Cruise ship destroys Caribbean coral reef

| December 13, 2015

Underwater camera footage appears to show a cruise ship’s anchor “completely destroying” a section of coral reef in the Caribbean.

The video, captured by diver Scott Prodahl and posted to YouTube reportedly shows the anchor and chain from a luxury cruise liner dragging across the reef – kicking up sand and breaking off large lumps of coral.

Most established coral reefs are between 5,000 and 10,000 years old, according to conservation experts.

Despite the amount of destruction, local media report that environmental officials in the Cayman Islands said there had been no wrongdoing by the crew of the Zenith cruise ship when they dropped anchor in the harbour in George Town on 8th December.

Mr Prodahl, an instructor with Foster’s Dive, said on YouTube that is was “another sad day for the reefs” of the Grand Cayman Islands and urged greater protection for the marine habitats.

Tourism is the main industry in the Cayman Islands and Prodhal argues the decision to allow huge cruise ships to use the harbour is sacrificing marine life.

A massive portion of the reef … was completely destroyed today.

The Department of Environment was contacted but nothing could be done because this was a designated anchorage zone and they were given permission to drop anchor.

In the previous several decades this pristine portion of the reef was never needed as an anchorage location but for some reason today, when there was only four ships in port, it was deemed necessary.

As part of the marine park, we are not allowed to fish here, not allowed to hunt lobsters, you can’t even pick up an empty shell, all in the name of conservation?

But for some reason you can drop an anchor and wipe out a reef that took thousands of years to grow.

This video was shot roughly an hour after the anchor was dropped, I can’t imagine what it looks like now.

– SCOTT PRODAHL
The heavy chain and anchor tears up large parts of coral in the video Credit: Scott Prodahl/YouTube

The heavy chain and anchor tears up large parts of coral in the video Credit: Scott Prodahl/YouTube

Department of Environment Deputy Director Operations & Enforcement Scott Slaybaugh told The Cayman Reporter that there was no wrongdoing by the crew of the ship.

The ship’s captain and the harbour pilot both acted in accordance with established procedure so there was no sign of negligence.

While the northern anchorages have been long devoid of coral through years of anchoring, the southern anchorage is not often used so some remnants of coral reef remain

– SCOTT SLAYBAUGH, DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENT

The Cayman 27 news channel reports that in 2014 the Carnival Magic cruise ship caused damage to some 16,000 square feet of reef with its anchor – outside of a permitted zone – which resulted in Carnival Cruise lines donating $100,000 towards a reef restoration project on the site of the damage.

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd told ITV News that the Zenith was in a zone designated by the government for anchorage but that the company would work with Grand Cayman authorities to ensure such damage doesn’t happen again.

The spot where the ship dropped anchor was correct, located in the zone designated by the government for anchorage, and was not in any protected areas.

This is a very unfortunate situation and we will work closely with Grand Cayman authorities to ensure this does not happen again.

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.

– ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD Article courtesy http://www.itv.com/

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