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Reef Report for Saturday, April 24, 2010

Details of Damage to Reef by Coal Carrier Ground released.

In the past couple of days news of the first good looks at damage to the reef struck by the coal carrier Shen Neng have been released, and while damage to the reef struck is pretty extensive, itís fortunate that the damaged area is small in terms of the overall size of the Great Barrier Reef Marine park.

Divers surveying the crash site found two main areas of concern:

The crashing and subsequent movement of this huge, heavy ship made a gouge nearly 3km long and 250 metres wide in the reef it struck. The corals in this gouge have been ground to rubble under the weight of the ship.

Complicating and lengthening the recovery of this scar will be the antifouling paint that was on the outer hull of the ship. Most ships use an anti-fouling coating on their outer hulls, to prevent the growth of marine organisms like barnacles, shellfish, and algae, which slow down the ship and shorten the life of the hull. These antifouling paints and compounds are by design both very toxic and very long lasting, and scientists report seeing paint everywhere in the damage zone. These agents, if not removed (an expensive proposition) will greatly lengthen the recovery period of the crash site.

The other area of concern is North West Island, a sand island near the crash site. It appears that oil has washed up onto the island, likely the fuel oil that leaked from the Shen Neng. North West Island is a sea turtle nesting site and sea bird rookery, so the removal of any oil on the island before the any nesting starts would be important. While the overall amount of oil released by the crash was small, enough of it in the wrong place, such as important seabird and sea turtle nesting beaches, can be a big problem.

More will be known next week after an more extensive survey of the crash zone is undertaken.

Coverage of the crash site investigation, from The Australian

Coverage of the impact on North West Island, from The Australian

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as† many other local sources in the dive community.

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