DoE, Allen reach agreement on coral restoration

Next phase of recovery work to begin Tuesday

Paul Allen's yacht Tatoosh is blamed for anchor damage to the reef in the West Bay replenishment zone. - PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER
Paul Allen's yacht Tatoosh is blamed for anchor damage to the reef in the West Bay replenishment zone. - PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

The Department of Environment and Paul Allen’s company Vulcan Inc. have agreed to an “emergency restoration plan” to repair coral damaged when Mr. Allen’s boat, the M/Y Tatoosh, dropped anchor on a reef off West Bay last month.

According to a joint statement issued by the government and Vulcan on Thursday afternoon, the DoE and Vulcan agreed to the “principles and parameters” of a jointly administered plan, “which has the immediate focus of helping to speed up the recovery of the damaged site, and to minimise or prevent ongoing losses and harm to the injured coral habitat.”

The first part of the plan, to triage the affected coral, has already been completed by staff of the DoE and Polaris Applied Sciences Inc., a coral reef restoration firm that has been contracted by Vulcan, the statement read. The triage work includes uprighting, uncovering, securing and moving viable corals to safe locations, while work on stabilising the reef structure is completed.

Beginning Tuesday, the next step in the recovery plan, which is expected to be carried out by the Polaris team, is to stabilize or remove larger rubble and “prevent continued and future damage to nearby living and established resources from the impacts of rubble movement,” but “as much rubble as possible and to the extent practicable will be incorporated onsite, to recreate and retain the original reef structure.”

Work will also be done to try to recreate the lost reef structure, or reduce the appearance of scraping or scarring. Recovery workers will also attempt to rescue and reattach as much living coral as possible “to reduce the time for a full site natural recovery and restore ecosystem services.”

Thereafter, the site will be monitored “to determine the success of the restoration effort in the months and years following completion.”

According to the statement, oversight of the restoration activities will be carried out by Dr Harold Hudson, described as a world leader in restoration of coral habitats and formerly of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who will be engaged by Vulcan but will report to both Vulcan and the DoE. The monitoring of the success of the restoration effort will be carried out under the auspices of the DoE.

The DoE and Paul G. Allen are deeply committed to ocean health and conservation.  Both the DoE and Vulcan have worked hard to ensure that this agreement reflects the best international standards for restoration of coral habitats.  They look forward to working together on the restoration.  No further public statements are planned until the remediation work is completed.