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A coral disease with white plague-like signs was observed near Virginia Key, Florida, in September 2014. The disease outbreak directly followed a regional high temperature coral-bleaching event. Now called stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD), it has spread the length of the Florida Reef Tract from Key West to Martin County, a distance of about 450 km. Recently, the disease has also been observed at a number of sites throughout the Caribbean. The high prevalence of disease, the number of susceptible species, and the high mortality of corals affected suggests this outbreak is arguably one of the most lethal ever recorded. The initial response to this catastrophic disease by resource mangers with purview over the ecosystem was slow. There is generally a very short window of opportunity to intervene in disease amelioration or eradication in the marine environment. This slow response enabled the disease to spread unchecked. Why was the response to the loss of our coral reefs to a coral disease epidemic, such a massive failure? This includes our failure as scientists, regulators, resource managers, the local media, and policy makers alike. This review encapsulates the numerous reasons for our failures during the first few years of the outbreak. Specifically, I show how the Port Miami dredging project that was ongoing at the time of the initial outbreak created a distraction as local NGO's, regulatory agencies, and resource managers initially blamed the project for observed large-scale coral losses. However, detailed analysis of 650 tagged corals that were part of a repeated measures monitoring program required for permit compliance associated with the Port Miami dredge project reveal that both disease susceptibility and coral mortality are invariant with the results collected by a number of scientific teams throughout the region. Finally, when the agencies responded to the outbreak the effort it was too little and much too late to make a meaningful difference. Because of the languid management response to this outbreak, we are now sadly faced with a situation where much of our management efforts are focused on the rescue of genetic material from coral species now at risk of regional extinction.
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