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State of Reef

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Charred

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So I just returned from a week of diving hitting all the major sites. My last trip was in Nov2019.

The reefs were horrifying in 2019 as the corals were bleaching due to the disease. Seeing all those bone white coral skeletons was not great.

Fast forward, all those corals are dead and algae has overgrown the coral skeletons so the reef looks "better" but that assessment is certainly relative.

However, the big change I see now is the nutrient load on the reefs. Their is algae everywhere growing on everything and most corals are in various states of being smoothered. I observed tons of cyanobacteria which are non-photosynthetic that feed off poor water quality. This is the rusty/snotty red/brown film you see on the sand bed everywhere. If you notice, it creates a biofilm that actually anchors the sand down keeping it from blowing around in current and smothering everything underneath. Take your hand and wave some water at it and it wont move. Only the very high current areas like the channels in the reef still have that blinding white sand.

I am sure many are cursing the southern hotels but you can see the impacts at the far far southern sites like Punta Sur. Unless the nutrients are circulating around the island (going south down the east coast side) I dont see how the southern hotels can be the primary source of this. Those hotels were also empty over the period I was not there. Same for the cruise ships. Think a source much further source must be considered such as discharge off the mainland.

I raise this because I think this needs to get figured out or those corals are on borrowed time.
 

arew+4

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This is somewhat counter to many other recent observations in this forum, and somewhat distressing since I'm headed to Cozumel at the end of June. Do you have pictures?
 

Charred

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I did not have my camera on this trip.

A Few Pics from my April/May trip

However, you can see what I am talking about in this tread.

Look at the pic of the nurse shark. See the 2 red patches on the sand? Cyanobacteria. The sand is completely covered in other algae as well and that purple gorgonian is not happy - all polyps closed.

See also the close up pics with the 2 puffers. Look at the rocks and see that algae growing? You will find that growing everywhere. On rocks, the sand, on corals. You wont find barren purple rock like you would see years a couple years back. Everything is brown green algae now.
 

ggunn

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This is somewhat counter to many other recent observations in this forum, and somewhat distressing since I'm headed to Cozumel at the end of June. Do you have pictures?
I just came back myself after two weeks there and 10 days diving. I saw patches of that algae but to say all or nearly all the white sand is covered with it is an exaggeration. I saw acres of white sand and all of our dives were great.

I agree that whatever is in the water that is causing the problems on the reefs is coming from somewhere upcurrent of the island.
 

staggsSevin

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I saw it as well, some sites were worse than others....but I typically see it in any location I've ever gone diving. Cyanobacteria technically isn't algae though, it can be caused by many things too. One of the main causes (which you touched on) is unbalanced nutrients (typically higher phosphates).

I reviewed some of my pics from earlier this month but none of them had a ton of it, actually only saw it in a few but very little.

Cozumel May 2021
 

arew+4

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@staggsSevin , Wow! Some really nice shots in there, what is your set up like?
 

Okcdiver2

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I have been a storm water quality inspector for 18years and I agree with the nutrient loading. I stay back by the sams club and I see so many sources of pollution that can contribute. Soaps from locals cleaning sidewalks and outside of the houses. Restaurants dumping mop water and washing out the floors into the street. Grease, soda pop, fertilizers so many things can contribute and add up. We have a video called a drop in the bucket. It all adds up. That's why in the USA we get algae blooms and have to aerate ponds. The bacteria use up all the oxygen. I've seen the fuzz for a few years in coz. It's starts with education. I spend 80% of my time educating people.
 

ggunn

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I have been a storm water quality inspector for 18years and I agree with the nutrient loading. I stay back by the sams club and I see so many sources of pollution that can contribute. Soaps from locals cleaning sidewalks and outside of the houses. Restaurants dumping mop water and washing out the floors into the street. Grease, soda pop, fertilizers so many things can contribute and add up. We have a video called a drop in the bucket. It all adds up. That's why in the USA we get algae blooms and have to aerate ponds. The bacteria use up all the oxygen. I've seen the fuzz for a few years in coz. It's starts with education. I spend 80% of my time educating people.
That's all well and good but it doesn't explain what we are seeing on the south end of the island.
 

Okcdiver2

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That's all well and good but it doesn't explain what we are seeing on the south end of the island.
The stuff I'm talking about is in addition to the untreated sewage from the southern hotels affecting the reefs. Isn't that pretty much common knowledge now? There's not much to explain. Excess nutrients cause bacteria growth that effects the reefs. It's happening all over the world. ☹
 
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