Coral Reef Destruction from Boat Anchors

Boat anchors can annihilate reefs in just minutes, and corals may never recover; even if reefs rebound, it could take 50++ years, IF ever. Ship anchors and heavy chains break or dislodge corals, resulting in damaging vast areas of coral reefs. Fortunately, there are solutions to this and laws mandating mooring stations to protect seagrass, corals, mangroves and oceanic environments. Reef Life Safe Anchorage Systems SOLVE this problem LINK:

For example, anchor damage on a reef in the Virgin Islands resulted in a vast decrease in live coral cover, compared to thriving coral cover on adjacent undamaged reefs which remained ten years after the damage occurred. Anchoring also damages reef-associated habitats such as seagrasses, which provide important nursery and juvenile habitats for many coral reef and fish species.

“Twenty per cent of an extensive staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, reef was recently damaged by boat anchors. It is suggested that this type of damage will continue to occur in other coral reef sanctuaries unless anchor-sensitive areas are identified and closed to anchoring. Alternatively mooring buoys should be provided by sanctuary managers.”

Tatoosh, a 300-foot yacht owned by billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, allegedly did some serious damage to a coral reef in the Cayman Islands, according to the Cayman News Service.

The cause? A dragging anchor chain, which allegedly damaged almost 14,000 square feet of reef in the West Bay replenishment zone earlier this month, says the Department of Environment after conducting a survey using local divers. That's 80% percent of the coral in the area destroyed.

Unfortunately, this is not a unique situation. If there had been mooring stations away from the reef, this could have been avoided.

While smaller ships cause less damage, areas of heavy recreational boating may also have serious consequences for coral reefs. Anchoring impacts have been partially alleviated due to the installation of mooring buoys in many locations, but anchoring of small vessels on reefs remains a chronic problem over reefs in many developing countries.

Anchor of a cruise ship destroying a reef in just minutes:

Ref: Wilkinson, C.R. (ed.) 2002 Status of coral reefs of the World: 2002. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia.

Maritime activities such as salvage efforts, anchoring, dredging, propeller wash, and towing cable drags can result in destruction of coral reefs formation and loss of marine habitat. Sometimes piers, docks and luxurious residences are constructed right on top of coral reefs, causing much physical damage by scraping and burying the biota. Although there are laws in the US that discourage anchoring and dragging anchors through coral reefs it is still happening. I was speaking with a woman, who had just returned from diving in Hawaiian waters, who described a boat wrapping its anchor around a brain coral.

Grounding and anchoring problems have been documented since the 1970‘s. These have been further exaggerated by medium-sized and large-sized cruise ships, most of which are capable of entering shallow, sensitive areas and in the process, inflict severe scathe to the coral reefs, with their giant anchors and anchor chains.

The US Code of Federal Regulations for Virgin Islands National Park adjudged that no watercraft shall be operated by attaching a rope or wire or any other appliance to any coral reef formation, nor shall anchors be placed or dragged, so that it can smash or otherwise cause damage to the reefs.

Solutions to this destruction are proper placement of mooring stations that are capable of restraining the boats and ships away from the coral reefs we need to protect. Lyn Baum COO Reef Life

Reef Life Safe Anchorage Systems LINK:

Several incidents in the past, involving both cruise and cargo vessels have caused great threat to the coral reefs by hitting and grounding. In August 2010, within a span of eight days, two container vesselsand a cargo ship caused serious damage to the coral reef near Mumbai and off the Kavaratti Island in Lakshadweep, which seconds the Andaman and Nicobar Islands for the largest collection of reefs in Indian waters. In another incident, in April 2010, a Chinese cargo ship, Shen Neng 1 was taken into custody by the Australian Federal Police, for running aground on the Douglas shoal at the Great Barrier Reef, 38 nautical miles east of Great Keppel Island. Prior to this, the world’s largest marine conservation park had suffered three major ship groundings.

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