After nearly one month, Department of Environment (DoE) staff has commenced emergency salvage work on the 14, 000 sq ft area allegedly damaged in January by the mega yacht belonging to US billionaire and ocean conservationist Paul Allen.
The DoE, through a media statement on Friday (19 February,) said that the emergency salvage work commenced on Wednesday (17 February) after receiving an independent coral restoration expert’s report of a comprehensive assessment of the injury site.
DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said, “We now are in the position to begin emergency caching of dislodged corals, whose survival is at immediate risk the longer they remain unattached.”
Mr Allen’s US $160m mega-yacht MV Tatoosh reportedly anchored in the West Bay Replenishment Zone on 14 January and allegedly caused damage to near a 14,000 square foot stretch of prime diving real estate with its anchor and chain of when it passed through the area.
The billionaire’s firm Vulcan Inc has denied that the damage was caused by the mega yacht since it said the area showed previous damage and it is difficult to establish that Tatoosh caused the damage. The firm further contended that the vessel’s crew was sent into the replenishment zone by Port Authority officials.
On Friday Ms Ebanks-Petrie, in the DoE media statement, the final report from William Precht of Dial Cordy and Associates was received on Tuesday 16 February and the DoE began emergency salvage work the following day.
“This temporary stabilisation and removal of coral to a safe location (caching) is typically carried out following completion of an injury assessment, to minimise further impact to the living tissue of corals that are candidates for reattachment,” said Mrs Ebanks-Petrie
Mrs Ebanks-Petrie added that by commencing the salvage work in a timely manner, remaining living coral tissue could be saved.
“Furthermore, time to full recovery of the site may be reduced, and collateral injury from future storms may be minimised,” she added.
The Port Authority has since imposed immediate temporary anchoring restrictions within 200 yards of the affected area.
The coordinates of the site are 19° 21.54’N and 081° 23.90W.
The Authority said that the “anchoring exclusion is enacted for the purpose of coral reef reconstruction work and a subsequent monitoring period. The public will be advised when the restriction is lifted.”