The officials from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries reported that death hit a reef from a marine sanctuary 100 miles off the coast of Louisiana.
The large-scale mortality event is being investigated by the experts, while no one knows exactly what caused the massive die-off.
The reef is included in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, where the researchers discovered an unusual number of sponges, brittle stars, clams, sea urchins and corals dying of an unknown cause.
The issue had been reported last week by sport divers, who discovered the dead animals in the hazy waters of the now mat-coated corals and sponges. The authorities have been alerted, and the scientists changed course from their monitoring work to investigate the reef.
The administration will take into consideration several possibilities, such as disease pathogens, poor water quality, or chemical spills.
The sanctuary superintendent said that they did not record any spills in the last days. However, the water temperatures are abnormally raised, and the coastal water may have advanced further from the shores.
The fresh water has a high content of nutrients, chemicals, and plankton that originate from the Gulf runoffs. While the plumes decay, the bacteria arrive and make the levels of oxygen decrease.
While the plumes of coastal water do not usually reach that far into the ocean, the scientists are worried that the global warming will cause the low-salinity water to advance more and more into the large, which would affect the reefs on a long-term basis.
The event affected only a portion of the East Flower Garden Bank, while the rest of the sanctuary seems to be in perfect condition.
The officials sent a team of researchers to collect water samples from 20 locations and to obtain the necessary information needed to deploy underwater drones.
As far as the scientists managed to discover, the damage hit three dive sites which are somewhat isolated. At only 12 miles distance from the death zone, the reef is full of life.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared that several other bleaching events had been previously reported in the Flower Garden Banks. Most of them were isolated accidents. Thus the coral reefs in this region are considered to be stable and healthy.
Even if the cause of the event is not yet known, the authorities recommend the public to refrain from fishing, diving, or boating in the East Flower Garden Bank as the waters may also be hazardous to humans.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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