#TurksandCaicos, April 8, 2021 – Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) is a highly deadly, fast moving disease that affects approximately 30 species of hard corals on the reefs of the TCI. First observed on the reefs of South Caicos and West Caicos in early 2019, the disease spread quickly to reefs off NW Point, Grace Bay and continues to spread eastward past Pine Cay recently being observed on the reefs off North, Middle and East Caicos.
Scientists in Florida have been dealing with this disease since 2014 and through extensive research identified the antibiotic, amoxicillin, mixed with a specially developed, proprietary ointment base was the most effective option for stopping the progression of this disease. The antibiotic paste is pressed into the coral tissue at the edge of a disease lesion. The ointment base expands in sea water to fill the ridges and valleys of the coral skeleton slowly releasing the antibiotic into the coral tissue and minimizing the amount of antibiotic leaching into sea water.
This is an incredibly labour-intensive, time-consuming and expensive way to deal with the disease but with Florida still seeing infection spread 7 years later, doing nothing is not an option. This disease has the power to severely reduce the populations of live stony coral cover. A recent paper from the School for Field Studies on South Caicos reports an approximate 60% reduction in live coral coverage since the disease outbreak in early 2019. In 2020 TCRF were granted a permit by the TCI Government to test this treatment to determine its effectiveness on TCI reefs and to watch for any untoward effects on the marine environment. TCRF began trials of the antibiotic treatment and recently completed and filed its final report of those treatment trials with DECR.
The treatment trials were conducted at six locations around the TCI – 3 on the reefs of Providenciales, 2 on those of Grand Turk and 1 on the reefs of Salt Cay. With up to 8 months of monitoring on 122 assessed colonies we are seeing a 93% success rate. Most of the control colonies that were not treated died within a few days or weeks, some of them continue to display slow disease progression. Species specific efficacy ranged from 50% to 100% with most species seeing 67%++ efficacy. To this date no untoward effects have been observed – fish would occasionally nibble on the ointment during treatment, but seemed to ignore it after the first nibble. There are more studies on this happening regionally and TCRF hope to help the studies in any capacity that we can.
“We are very excited to see such a high efficacy rate for our treatment program,” said Alizée Zimmermann, Executive Director of the TCRF. “Our results are consistent to slightly better than seen in other parts of the Caribbean where this treatment is being used. It is now considered to be the standard of care for treating SCTLD by the scientists studying the disease.”
These results are very encouraging and the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources has recently granted TCRF a research permit to expand the treatment effort. The treatment effort with the antibiotic ointment will continue and will target large colonies. They will be tagged with special tags instructing any divers observing these colonies to take photos of the colony and send them to TCRF at SCTLD@tcreef.org. This will assist in our ongoing monitoring effort of the treatment program. The goal with the expanded treatment effort is to target and save old, reproductive colonies of the most susceptible species so as to preserve the reef’s genetic diversity and ability to repopulate.
In addition, TCRF is teaming up with Ocean Alchemists, the company that developed the special ointment base for the amoxicillin, to test a new, non-antibiotic treatment. This treatment option utilizes a proprietary formulation of naturally occurring products and it is impregnated into hemp rope which is then applied around the edge of a lesion. TCRF will be comparing the effectiveness of this new treatment option to the current standard of care, the amoxicillin ointment. Testing of the new treatment should begin within the next month.
“None of us want to use antibiotics in the marine environment, but the alternative would result in the loss of many decades to hundreds of years old coral colonies on the reefs that protect our islands from storm surge and wave action,” said Mrs. Zimmermann. “So we are excited to be involved in conducting research on potential alternative therapies that don’t involve antibiotics.”
Founded in 2010, the Turks & Caicos Reef Fund is the only active environmental advocacy organization in the TCI. It is an organization that provides funding for education, research and conservation programs to individuals, organizations and agencies that help to preserve and protect the environment of the Turks & Caicos Islands. Our goal is to have at least 85% of all funds raised through voluntary contributions from divers and snorkelers visiting the Turks & Caicos Islands directed to the Fund’s programs.
Anyone wishing to donate or assist the TCRF in any way can contact them through their website, www.TCReef.org. Scuba divers visiting the islands are encouraged to make a $10 donation through the purchase of a dive tag that can be attached to their dive gear to show their support. Snorkelers visiting the islands can show their support through the $5 purchase of a pink or blue silicone wristband. Visitors can also support TCRF by purchasing a $40 spf50 rash guard designed each year by a different local artist. A complete list of outlets for TCRF merchandise can be found on the organization’s website.
Washington MISICK challenged, and holds onto Leadership of the PNP
#TurksandCaicos, February 24, 2024 – Magnetic Media can report that WASHINGTON MISICK has emerged and remains LEADER of the governing Progressive National Party.The run for party leader was a risky maneuver by Saunders, son of former PNP Party leader and Chief Minister Norman Saunders. Delegates cast votes, giving E Jay Saunders 58 votes and Washington Misick 88. The elder statesman convincingly retaining delegates’ confidence. It is also reported that, based on the PNP Constitution, Saunders needed 70% support from delegates in a preliminary run off. He was unable to secure that much backing. A constitutional motion to change the selection process of the deputy leader to a delegate vote reportedly failed. It is therefore unclear what the immediate future, politically is for Saunders whose party and government roles are hinged on Washington Misick’s prerogative to have him or someone else in these posts. However Misick is already promoting a strict focus on uniting the party following the NGC meeting held at the Shore Club.It has been a contentious battle today at the PNPs National General Congress (NGC) for party leadership with interest coming from: Jas Walkin, the party’s 2021 campaign manager who this week publicly withdrew his bid; Dameko Dean, former Wheeland candidate who had published an article revealing his quest to lead the PNP and E Jay Saunders who today unsuccessfully challenged MISICK for the role. Saunders has tried for leader before and has served as the party’s deputy leader, at the pleasure and selection of Washington Misick since June 2019.
TCI Community College staff struck and robbed, another chased in car by attackers
#TurksandCaicos, February 23, 2024 – Attacks against several of its staff members last week have forced the Turks and Caicos Islands Community College to reassess its security.
“The college is robustly ending in immediate steps to review and reinforce our campus security protocols,” said a February 16 letter to staff seen by Magnetic Media.
The letter puts the date of the incidents as February 15th at one of its Providenciales campuses.
In the first, a male member of staff was attacked and his car stolen after he left a meeting. When Magnetic Media queried police about the event, they released additional details of the robbery.
We were told around 9:15 pm, Thursday February 15, a 39-year-old male and his colleagues were leaving the TCI Community College Campus, Princess Drive, Providenciales, when a group of men surrounded his vehicle.
The man, noticing that one of the men had stopped at the rear of the vehicle, approached him to investigate and was struck on the head. In the immediate aftermath, the assailants escaped in the victim’s car, leaving the TCICC staff member injured at the scene.
The victim was transported to the Cheshire Hall Medical Center by police officers, and up until news production time, the car had not yet been recovered.
Following this incident, the Community College also revealed that a car chase had taken place.
A female member of staff this time, was chased down by suspected criminals as she left the campus. The employee managed to outdrive the people pursuing her and arrive safely at her destination, but she was described as shaken.
Now both, police officers and campus administration are urging residents to remain vigilant, especially when heading into their cars at night.
Safety tips that can help residents avoid attack, robbery, injury, or worse include:
- Stay alert when heading to your vehicle; don’t be distracted by your phone; pay attention to your surroundings.
- if you see anything or anyone suspicious, do not investigate on your own; go back and get a security guard or similar personnel to assist.
- Have your keys ready in your hands before approaching your car, so you can enter the safety of your vehicle immediately.
The police have not yet arrested anyone for the robbery attack against the employee.
Royal TCI Police share CAREER DAY Highlights
#TurksandCaicos, February 23, 2024 – On Thursday, 8th February 2024, between 9 am – and 2 pm, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force attended a Career Day event at the Enid Capron Primary School, Five Cays, Providenciales.
Under the theme “Be aware, choose a career”, the RTCIPF showcased the many career options available in policing.
Members of the Community Policing Unit, Safeguarding and Public Protection, Anti-Gang and Drugs Unit, Marine Branch, Traffic Enforcement, Air Support Unit and Mechanical Department were present. Officers answered questions posed by the young, impressionable minds.
Insp Ensa Wilson lectured students on various topics, including: “Good Touch, Bad Touch”, alerting adults to inappropriate situations and the importance of calling 911.
Students were asked questions following the lecture and were given RTCIPF tokens.
Sgt. Kavin Mars, along with PC Fitzlewis McDonald and Kiyon Doughty of the Anti Gang and Drug Unit, freestyled “Don’t Huff, Don’t Puff, Don’t Do That Stuff” and warned students of the dangers –health and legal – of using drugs.
Superintendent (Community Policing and Divisions) Dwight Gardiner commended the school’s initiative and applauded the representation of officers present.
Supt. Gardiner said: “Career Days often highlight the importance of community policing and underscore law enforcement’s vital role in fostering trust, collaboration, and safety within neighbourhoods.
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