"If you snorkel, you'll see it's black." said researcher Chen Chao-lun. "This is a large distribution and we had no previous information," said Chen, whose began doing research with local environmental groups in 2007.
Taiwan's study did not pinpoint a cause for the diseased coral, but untreated sewage may a factor, Chen said.
On Green Island, a tourism hotspot and one the sites surrounded by diseased coral, garbage and excrement are dumped into the surrounding azure waters while reefs are often plundered by coral-robbing tourists, officials and long-time divers say.
The discovery of a problem long suspected but seldom documented showed that coral was suffering widely in waters up to 5m deep and 300m offshore, Chen said.
“We still have to do more research to determine where the black disease comes from — is it caused by over-fishing or pollution?” Chen said.
Chen also expressed concern that in all the coastal areas they investigated, there was a serious deficiency of the types of fish that indicate the overall health of marine life. Over-fishing is caused by Taiwanese having a rich “seafood culture,” but lacking knowledge about marine preservation, he said.
Chen and other environmentalists urged the government to view coral reefs as living organisms, not rocks.
The environmental groups will be conducting another round of reef checks this year and encourage those who are interested in protecting marine life to sign up to volunteer.
Full media articles on wildsingapore news.
See also Bacterial infection of corals getting worse with global warming.