$100,000 Donated To Restore the Damaged Georgetown Reef
Executives of Carnival Cruise Line and the Tourism Minister of the Cayman Islands Moses Kirkconnell, met in February, in reference to the accident in which the Carnival Magic destroyed a section of a reef in Georgetown harbor. That accident happened on 27 August 2014. As a result of those meeting Carnival Cruise lines has donated $100,000 to the National Trust, which will in turn fund efforts to restore the reef.
The reef was damaged when the Carnival Magic, under the directions of a harbor pilot, dropped its anchor and 450 feet of heavy chain on top of a reef. The ship was well away from the sandy area used to anchor the large ships, when the primary anchorages are not available. The anchor and chain destroyed about 16,000 square feet of pristine reef. There are two other parties involved in the incident, the shipping agent, Bodden Shipping whose employee was directing the Carnival Magic at the time and the port authority, who contracts the shipping agents and who issues anchorage instructions. Neither of the other two parties has made any announcements regarding contributions.
Volunteers Lead Reef Restoration Project
The donation comes at a critical time in the restoration project. The initial response to the incident was slow on behalf of the government and it was not until public outcry and the local dive community demanding that something be done to limit the damage did anything get started. What did get started was a community based program with volunteers providing the man hours and in most cases the support required to get a survey done and then to identify corals that could be saved. Dive operators, their staff and local divers have put in thousands of volunteer hours clearing the reef of rubble after first inspecting it for any signs of coral that could still be alive. Coral that showed signs it might recovered was separated and put into a nursery area to start their recovery. Divers paid for their own air fills, and dive operators donated the boats and fuel. Visiting tourists also volunteered and were used in some labor intensive task. Around December the situation started to change as the progress reached a stage where raw materials would be needed to anchor the restored corals. Also, the most effected means to restart would be to concrete over some totally destroyed rubble patches. The materials for these projects are expensive. The Ministry of the Environment estimates that the total cost of the renovation even with the volunteer help would run into the millions and the government does not have the budget. The Ministry also suggested that instead of looking for criminal sanctions that the parties involved should donated the cost of rehabilitation of the reef.
The Tourism Minister said, “The Cayman Islands government is appreciative of this gesture which has been provided in good faith by a most valued tourism partner. This initial pledge to provide funding will assist the important work being undertaken on the reef, which is largely a community effort by teams of dedicated volunteers whose primary motivation is to conserve our island’s spectacular marine environment.”
The same weekend that the donation from Carnival was announced, $28,000 was raised by the Cayman Magic Reef Restoration volunteers.