FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. A research ship that located the black box of a crashed Air France jet has embarked on a scientific expedition to the Florida Keys, where a mysterious disease is burning through coral reefs.
The disease kills coral tissue, leaving lifeless skeletons on centuries-old reef structures. First noticed in the Miami area nearly five years ago, the disease has spread north to the reefs off Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties, threatening structures of vital important to the regions marine environment and economy. And it is spreading south through the Florida Keys.
The state of the Florida reef tract is dire, Erinn Muller, a scientist from Mote Marine Laboratory, said at a news conference Wednesday aboard the 184-foot ship Alucia, docked in Miami. We are losing corals at an unprecedented rate, and this disease outbreak is unprecedented in nature and its affecting some of our most valuable species, ones that build the coral reef that we rely on.