Jamaica environmentalists highlight Falmouth ‘failure’

Falmouth, Jamaica

A massive coral-relocation effort for Royal Caribbean’s new cruise port at Falmouth, Jamaica, was deemed a failure by an environmental group that monitored the project.

The Falmouth project is considered one of the biggest coral-relocation efforts ever conducted. It involved relocating nearly 150,000 organisms between August 2009 and April 2010.

Though the initial relocation was successful and preliminary results indicated relatively high survival rates, longer-term monitoring tells a different story, according to one environmental group which tracked the project.

The Jamaica Environment Trust reviewed all the reports on the project in 2015, concluding, “It is difficult not to see the coral relocation as a failure.”

Their report highlights survival rates of less than 15% at three test sites, citing a study done by CL Environmental for the Jamaican Port Authority in 2013.

While that report also highlighted similar mortality rates of corals at neighbouring sites, the Jamaica Environment Trust indicated that the available data suggests the relocated coral was in a worse state than at adjacent “control sites”.

Read: Coral Relocation: A mitigation tool for dredging works in Jamaica

Their review also highlighted concerns with the monitoring and data collection and suggested the adjacent sites may also have suffered higher-than-usual mortality because of their proximity to the cruise pier.

Diana McCaulay, who authored the review, told the Cayman Compass, that she believed the Falmouth coral-relocation project was unsuccessful.

“There were many problems with the mitigation measures required for the Falmouth project – some were very much delayed and some were done poorly,” she said.

“A study of the effectiveness of these measures done in 2015, including the coral relocation, found low levels of surviving coral and high levels of microalgae. At the time this review was done, the relocated coral was certainly not thriving.”  

She acknowledged reports done in the immediate aftermath of the coral relocation suggested it had been successful, but she said subsequent studies had shown otherwise.

“Four years later, survival rates were extremely low and we don’t know what has happened since,” she added.

An earlier study involving the consultants who carried out the coral relocation had claimed better results.

The report, by Maritime and Transport Services Limited and Royal Boskalis Westminster, said, “The coral relocation programme executed during the development of the Falmouth Cruise Ship Terminal is potentially the largest coral relocation project known to date. In eight months, a team of 93 people successfully relocated 147,947 organisms. Based on colonies monitored, 86% of these colonies still remained attached eighteen months later, and only 4% died.”

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