(CNS): Following very public disagreements over culpability and how best to remediate a large section of the coral reef off the coast of Seven Mile Beach that was severely damaged by the anchor chain of the luxury yacht owned by billionaire Paul Allen, his company, Vulcan Inc., and the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DoE) have completed a jointly administered emergency restoration plan to save the injured coral.
More than 80% of coral in an area approximately 14,000 sq.ft within the West Bay Replenishment Zone was damaged on 14 January by the luxury boat’s anchor chain.
According to a release from the environment ministry, members of the Polaris Applied Sciences team, which was hired to implement the plan by Vulcan, conducted remediation work over 24 days, or around 300 man hours. During this time, the team reattached approximately 1,600 benthic organisms including 429 hard corals over 20 centimeters in diameter, 955 hard corals less than 20 centimeters in diameter, and 208 soft corals and sponges.
More than 30 tons of cement and sand, along with eight tons of rubble, were used to rebuild and restabilise the impacted area, the ministry said. Work was completed on 28 March under the oversight of Dr Harold Hudson, formerly of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a world leader in restoration of coral habitats, who advised and assisted Polaris in their efforts.
“The reef remediation by Polaris was an experienced-based approach to help minimize the damage and improve the likelihood of coral recovery in the area,” Dr Hudson said. “The swift implementation of this plan provides the greatest chance for recovery of the affected area and I commend both Vulcan and the DoE for their efforts to help ensure its rapid completion.”
In addition, the DoE hired William Precht, a coral restoration expert with Dial Cordy and Associates, Inc. in Miami, Florida, to assist with project oversight and assessment as well as to undertake the long-term monitoring of the restored site to evaluate the efficacy of the restoration effort performed by Polaris in the months and years following completion. The DoE and Precht have inspected the site and are satisfied that the project was performed to the agreed specifications.
The restoration included triage to the affected corals — uprighting, uncovering, securing and moving viable corals to safe locations, while work to stabilize the reef structure was completed; stabilizing and removing larger rubble accumulations, to prevent continued and future damage to nearby living and established resources from the impacts of rubble movement; and incorporating the rubble onsite, to recreate and retain the original reef structure; recreating the lost structure, and reducing any unnatural appearance of scraping or scarring; and rescuing and reattaching living coral and other live biota as practicable, to reduce the time for a full site natural recovery and to restore ecosystem services.
“The DoE and Paul G. Allen are deeply committed to ocean health and conservation,” the release stated. “Both the DoE and Vulcan have worked hard to ensure that the implementation of this plan reflects the best international standards for restoration of coral habitats and are pleased by the completion of the work and the joint partnership that made it possible.”