Department of Environment dive teams assess anchor damage
Environment officials are once again investigating damage to pristine coral reef caused by a boat anchor in Cayman’s waters.
This time the culprit appears to be a mega yacht.
The damage, discovered last week by scuba divers, is not as widespread as the devastation caused when the Carnival Magic cruise ship dropped anchor on a reef off George Town last year.
But Department of Environment divers, who assessed the site late last week, said a patch of coral near the Thirteen Trees dive site on the west end of Grand Cayman – in front of The Renaissance and London House condos on West Bay Road – had been reduced to rubble.
The chances of catching the boat crew responsible for the anchor damage is slim. Nobody witnessed the incident, which officials say could have happened at any time over a two-week period.
Research officer James Gibb, who dove the site on Friday, said there were significant amounts of rubble and broken coral at the site, which is close to a designated anchorage point for visiting yachts.
“It is a relatively small patch that has been destroyed, compared to the Magic site, but the damage is pretty devastating. On one finger of coral, it looks like half the coral has been snapped off; on anther finger, it looks like it has all been affected.”
He said divers would be out all next week assessing the extent of the damage, moving rubble and salvaging live coral. Ultimately, divers will be able to glue the salvaged coral back to the reef.
Scott Slaybaugh, deputy director of the Department of Environment, said the damage was discovered early last week, but the incident could have taken place at any time over the previous two weeks.
“Somebody seems to have anchored around 1,000 feet away from where they would have been instructed to drop anchor by the Port Authority.
“Since nobody actually witnessed the damage, the best we can do is establish a time frame for when it could have taken place. During that time, there were three mega yachts [that came] in, so tracking down a single responsible party just doesn’t seem possible at this point.”
Mr. Slaybaugh said anchor damage to coral around Cayman used to be a significant problem, but he said the Department of Environment had worked with the Port Authority to put systems in place to reduce such instances.
“We thought we had a good system in place to prevent this kind of thing, but we will need to review it to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said. Visible markers could be placed at the designated anchorage point to prevent visiting yachts from relying on GPS to find the right spot, he added.