Coral Reef "Morrocoy SOS" Venezuela (fwd)

Coral Health and Monitoring Program coral at
Sun Jun 30 19:45:04 EDT 1996

This is a forwarded message from Edgard A. Yerena concerning reef damage 
in Vensezuela.  Sorry I didn't get to it sooner, but I was in Panama at 
the 8ICRS. 

=09coral-list administrator 

---------- Forwarded message ---------- 
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 1996 18:57:44 -0400 
From: Edgard A. Yerena <eyerena at> 
To: hendee at 
Subject: Coral Reef "Morrocoy SOS" Venezuela 

Dear Dr. Hendee: 
In January this year a massive coral reef death occurred in Morrocoy 
National Park in the western coast of Venezuela. This rather odd fatality 
happened during the last half of the month, most probable dates between the 
20th and 25th. 
The causes are still not clear. Researchers and experts have outlined 2 
major hypothesis: 1- an extremely rare, all of a sudden, drop of surface 
sea temperature in the order of 6 to 8 degrees Celsius, and 2- a plume of 
an unknown substance and source that some fishermen reported off the coast 
during those days. The substance of yellow-brownish colour had a strong 
smell and when collected in plastic buckets or glass containers "glued" to 
the surfaces of the recipients. A possible explanation for this second 
theory suggests that when the plume reached the coastline, the breaking 
waves made it sink and kill most of the present biota from the surface down 
to 20 meters+, a renowned local dive operator claims it killed everything 
down to 40 meters, including fish, crustaceans, and 90-95% of the hard 
The barrier reef is lost, only the 3 small cays located east off the park 
seem to have survived in a rather good shape. Strange burnt-like scars can 
be seen in many coral heads, sponges and other living substrata. 
We need support to conduct a deeper insight at what really happened. At the 
moment I am trying to get local people organized into an SOS NGO but it is 
an uphill way up. 
We also need to ask some questions through the worldwide CORAL REEF FORUM 
and my friend John R. Clark from Florida suggested your name: 
1- Has a massive dissapearance of this magnitude (10 to 12 kms length 
approx. of coral reef barrier) ever happened on the planet and has it been 
recorded in any way? 
2- What could we expect to happen with the sorrounding ecosystems, 
mangroves and sea grass beds? 
3- What could we expect to happen with the human activities such as tourism 
and fisheries? 
I can take my chances and guess on these questions but would like to 
receive some answers from colleagues round the world. 
A final point, and I must apologize for extending myself on this, but is 
there any possibility of getting NOAA's help or any other competent agency 
to access Landsat or other sat images of the area during the days concerned 
in order to identify what was happening with the sea surface behavior at 
the moment? 
Please answer me at your earliest convenience, I know that the 6th 
International Coral Reef Conference is going on in Panama and this might be 
the opportunity to spread this SOS. A colleague from the Universidad 
Central de Venezuela, Dr. Sheila Pauls Marques is attending the Congress 
and will probably be presenting a panel regarding the subject. 
Please answer me through either peter at (Peter Czeisler) and/or 
eyerena at since I do not have e-mail access yet. 
Thanks & regards, 
jose ram=F3n delgado, oceanographer 

Edgard Yerena, M.Sc. 
Regular Mail: Apartado 68409, Altamira, Caracas 1062, Venezuela 
Fax: 58+2+2860468 
E-Mail: eyerena at 

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