Sea Urchin Die-Off Report

Die-offs of Long-spined Sea Urchins (Diadema antillarum)

There is new concern emerging around massive die-offs of long-spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum) throughout the Caribbean. Attention was first brought to these events in mid-February at Flat Cay, St. Thomas. Since then, there have been reports coming out of Saba, St. Eustatius, Jamaica, St. Vincent and Dominica. Die-offs are occurring at a rapid rate with approximately 50% of the population within the Saba harbor dying within one week. There have also been reports that other species such as the sea egg (Tripneustes ventricosus) and the pencil urchin (Eucidaris tribuloides) were also exhibiting signs of illness.

A similar event occurred in the early 1980s, that caused the demise of many urchin populations across the region. The cause of this large mortality event was never determined and very few populations have since fully recovered. Unfortunately, the cause of these current mortality events also remains unknown. With the already dangerous Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) causing widespread losses of corals across the region, this new development could present serious danger to Caribbean coral reefs.

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