Coral Reef Devastated By Cruise Ship’s Anchor
In the waters off George Town, Grand Cayman, a group of approximately 50 volunteer divers led by local dive operators, and guided by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DOE), are working tirelessly to repair a coral reef severely damaged by a cruise ship anchor in mid-August. Working in teams with designated leaders, following project coordinators under the direction of the DOE, the divers are carefully removing the rubble, dead coral and sediment, crate by crate, knowing that time is critical.
“Right now it’s basic triage, and any live corals are being put aside for reattachment once the rubble is removed,” says Ocean Frontiers’ Lois Hatcher, who is trained and experienced in coral restoration. “Every day that goes by, more coral that is buried or heavily covered in sediment, is suffocating. They need sunlight and a stable substrate to survive, so the longer they are unstable, the survival rate decreases.”
Hatcher and Keith Sahm, Sunset House General Manager, are coordinating the structured project, guided by the Department of Environment. They are making sure the work is done carefully, methodically and safely. Both stepped up after they heard the news that the Carnival Magic accidentally dropped its anchor on the dive site. Frustrated by lack of immediate action, Sahm organized an emergency meeting on the 18th September at Sunset House and an overflow crowd of volunteers showed up motivated and ready to go to work knowing that time is critical and government manpower is short. Two days after the meeting, the volunteers made their first dive on the site, saw the extent of the damage and realized what they are up against.
“The chain damage is just terrible! The captain had let out 5 shots of chain – about 450 feet – with each link weighing between 50 – 100 pounds,” says Keith Sahm. “It’s a sickening feeling to know that thousands and thousands of years of coral growth has been demolished by an error in judgment, or mechanical problems.”
“A lot of man-hours are needed to restore a reef – first with the triage, then the reattachment and maintenance,” says Lois Hatcher, adding that it could take up to a year to complete. “We are also hoping to start a couple of nursery trees for the long-term keeping of live coral fragments, as they grow faster this way and can then be used to embellish what coral was replanted.
The goal is to execute a coral restoration project similar to the one carried out in 1996 when the Maasdam cruise ship dropped its anchor on a shallow dive site in George Town damaging 7500 square feet of the reef. That restoration project, conducted by local divers, including Lois Hatcher and the Department of Environment, took about 9,000 hours of underwater work over three months. Officials say that coral bed could take more than sixty years to grow back. The Carnival Magic has damaged almost 12,000 square feet of reef located in deeper water, so the volunteer army has its work cut out for it.
“We are all just volunteers, so I applaud absolutely everyone’s effort here,” says Sahm. “Thank goodness we have folks like Peter Milburn and Lois Hatcher that worked on the 1996 project and are still here to help. And a special thanks to the Marine Conservation Board for easing guidelines and laws so we can do this restoration work – it’s unlawful for anyone to touch or pick up coral, dead or alive in the Cayman Islands. We wouldn’t be able to do this important work without the help of the Board and Department of Environment.”
The restoration work is difficult and exhausting, but everyone involved knows it will pay off in the years to come. While the dive site won’t be what it was originally, restoration can at least make the reef stable enough to sustain life again. The rubble also needs to be removed as soon as possible to prevent further damage when the next big storm kicks up.
While an investigation into the Carnival Magic incident is conducted, the repair work at the site continues non-stop and to date, more than 20 dives have been made, and volunteers have put in 150 man-hours. Communication and coordination are done through a Facebook page that now has 265 followers. Boat trips are scheduled and volunteers, both locals and visitors, can sign up to help. The challenge for Sahm and Hatcher will be keeping up the enthusiasm and pace of the repair work during the months ahead.
According to the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), a nonprofit conservation organization, the key to a successful project is to engage the community, something that is now taking place on Grand Cayman. Sunset House, Ocean Frontiers, Red Sail Sports, Divetech, Don Foster’s Dive and other local operators are providing boats and tanks for the dozens of volunteer divers. Southern Cross Club staff in Little Cayman will participate during an upcoming trip to Grand Cayman. Foster’s Food Fair, a local grocer, has donated the plastic milk crates being used to remove the rubble, while the local Subway has provided free sandwiches for the restoration crew. The hope, according to Sahm and Hatcher, is to encourage long-term involvement and partnerships that will keep the momentum going.
“This is something we really need to do as a community, try to repair the damage to this beautiful reef,” says Hatcher. “If nobody’s going to be held accountable for this, we have to be accountable for it.”
Team leaders and coordinators met with a Department of Environment officer on Monday for a project review, and according to the DOE, the results are encouraging because of the progress that has already been done.
The project has an on-going need for more volunteers. Anyone interested in helping is asked to visit the Facebook page Cayman Magic Reef Recovery where volunteer dives and updates are continually posted.
WIN a Bigblue AL-1200NP Dive Torch!!!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Liquid Sports to give away a Bigblue AL-1200NP Dive Torch!
This torch delivers 1200 lumens of light powered by an ion rechargeable battery. There are 4 levels of brightness with burn times between 2-20 hours. Battery charge level is indicated via coloured lights around the on/off button. The beam angle is 10°. The anodised aluminium alloy housing sealed by double ‘O’ rings with a max operating depth of 100m. SRP £125.00 which includes torch, charging cradle and battery.
To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, all you have to do is answer the following question:
In a recent post on Scubaverse.com (which you can read here), we reported via the Marine Conservation Society that the UK’s landmark post-Brexit fisheries legislation has now become law. The Fisheries Act is the first legislation of its kind in nearly how many years?
- A) 60
- B) 50
- C) 40
Answer, A, B or C to the question above:
Northern Diver Christmas Sale starts TODAY!
This year Northern Diver’s Christmas offers are starting on Black Friday and running until midnight on New Year’s Eve!
There are some great deals to be had across the site – www.ndiver.com – from discounted Drysuits and Coltri compressors to 15% off their entire Lighting Section!
And if you can’t find the perfect present for the diver in your life, they have a choice of Gift Cards on offer. They are even giving you £25 extra when you purchase a £100 voucher!
The offers don’t stop there – there is FREE shipping on all orders over £100 and even a FREE gift with every online purchase.
Every purchase will get you entered into a great prize draw to win one of their new Electracore 3.0mm Rechargeable Heated Vests!
And should you find that you need to return any of your purchases, Northern Diver understand that Christmas may be a little different for everyone this year and you may not get to see every one over Christmas, so they have extended their Returns Period to the end of January 2021. (Valid for purchases made from Black Friday to end of December 2020).
Some unmissable offers to look out for are the Varilux Zoom, part of the Varilux Black & Gold Range, with its variable beam width; and Northern Diver’s 4mm compressed Neoprene Drysuit, the Voyager, which is on offer for an incredible £475!
For more information visit the Northern Diver website by clicking here.
Photo credit: Joe Duffy
WIN a Bigblue AL-1200NP Dive Torch!!!
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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.More Less
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