Coral relocation possible, consultant says

Coral relocation possible, consultant says

Just under a third of the corals in the proposed construction site for a new cruise berthing facility in George Town harbor could be relocated, according to a marine consultant’s survey. 

The survey, involving scientific divers and sonar imaging of the sea floor, was commissioned to get a more precise estimate of the number of corals that would be impacted by the project. 

The report concludes that around 391,000 hard corals and 61,000 soft corals will be affected over 11 acres. 

The consultant, Continental Shelf Associates, also delved into the issue of potential mitigation measures, estimating that just under a third of the corals would be candidates for relocation. They gave no estimate of the likely cost. 

The government caucus, meantime, was presented with the findings of the completed Outline Business Case on Monday. Consultants PwC have been working on an update to their initial report, expected to include refined estimates of the cost of building the dock, the likely funding method and the positive and negative economic impacts of the project. 

Environment Minister Wayne Panton said the caucus has not yet made a decision. 

“It was discussed, but there was no vote. We have only just been presented with the up-to-date documentation, so there was no opportunity to read, absorb and understand what has been put forward.” 

It is not clear whether the final business case will be released to the public before a decision is made. The Benthic Habitat Survey report was completed some time ago but was not released publicly until Tuesday. The report was commissioned amid concern from pro-port advocates that the original environmental impact assessment had overestimated the amount of coral habitat in the harbor. 

“This survey is both necessary and timely, particularly in light of the differing views and opinions about precisely what exists within the area of impact and how it could potentially be affected if the project proceeded,” Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said in a press-release accompanying the report. 

The original environmental impact assessment estimated that approximately 15 acres of coral reef habitat would be directly impacted by the project. 

The new consultants had a remit to collect more precise data, said Mr. Kirkconnell, describing their research as “like looking at the area through a magnifying glass.” 

The report indicates that 391,001 hard corals and 61,291 soft corals are estimated to be at risk from the dredging and land reclamation activities. Of these, more than 116,800 hard corals and more than 17,000 soft corals could be relocated, the report states. The rest were deemed to be too small to move. 

“Coral translocation would probably be the primary mitigation option for … reducing [the] impacts associated with the berthing project,” the consultants wrote. “Coral translocation, if done properly, can significantly reduce the loss of coral tissue and the ecological services provided by corals.” 

The consultants indicated that they were involved in previously successful coral relocation projects, though on a smaller scale. 

The report makes no mention of the potential relocation of the Balboa shipwreck or where the corals would be relocated. The original EIA consultants estimated the cost of relocating coral at a minimum of $13 million. 

Mr. Kirkconnell said the Benthic Habitat Survey report provided more valuable objective data for government to review in making a decision.  

“This is the largest project ever being considered for our islands and government has a responsibility and duty of care to ensure that our collective decision is based on sound scientific evidence, not speculation or impassioned pleas, however well intended those might be. 

“When Cabinet convenes to make its decision on the cruise piers, it must be able to do so with full confidence that all of the relevant facts and information have been sourced and objectively presented for consideration,” he said. 

An aerial image of the George Town harbor where the proposed cruise ship dock would be built. - PHOTO: LANDS AND SURVEY DEPARTMENT, CIRCA 1999

An aerial image of the George Town harbor where the proposed cruise ship dock would be built. – PHOTO: LANDS AND SURVEY DEPARTMENT, CIRCA 1999

An image from the consultant’s report shows coral reef habitat in the harbor.

An image from the consultant’s report shows coral reef habitat in the harbor.

This image from the report shows the hard sandy bottom in the George Town harbor. – PHOTOs: CSA OCEAN SICENCES REPORT

This image from the report shows the hard sandy bottom in the George Town harbor. – PHOTOs: CSA OCEAN SICENCES REPORT


  1. Yes, there are corals that potentially could be relocated in the reef areas that will be destroyed by the proposed dredging and associated sedimentation. BUT, relocating individual corals is not the same as relocating or saving the coral reefs. Coral reefs are three dimensional structures thousands of years old that provide habitat, wave protection, food for marine life, and the economic opportunities associated with diving, snorkeling, glass bottom boats, etc. Individual corals do not provide the same resources or on their own create a reef. The suggestion that by relocating corals the damage to the harbor, water quality, coral reefs, and tourism opportunities can be mitigated provides false hope and is scientifically inaccurate. The Cayman government must decide if they want the coral reefs, wreck, and clear water of the harbor along with the economic opportunities they provide or if they want a giant concrete pier – unfortunately they cannot have both. And lastly the consultants here specialize in coral relocation so asking them to do a survey and objectively assess coral relocation potential is biased from the start.

  2. I wonder if the politicians can take their egotistical minds out of the silt from the cruise ship berthing project, and use their common sense and see the destruction of money and the environment that would be caused by this project, and see that there’s more important issues that the Islands are faced with today. I just read yesterday that the C.I $ might be getting in trouble, I think that the dump is a very hazardous site that needed to be solved long time ago, the health system needs to be addressed, crime is getting out of control, people are living in third world conditions in one richest places to live. A good Government should be problem solvers, not problem creators.

  3. The consultants have proved that the actual mature, living and viable coral to be relocated is far less than what the anti port push have claimed.

    The reason so many of the coral are either too small or not in viable condition to move is due mainly to the fact that they are located in the mostly barren and high cargo traffic area that is mainly hard rock bottom or vast sandy area.

    Seeing as the actual area that can and should be relocated is far smaller than originally being touted, the costs should be far less in relocation.

    These findings are indicated by Baird 4.2 of their responses. "Coral relocation is considered to be a feasible mitigation measure; however, it will not fully replace lost habitat (i.e. it does not provide 1:1 compensation/replacement)" So these results are expected.

    Baird also says: "The marine ecology assessment undertaken for the EIA was not designed to define the objectives/scope/cost of a coral relocation program, nor the location of a suitable recipient site. Additional investigations are required to do so"

    This study was needed and now we have a clear picture of what can be relocated.

    It will be great to see this new study reflected in the new updated PWC case.

  4. More smoke and mirrors to deflect attention from the real issue, which is the cruise lines position on this project?

    This argument has been going on for months but to date not one of the major cruise lines has made any comment on how this project might influence their future plans.

    Unofficial feedback has suggested they are unhappy about being associated with anything that damages the environment and also that they are concerned about the possibility that the dock will overload the already limited attractions on the island but as for actual input? There has been nothing.

    So far the only people saying that the dock will increase cruise arrivals and attract mega-liners are so far removed from the actual industry they might as well be living on the moon.

    The bottom line on this project is that to be viable it has to make money, a lot of money. As the saying goes – Show me the money.

  5. The consultant are really telling the Government what they wants the government to hear about the project. Why the consultant are saying that only a third of the corals can be relocated? But could not give no estimate of cost to relocate these corals, are they leaving this estimate for a other consultant charge/expense of the project? I have to think that all the thumbs down to all the comments are from supporters of the cruise ship dock, but I can tell you all that after the damages are done , you won’t be able to effectively to do anything about it, and start looking beyond the the tip of your nose.

  6. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Getting tired of saying how stupid this idea really is. This report does not prove that coral relocation is possible. It again says that it is not. If 75-100% cant be guaranteed then its a failure in anyone who has common sense opinion.

  7. .. all the thumbs down…are just few people who clear their cache again and again so they could repeat clicking on it. The other day a comment was posted at 12.31am and at 6am there were like 20 thumbs up.They are working around the clock.
    This discussion has been beaten to death already. Nobody had said any better than
    Bo Miller. Nothing can be added or taken out of his arguments.
    The latest Compass editorial on the cruise dock was nauseating to say the least.

  8. L. Bell I agree with you 100%. I was just having that same conversation with my coworkers about the thumbs down. They clear their cache and go from their PC to phone to get in more thumbs down.

  9. Let’s all just take a look at that picture in the article. That was from before royal watler was even built. Notice anything? There is hardly any coral formation in front of the port. Recent pictures show even less.

    Not saying there isn’t coral there, but we are talking about preventing cargo growth and cruise tourism for an area that isn’t dived regularly.

    Yes the surrounding areas are at risk, but that is why we need the dive community and eco-crazies to work with everyone else to hold CIG accountable for best practice and every reasonable measure to prevent any unnecessary damage.

  10. Don’t do it. The agenda of the dislikes is clearly driven by individuals who have huge personal financial benefit to gain from a new dock. Remember the days when we have 6 cruiseships in port. You cannot move down the 7 mile corridor for the traffic. You cannot find a spot on the public beaches for people. The north sound is horrific. If as a local you haven’t been to the sandbar on a busy cruiseship day you would be disgusted by the thousands of people hoarding the area. The argument that cruiseship passengers return as stayover business is nonsense as no one wants to return after waiting for hours in traffic, sharing a beach or the sandbar with thousands of others only to wait in traffic for an hour again. 2-4 ships on good days whilst still busy is probably sustainable and can be dealt with by the current port. What are we actually shooting for with the new dock? 10 ships a day? Total island shut down. Who benefits? The retail outlets and restaurants that will be rammed full because people cannot physically leave George Town due to the traffic. Now lets rethink where these mass dislikes might be coming from. Stay over tourists are the future. Concentrate on a quality guest experience: people will return and tell their friends and all bring their $$. What else is the future, the dump is the future. You can build a new cruiseship dock in 20 years if you want but you cannot build a new marine environment because the old one has been destroyed by leaching garbage. Solve this problem now! This is the future not the dock. Whilst your at it, spend the money you save on the dock on George Town regeneration, improved infrastructure (so we don’t all spend 2 hours a day in a car) and a quality stay over tourist experience. Ready, bring on the dislikes.

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