Cayman Islands Government Responds to Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) Impacts

By Michael P. Carvalho, Esq. and Christopher J. Miller, B.S., M.S Eng.

November 6, 2023 – Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) is a deadly coral disease affecting over twenty-five species of hard coral resulting in rapid tissue mortality and death of entire colonies. The disease was first reported on Florida’s reefs in 2014 and has subsequently spread throughout multiple countries in the Caribbean, to include the Cayman Islands, due to its high transmissivity. SCTLD causes lesions to appear on hard corals following increasing bleaching events associated with dramatic increases in surface water temperatures caused by Climate Change. Infected corals rapidly lose live tissue and entire colonies can be wiped out in weeks to months (Precht et al 2016). The Cayman Islands government is particularly concerned about the spread of SCTLD from Grand Cayman where the disease is now widely established to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, where SCTLD has not yet gained a foothold.


Stony coral tissue Loss Disease diver inspectionThe cause and method of SCTLD transmission are currently unknown but are the subject of intense research. Previously, researchers believed that SCTLD is a bacterial pathogen that grows rapidly and is transmitted by direct contact and ocean currents. (Aeby et al, 2019). More recent research suggests that a viral pathogen may be disrupting the coral-zooxanthellae symbiosis, a type of photosynthesis algae living in coral tissues. (Landsberg et al 0202; Work et al 2021). There is no known cure for SCTLD, which has a mortality rate of 60%-100% (Precht et al 2016), although studies are underway to determine whether topically applied antibiotics may be effective.


SCLTD negatively affects coral density and species diversity, reducing the overall health of coral reefs and resulting in significant degradation to coral reef ecosystems. The loss of coral reefs (already imperiled by rapidly warming ocean surface temperatures and physical damages from intense weather events) affects not only the health of the reef, but also the myriad of economic interests they support. Such interests include tourism, coastal protection, food, and recreation, among others impacts. In the Cayman Islands, tourism is a mainstay of the economy, accounting for approximately 70% of GDP. (Moody’s Analytics, With the main sources of income in the Cayman Islands consisting of financial services, tourism and real estate sales and development, the loss of once pristine coral reefs upon which much of the tourist economy is based, would be devastating to the economy.



Antibiotics for coralAll hands-on deck. Local governments throughout the Caribbean are collaborating with regional and international partners to continue to study the causes and effects of SCTLD on coral reefs. The Cayman Islands Government Department of the Environment (DoE) is “…actively training volunteers on disease identification and how to use treatment options while expanding our citizen scientist reporting efforts to engage the public in helping us identify diseases coral.” DoE regularly collects samples for epidemiological research and applies topical treatment of Amoxicillin + Base2B on affected corals within defined study areas. (


The Cayman Islands government is also engaged in efforts to grow new coral using fragments harvested from healthy reefs and grown on “coral trees” suspended in the water column in nurseries.

Coral treeDoE is actively engaging scuba divers and fishers who are being relied upon not only of their ability to identify and report diseased corals, but also to avoid transmission of SCLTD by disinfecting dive gear and bilge water, as pathogens may survive on for extended periods and can transmitted to other locations. Disinfection can be achieved through using a 1% bleach solution, ammonia-based disinfectants, or antibacterial dish soap. DoE requests that divers and snorkelers consider renting local dive gear, avoid visiting healthy sites after visiting diseased sites, disinfecting gear between sites, and disinfecting bilge water between Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands (Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac) at least one-half mile offshore and away from coral reefs.

For further information:

Tammi Warrender is the Lead Coordinator of the SCTLD Response Project.  She can be reached by email:

Report SCLTD and submit photographs: SCTLD Report Caribbean.

Urgent issues should be reported to the SCTLD hotline at +1-345-926-0680.


Michael P. Carvalho, Esq. is an environmental attorney representing a wide range of clients in environmental and real estate matters nationally and internationally. He is a former environmental consultant and serves as President of Carvalho & Associates, P.C with offices in Boston and Atlanta. He can be reached at

Christopher J. Miller is a former environmental consultant and currently serves as Director of Natural Resources of the Town of Brewster, Massachusetts.

Michael Carvalho Accepts Fellowship to the Royal Geographical Society

Environmental Attorney, Michael P. Carvalho, Esq., was recently named as a Fellow to the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers.  Following a successful expedition to Antarctica in 2018, and his participation as a Delegate to the United Nations Environment Program Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) summit in Nairobi, Kenya, where he represented the UN Environment Program for North America in 2019, Mr. Carvalho was nominated and accepted as a Fellow to the Royal Geographical Society in London.

The Royal Geographical Society is the United Kingdom’s most learned society and professional body for geography, supporting geographers in the UK and across the world.   Fellows in the Royal Geographical Society are selected based upon sufficient involvement in geography or allied subjects through training, professional work, research, publication or other work of a similar nature.  “I am honored and deeply appreciate the opportunity to serve as a Fellow to the Royal Geographical Society as we plan future expeditions to document environmental impacts associated with Global Warming and Climate Change,” said Carvalho.

Michael Carvalho is the president of Carvalho & Associates, P.C., a law firm specializing in environmental law and related matters with offices in Boston, MA and Atlanta, GA.  He can be reached at (678) 354-0066 or

Recent Federal Decision Serves as a Reminder of the Importance of 180-Day Rule for Phase I ESAs.

Past the Expiration Date: Recent Federal Decision Serves as a Reminder of
the Importance of 180-Day Rule for Phase I ESAs.

By Michael P. Carvalho, Esq., Managing Partner, Carvalho & Associates, P.C.

Most real estate professionals understand the practical value of completing pre-acquisition environmental due diligence in connection with the acquisition of real property. Assessing the environmental condition of properties prior to purchase or lease is now commonplace in the industry. The ASTM E-1527 Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Site Assessment Process (“ASTM Phase I”) has long been the “bible” for conducting such pre-acquisition inquires into the history, regulatory agency involvement and existing conditions at a site to assess the potential for Recognized Environmental Conditions (“RECs”). However, the legal significance of properly completing such studies is often overlooked. That is, until an Indiana federal judge in the matter of Von Duprin LLC v. Moran Electric Services (S.D. Ind., March 30, 2020). The court in Von Duprin held that the defendants were not bona fide prospective purchasers within the meaning of the statute because they failed to complete their Phase I ESAs within the 180 days of acquisition mandated by the ASTM Standard Practice.

A CERCLA Legal Primer
Superfund is one tough statute! The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 was passed by Congress to create a means to address the responsibility for the cleanup of the nation’s worst environmental contamination sites. Pursuant CERCLA, liability is strict, joint, several and retroactive. Potentially responsible parties (PRPs) include owners, operators, transporters and/or generators of hazardous substances that come to be located at facilities. Congress include a subsequent, limited defense to liability known as the “innocent purchaser” defense where an innocent landowner, contiguous property owner or bona fide prospective purchaser can limit CERCLA’s onerous liability scheme by conducting “all appropriate inquiries into the previous ownership and uses of the property consistent with good commercial and customary practice at the time of acquisition. Under the ASTM Standard, a person may qualify for bona fide prospective purchaser status if they complete “all appropriate inquiries” on or before the purchase date. Significantly, knowledge of contamination resulting from all appropriate inquires would not necessarily preclude CERLCA liability.

ASTM’s Continued Viability Requirement: The 180-Day Rule
Because Phase I ESAs are best thought of as a “Snapshot in Time” of a property’s environmental condition, ASTM quickly recognized that they needed to come with a shelf life. ASTM Sec. 4.6 provides that interviews with owners, operators and occupants, searches for recorded environmental cleanup liens, review of federal, triable, state and local government records, visual inspections of the property and adjoining properties, and declaration by an Environmental Professional responsible for the assessment or update must be completed within 180 days of the date of purchase or the date of the intended transaction.