Boat destroys coral and concerns environmentalists

Boat destroys coral and concerns environmentalists

Coral in Hawaii takes years to grow but only an instant to destroy.  A 40 foot boat that ran aground Tuesday night in Kaneohe Bay has destroyed 100 coral heads according to researchers who visited the site.

The boat is not stuck on the Sandbar where people party.  It's off next to it by a few hundred yards in an area where coral had been thriving.

"Right at the bow section there is a scar that is probably about 8 to 10 feet wide and 20 to 25 feet long maybe longer that has just dug straight through all the coral heads going down almost a foot and a half," said Jason Durnin, The Nature Conservancy. "Most of them are just turned to rubble. It really looks like someone got a dump truck and dumped a pile of gravel on the reef there."

Durnin is the Kaneohe project manager with The Nature Conservancy who has spent the last three and a half years removing invasive species and algae from Kaneohe Bay in order to help the coral grow.  So seeing a boat instantly wipe out a chunk of the reef takes the wind out of his sail.

"It really disturbs me because I'm out there every day trying to protect the reefs and when I see the coral damaged to that capacity it does bother me," said Durnin.

Coral reefs are a vital part of the ecosystem, but can get damaged or killed by invasive species and disease.  The section where the boat hit didn't have any invasive species before but now the concern is the invasive algae will come in before the coral can regrow which will take years.

"There's nothing there to help fight back the invasives that come in," said Durnin.

Between 30 to 70 gallons of diesel fuel in the boat has been removed.  Parker Marine has been contracted to salvage the boat.  It will meet with the state to minimize damage in the removal and likely get the 40 foot boat off the reef by Sunday. It is taking on water and grinding the reef below.

"It's going to continue to get worse the longer it sits on there. It's going to keep bouncing around, rolling back and forth," said Durnin.

Environmentalists say boaters need to pay more attention in the Bay especially those people that rent boats and are unfamiliar with the area.

The owner of the boat will have to pay for the salvage process.

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