Cayman Islands: Coral Reef Destroyed by Cruise Ships

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Nina Golgowski (Huffpost Science) focuses on an underwater video posted to YouTube Tuesday captures portions of a coral reef being obliterated by a cruise ship’s anchor and chain “in mere seconds, a stunning contrast to the estimated centuries it took to grow.” Golgowski writes about an apparent contradiction:  the islands’ Marine Conservation Laws, seen on the islands’ tourism website, state that, “Damaging coral by anchor, chains or any other means anywhere in Cayman waters is prohibited” but that Royal Caribbean Cruises had been given permission to anchor there, despite it being a protected zone.

The disturbing five-and-half minute video was reportedly shot along the Grand Cayman Island’s western shore on the same day it was posted. “As you will see in the video, a massive portion of the reef out front from Don Fosters and Eden Rock was completely destroyed today,” Scott Prodahl, who posted the video, wrote. Prodahl claims that the Spanish cruise ship Pullmantur Zenith, which is owned by American Royal Caribbean Cruises, had been given permission to anchor despite it being a protected zone — so it did.

A Royal Caribbean spokesperson confirmed the video’s time and location to The Huffington Post but stated that it’s an unprotected area that’s designated for anchorage by the government.

“This is a very unfortunate situation and we will work closely with Grand Cayman authorities to ensure this does not happen again,” Global Corporate Communications Director Cynthia Martinez stated in an email. “Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. understands the importance of protecting the marine environment and sustaining the well-being of the places we visit.  Protecting the health and welfare of our oceans is always foremost in our minds.”

Scott Slaybaugh, the Cayman Islands’ Department of Environment deputy director, told HuffPost the area was “seldom used” for anchorage by ships. It therefore contained “remnants of coral reef that we were not aware of,” he said.

“Although this reef was in a distressed state prior to the anchoring, we view any loss of any coral reef as highly regrettable in this age when coral reefs worldwide are in decline,” he stated. “Both the ship’s captain and harbour pilot followed established guidelines, so this is not a case of negligence or error on their parts. We do intend to follow up to see if damage may be mitigated and to review the operational procedures for any alterations that may prevent future incidents,” he added.

[. . .] According to a map on the islands’ Department of Environment website, the island’s entire west coast is marked as a marine park, meaning that anchoring is prohibited under most circumstances — particularly by boats larger than 60 feet and in non-sandy areas.

The department’s website further stresses that it’s considered an offense “for anyone without a license to cut, carve, injure, mutilate, displace or break any underwater corals, plant growth or formation.” The disturbing five-and-half minute video was reportedly shot along the Grand Cayman Island’s western shore the same day it was posted.

“Many, if not most, corals grow at a rate of less than half-an-inch a year; so if the underwater beauty which has taken centuries to develop is to remain for the future enjoyment of everyone, residents and visitors must act responsibly,” the department site states.

The islands’ Marine Conservation Laws, seen on the islands’ tourism website, also state that, “Damaging coral by anchor, chains or any other means ANYWHERE in Cayman waters is prohibited.” [. . .]

For full article and video, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/video-shows-anchor-destroying-reef_5669a146e4b009377b23fed0

Also see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/centralamericaandcaribbean/caymanislands/12044058/Outrage-as-cruise-ship-anchor-damages-coral-reef.html

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