restoration techniques. The exchange is funded by the Virgin Islands Community Foundation’s Judith A. Towle Fund.

Faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students attended the exchange which included a tour of UVI’s new, land-based mangrove and coral nurseries, a visit to a newly restored mangrove site at Range Cay, a tour of the University’s Environmental Analysis Lab, and a site visit to the St. Thomas East End Reserves, a marine protected area and potential future mangrove restoration site.  

UVI Hosts USVI-BVI Mangrove Restoration Learning Exchange

The exchange was led by UVI Assistant Professor, Kristin Wilson Grimes; UVI Watershed and Marine Specialist, Allie Durdall; and Head of Marine and Maritime Studies at the Centre for Applied Marine Studies (CAMS) at the HLCC, Susan Zaluski. Grimes leads a group dedicated to growing restoration, research, outreach, and education of the territory’s mangroves (GRROE U.S. Virgin Island Mangroves). The nursery has grown over 5,000 mangroves for restoration since its establishment in the spring of 2021 in St. Thomas, USVI.  

In the BVI, Susan Zaluski and students grow mangroves at three nurseries on Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, and Anegada. “Growing this collaboration and engaging communities across the Caribbean, makes restoration more efficient, effective, and fun, by sharing our successes and learning through failures,” Grimes said.  

“The BVI learning exchange was such a refreshing way to learn about all of the great things they’ve been doing in their nursery and it was a nice opportunity to network and exchange information,” student Kayla Halliday said. “I am excited to visit their nursery in person, soon.” 

For the next phase of the learning exchange, Grimes and her team will visit the HLCC nursery.  

UVI Hosts USVI-BVI Mangrove Restoration Learning Exchange

To learn more about mangrove research in the USVI, visit https://viepscor.org/r2r-mangroves or follow the GRROE team on instagram at: grroe.usvi.mangroves  

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Celebrate Hashtag National Turtle Day Today!

Today is #NationalTurtleDay! If you’re in the Caribbean, that’s reason enough to start celebrating!

Anyone who is lucky enough to come across these gentle creatures in their underwater world feels excited and blessed to have experienced the encounter.

If you have photos of your turtle encounter, share them with us!

#NationalTurtleDay