Expert warns coral relocation won’t work

| 21/11/2019 | 45 Comments
Cayman News Service
Dr Carrie Manfrino, CCMI President and coral expert, at the CPR group’s meeting

(CNS): Central Caribbean Marine Institute President Dr Carrie Manfrino, a respected oceanographer and coral expert, has warned that the proposed relocation of coral from the George Town Harbour will not work and all that Cayman is guaranteed by the port project is widespread destruction of the local marine eco-systems. She said the technique that the group selected to build the dock is planning to use is not going to deliver what is being promised.

Speaking Wednesday night at the official launch of the Cruise Port Referendum (CPR) group’s campaign in the run-up to the national poll, Manfrino outlined the problems with reef restoration, the misleading claims by those involved in the cruise berthing project proposal and the inherent dangers posed to the reefs in the direct line of dredging as well as those much further afield. And she reiterated her concerns about Seven Mile Beach.

Based on research by scientists at CCMI, compiled just last month from five different sites, she told the audience that the reefs in George Town Harbour have significant cover, even better than in Little Cayman.

“We measured and identified coral, fish and algae species,” she said, explaining that the “coral cover was remarkably higher in the harbour where the dredging will occur than at any of the other sites”.

Manfrino revealed that one area near the Balboa wreck in the harbour, which would would be dredged as part of the project, had as much as 58% coral cover. “It’s shocking really,” she noted.

Given the quality of the reefs in the harbour and their importance to the wider marine eco-system, including Seven Mile Beach, the planned destruction is even more concerning. And the CCMI president made it clear that the science of relocation is still in the early stages of development.

The Verdant Isle Port Partners, the consortium selected to build the dock, has contracted Dr David Vaughan to move the coral. But Manfrino said that his work on micro-fragmentation is a long way from proving successful, she said.

“Restoration of reef communities on the scale that is being proposed has not ever been successful and the restoration of damaged reefs in the Cayman Islands has not been successful,” she told attendees. “The restoration that is being promoted to the Cayman Islands community has resulted in only five large mound corals using the micro-fragmenting technique and it took many years to accomplish this.”

She explained that to fulfill the promise that is being made about relocating and replacing the coral that will be lost, VIPP would need to replant millions of fragments, which will take decades.

Demonstrating the limited success of coral relocation and regrowth, Manfrino pointed to the work that Polaris, the company that is partnering with the Verdant Isle group and bringing in Dr Vaughan, has been doing at the area off Grand Cayman where the luxury yacht Tatoosh caused serious anchor damage in 2016.

While this work has been promoted as extremely successful, Manfrino said the reality is that they were only able to reattach coral in some of the damaged area, and although 89% of that reattached coral is still alive after two years, 80% of the damaged area is dead.

The complete data set for this work is now available, Manfrino said, and the results were conclusive.

“They could restore only a only a fraction of the corals at this site and the majority of corals are dead,” she said. “The obvious conclusion is that the damaged site has not been restored at all and the overall restoration work was a complete failure.”

The coral expert also noted that the environmental impact assessment by Baird in 2015 clearly outlined the high risks due to dredging, construction and the destruction of the harbour reefs.

“The turbidity from the continuous propulsion of ships near shore is likely to cause coral mortality,” she warned. If living reefs are not productive, they will ultimately no longer provide sand or protection from wave energy to the island, she said, reiterating the CCMI’s previous warning that Seven Mile Beach remains at risk.

Manfrino said that the idea that any form of coral relocation at this point could be like-for-like mitigation for what would be destroyed was not true. She urged people to vote no in the referendum to preserve Cayman’s marine habitat, as she warned that voting yes would condemn the health of the reefs and beaches.


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Comments (45)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Why not take advantage of the situation…turn the table on this controversial topic and utilize its value to a greater degree??
    What I mean, sell the cruise industry on the true value of a healthy reef and how to increase that demand. Sell the entire travel Agency field on the eco-tourism that exists in Cayman, the great emphasis this small island places on the value of their underwater world. The tourism department would be given the funding to market the ancient water garden that is preserved and protected around the island, including inside the harbor. A CLEAR REASON WHY the country chose NOT to follow others and surrender to pressures with a dock in order to appease fiscal growth. Heck, make a short movie on this now years-old discussion that’s been met with strong environmental opposition. Why? Because the Caymanian people took a stand. Turn the story around and give tourists a greater reason why to come to Cayman. Example: look at Costa Rica. A lot of people are attracted to that country because they assimilate it with ecotourism. Honestly, what else is there? Here’s a chance to stand firm and stop the onslaught from those who wish to pursue this destruction. Another example, an African Safari. There’s premium income to be made when tourism is directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, intended to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife. Take what’s already in place to a MUCH higher level whether it’s in the dive industry or amongst the ancient wetland forested areas left. Give stayover’s and one day ship visitor a story they’ll take home that’s greater than 7M, stingrays or rum point.

    Or just go with the whole volume thing, put money first in every decision, build a dock, destroy the environment, and pray you didn’t just ruin the future viability of tourism.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Plain and simple answer that continues to drive the message and point in only
    one direction:
    -This should not happen, period..
    -It has taken thousands of years for this extremely slow growing reef, the surrounding topography, and pristine waters to be as pristine as they are today…and that’s assuming variables such as ocean warming and coral acidification don’t get any worse. My point, what logical human being thinks “it can be relocated and all will be OK” ~a crook
    -And it has been made clear by multiple researchers in this area like her, including some post-observations from recent port projects, that once this destruction is complete, the continuous combustion or boat traffic will never allow things to settle or clear up, let alone foster an environment for potential regrowth.

    Folks, we don’t belong there. This is where the line is crossed. And that line is pushed to the furthest edge on a continuous basis here.
    The media or government can draw up any other headline associated to this project that they want, but in the end it will all drive back to this:
    What do you want the harbor to ultimately look like moving forward?

  3. Anonymous says:

    okay, so the same spot they would relocate coral to, there are already people growing coral there. It was in this very paper, last year.Coral farming. But some how, if we RELOCATE coral there. the coral won’t grow…i seeeeeee.

    common sense, people.

    • Anonymous says:

      ^ No sense person ^

    • Anonymous says:

      (a) Not the same location(s). (b) That’s essentially what CCMI is basing their ‘concern’ (I don’t speak for them) on: when you transplant coral to somewhere its not from, even just a short ways away, it often dies. As has been happening with the nursery coral in Cayman and around the Caribbean. (Which is why they have to replant a lot, over time. To make up for the amount that dies.)

      Remember, its always easier, more effective, and cheaper, to save what you have (healthy coral in the Port) than to replace it after your dredge it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is exactly what Dr. Ellen Prager said as well. The science knowledge is not there yet to make conclusive statements on coral relocation. How many more scientists does the government need to make a decision that benefits the people and not corporations?

  5. Anonymous says:

    What would an expert know exactly?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Should Platt’s dredged sand transport chute materialize, we may suffer more than just SMB beach depletion, we could also be unintentionally threatening the longterm outlook for attractions like the sandbar in North Sound.

    We can’t import this type of unique to Cayman-specific parrotfish-poo sand. We can’t import different foreign sand and contaminate our waters. We’d have to scavenge from immediate accessible surplus, like the sandbar. This cautionary lesson is already playing-out elsewhere, and we should listen and learn, without having to live the regret ourselves:

    Army Corps may dredge popular Haulover sandbar to revive Bal Harbour’s depleted beach
    https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article237550144.html

  7. Anonymous says:

    It’s the filthy rich that causes pollution!

  8. Kurt Christian says:

    Vote No

  9. Elvis says:

    This may sound stupid but would purchasing mega tenders instead of using those rowing boats to bring passengers ashore help at all?
    Just askin , thank you, thank you very much.

    • Anonymous says:

      The tenders in use now already carry hundreds of people at once, they work perfectly fine as is

      The government has been gunning for this port project since 2006 come hell or high water
      Especially the PPM, always part of their plan to reward their donors

    • Anonymous says:

      I believe the owners of the tenders have said that they would upgrade to larger tenders but you can’t ask them to spend this type of money not knowing if they will have the business if the port threat is always over their head..

      • Anonymous says:

        Irrespective of the a “No”, or “Yes” vote, the monopoly that the owners of the Tenders have should be dissolved.

        Is there a reason “you”, or “I” shouldn’t be able to invest in boats/Tender and partner with the Cruise Companies and CIG as well? Oh yes, there is!

        More importantly, I believe the CIG should own, and operate the business of Tenders. Akin to BC, Canada owning and operating the Ferries and service to Victoria.

        I am voting “No” to the Port. I am also not going to stay quiet about the Tender agreement.

  10. Anonymous says:

    How about a compromise.?We forget the dumb port idea and tell the cruise lines to go and destroy another island. We then compensate the politicians involved for their lost earnings by holding a charity fish fry. If each MLA just tells us how much they will lose if the port is not built we can work on compensating them. I am willing to pay a few hundred dollars to save the reef and seven mile beach.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Similarly, the Falmouth Ja relocation, cost millions, with survival rates below 15%. We already know this, and don’t need our leaders to lobby against truth with their BS…it only serves to weaken their position and solidify our logic and evidence-based NO votes.

  12. Steve Schlegel says:

    I have been diving the reefs the proposed project will destroy since about 1980. I am simply amazed that the government can pretend to buy into the false claims of a company that is in the business of making just money for themselves now over the fact that every inch of coral reef they destroy will be a permanent loss of one of the real attractions to repeat visitors to the island that spend vastly more amounts of $$ than a cruise ship passenger on a day pass who couldn’t care less about the future quality of life on Cayman.
    I’m sad because I see only another example of folks who trample on life for a few bucks at the expense of, essentially, the entire ecosystem (that means us all, folks).

  13. Anonymous says:

    No real news here! We all knew coral relocation was a crock when CIG started suggesting it.

  14. Anonymous says:

    the expert has spoken. Please leave our port alone. there is no need to wreck up GT Harbour.
    thank you.

  15. VOTE NO says:

    CIG is committed to destroying the marine environment and risk damage to seven mile beach.

    How can they expect us to support this project without an updated EIA and all the fact?

    Does this government think we are stupid? If so they truly do not respect their constituents and need to go.

    I am voting no because of their lies and waste of public monies. Plus written questions at a public meeting that do not get asked or answered was the final straw for me.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes all our governments (not just the current administration) think we are stupid, and to some extent I can see why. Because up until now we’ve been apathetic, trusted them and believed the hype that they cared and were looking after our best interests. When all along all they do is fleece us. No more. We should demand educated, reasoned and principled politicians to lead us into the future, not these greedy, selfish, arrogant eggheads.

  16. Anonymous says:

    What underlying cause do people pushing this port have? It sure as hell is not for the good of the Cayman Islands. After reading the truth about what will happen to the coral and, thus, the tourism of the island, how can anybody support this project?

  17. Anonymous says:

    First Caymanian: Wow, our islands are gorgeous. God gave us such stunning natural beauty to enjoy.

    Second Caymanian: Unna better believe it. Our home is a sight to behold. It’s amazing what 3.5 billion years of evolution can do.

    Third Caymanian: Yeah, whatever. Let’s destroy it all as fast as we can to make a quick buck!

    #lame

  18. Anonymous says:

    Moving 5,000-10,000 year old coral reefs… Can’t even get most of the people in government to walk 10 miles a month yet you expect them to commit to relocating a delicate ecosystem built on millions of years of evolution.

    Lol, ok if you say soo……

    Port needs to go somewhere else not on SMB

  19. I have some land in Florida to sell you... says:

    Dr. David Vaughn will be paid $500,000 per year to transplant and regrow coral here in Cayman. His method has never been proven successful on such a large scale project. Recent similar projects in Falmouth Jamaica have failed. So why are we to believe that Dr. Vaughn, who will be paid millions for his work whether he succeeds or fails, can actually do what only he says he can do here in Cayman?

    • Anonymous says:

      Remember Oxitec?

    • Anonymous says:

      Ah, so the good Dr is feeding from the trough too like all the politicians and their buddies? If he stands to earn that much, his views are far from independent and ought to be dismissed.

  20. claire m kennedy says:

    DON’T DO IT!!!! You do not mess with Mother Nature. Leave her alone – the almighty dollar must stop ruling!!!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I agree with you and we all should put 7 MB and Cayman FIRST. Vote NO. The propulsion from the props and thrusters will leave a very large ( silt ) milky area all the way to our famous beach. Vote No.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sadly, if you dive or snorkel the shallow areas off SMB you’ll see it’s all FUBAR anyway. I’ve been diving here since 1992 and it’s just steadily gone downhill as the area has been developed. Even one of my favorite sites, just off Harbour View Apts, has progressively become clogged with what looks like run off.

      • Anonymous says:

        There is an entire dive industry here, worth Billions, that would strongly disagree with your sandy hardpan-bound seven mile beach snorkeling perspective. The west wall is among the best wall diving locations on Earth. The most accessible snorkeling on Grand Cayman is arguably from shore in town. You need to get out more, or actually get on a boat and head out to where the actual reef fingers begin. The dredging is not planned for the hardpan in front of your condo, but the suspended scillicate from cutter-suction dredge, thrusters, and lifetime maintenance dredging, will most assuredly transport to the entire ecosystem both north and sound of the harbour on predictable varying seasonal currents you can set your Swiss watch to.

        • Anonymous says:

          9:27 I’ve read a lot of complete bilge in my life but that just about tops it all. I think you need to get out more so you might see how much damage the uncontrolled development of SMB has already done. FYI, I don’t own any condo, I’m a stayover visitor who dives here several times a year and, while places like North Wall are still prime, world-class dive sites, the shallows in the SMB area have been trashed. One thing I can tell you – if the dock goes ahead you can kiss goodbye to me and all my regular dive buddies who come out here. As the airlines like to say, ‘We know you have a choice.’

        • Anonymous says:

          9:27 Are you a diver? It doesn’t sound like it to me.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The government’s case is built on half truths and lies. Vote NO, save GT harbor and take the time to work out a better deal for Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      There will never be another better deal than this.

      They have to build it for us, finance it for us, maintain it for us, then hand it over to us as if they rented it?

      Good luck.

    • Anonymous says:

      if you think anyone else will agree to do what are doing with no money upfront and taking all the risks for 25 years you are delusional. Ride the “NO train” all you like but this country will regret this if the referendum stops the port.

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