Coral relocation impact questioned

Members of the National Conservation Council have questioned the feasibility of coral relocation as a means of offsetting the destruction of reefs in George Town harbor for a proposed cruise pier construction project. 

Some members of the council questioned whether there was a feasible “recipient site” for the coral to be moved to, in a discussion on the port project during its meeting last week. Council member Davey Ebanks said government’s environmental experts should give their opinion on the content of a consultant’s report which indicated some coral relocation would be possible. 

The document, released to the public last week, indicated that just under a third of the coral in the area impacted by the proposed construction project could be relocated. 

Mr. Ebanks said he was skeptical about the findings of the report carried out by Continental Shelf Associates, a sub-contractor of West Indian Marine, which was hired by government to conduct a study of the sea-floor in the port construction area. 

An environmental impact assessment, at a cost of $2.5 million, already looked at wider impacts of the proposed port project, including on the coral reef habitat in George Town harbor. Government said the second, $27,000 contract, was designed to put the area within the “dredging footprint” under the microscope. 

Mr. Ebanks requested the Department of Environment or Environmental Assessment Board give an expert opinion on the findings in the report. 

“Something needs to be said by someone – some assessment of the accuracy, the professionalism or the scientific basis of this study,” he said. 

Following questions from Mr. Ebanks, Tim Austin, deputy director of the Department of Environment, said no site had yet been identified to move corals to. Fellow council member Fred Burton suggested it would be very difficult to find a suitable site. “If you think about it, any site suitable for those corals to grow will have corals growing there,” he said. 

“The only potential recipient site would be an area where the corals are destroyed but those areas … still have the cause of the destruction … there is no recipient site waiting there to translocate corals too.” 

Mr. Ebanks added that the issue needed greater emphasis. 

“It is OK to say you are going to pick this up and put it somewhere else but if you don’t tell me where you’re going to put it, I don’t know where it can go,” he said. “That point has been totally left alone.” 

Benthic Habitat_Characterization_Survey
The projected direct impact area from dredging and land reclamation associated with the George Town harbor berthing program. – IMAGE: W.F. Baird & Associates Coastal Engineers Ltd.


  1. Interesting , can we not place the coral in the areas where coral is dead? That would seem to me the most logical place? "Can we not chip out the old tile and replace with a new tile". Just a question.

  2. The only argument I have heard Save Cayman say against the coral relocation is that "if it was meant to be somewhere else it would already be there"

    This is one of the weakest I have heard. Do we not plant trees, bushes, grass etc. in many places that they weren’t before? I hear DOE saying coral is dying in many places around Cayman, there has to be a lot of identical depth areas that coral can be moved to and help replace what has been lost. Magic Reef restoration has been working for months to rebuild a damaged reef. We probably already have many people skilled enough on island to work on this project.

    Not to mention that speaking about these different boards and groups, they are really just shadows of each other. Many of the same individuals are represented in each group so them having a unified voice really just means that the same people are speaking using different group names as "voices".

    Mr. Ebanks has missed the point that the consultants have repeated stated that it it up to DOE to decide on recipient sites. They were not tasked with this in the EIA. They also clarified that they were not tasked with the full evaluation of the coral to be moved, which is why CSA and their specialized study was needed, so that we know what we are talking about.
    What the EAB and NCC will find is that the CSA report is by far much more detailed than any survey in the EIA and done by experts in the coral relocation field.

    DOE and the EAB may not like that this study was completed without bias and without third party influence or direction of the DOE but it was a much needed evaluation and a necessity in moving forward with this CBF project.