Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease is decimating coral throughout the Caribbean and Florida, as we reported last month. Scientists studying the disease believe divers may transport the pathogens on their gear and transfer the infection to reefs on subsequent dives. The Cayman Islands has issued rules for divers anywhere in the Caymans. We urge dive operators throughout the Caribbean and Atlantic to enforce them with their divers.
Begin diving at the least diseased site first, moving to the more diseased sites as the day progresses. Between dives, inspect your gear and remove anything that may have been caught on it. Leave your gear on the boat. If possible, decontaminate your equipment between dives, but certainly at the end of the day, following these procedures:
1. Non-sensitive dive gear like weight belts, slates, etc.: Soak for 10 minutes in a one percent bleach solution, allowing them to air dry thoroughly.
2. Sensitive gear, like wetsuits, masks, fins, and BCs: Soak for 10 minutes in quaternary ammonium disinfectant such as 0.5 percent RelyOn, one percent Virkon or 6.6 percent Lysol, and then soak the gear in fresh water for 10 minutes, properly disposing of both disinfectant and rinse water. BC internal bladders should be treated with a quart of ammonium disinfectant via the mouthpiece.
3. Fragile equipment, like regulators, flashlights, and underwater camera kit: Soak for 20 minutes in antibacterial dish soap or clean with isopropyl alcohol wipes.
4. Properly dispose of disinfectant and rinse waste by standing it in the sunshine for a day before releasing it into the ground well away from the shore. Don't dispose of the disinfectant and rinse water into the ocean or storm drain.