The Outer Great Barrier Reef - Cairns, Australia. The Reef is Yours!
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MEDIA STATEMENT FROM THE GREAT BARRIER REEF MARINE PARK AUTHORITY
Impacts of the Shen Neng 1 grounding on the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has been working closely with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Maritime Safety Queensland under the National Oil Spill Response Plan, since the Chinese registered bulk carrier, Shen Neng 1, ran aground on Douglas Shoals late Saturday.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Dr Russell Reichelt said the incident poses a significant threat to parts of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.
“We have observed damage to the Reef from the grounding incident itself, as evidenced by the plume of coral sediment that can be seen around the ship,” he said.
“As soon as it is safe we will conduct a full assessment to determine just how affected the environment around the site is but at the moment the damage is mostly contained to the seabed around the ship.
“There has been some oil that has escaped the vessel and we have used dispersants both yesterday and today to help breakdown the oil and help mitigate any potential impacts on the environment.
“Fortunately, there have been no reports of continuing oil loss and the quantity spilled to date does not pose a significant threat to marine life.
“It is critical now that there is a successful salvage with no further damage to the ship and no loss of oil or its cargo of coal.”
Dr Reichelt said although the Douglas Shoals are submerged reefs, the broad region in which the grounding has occurred include sensitive shallow reefs that are very high in biodiversity.
“Many of these reefs are still recovering from the impact of Cyclone Hamish in early 2009.
“Any further risk to the coral reefs in the region must be removed as quickly and as safely possible.
“In the area of the grounding there are deep shoals and reefs with diverse benthic communities including hard and soft corals, gorgonians and sea whips.”
Dr Reichelt said that planning is underway for all eventualities, including the risk that if more oil escapes, it could come ashore at sensitive sites along the coast such as Cape Clinton. This is a sensitive national park area near Shoalwater Bay, with internationally recognised wetlands, seagrass meadows, mangroves, a large green turtle and dugong population and migratory birds.
“It is still relatively early days in terms of assessing any environmental damage. We will know more about any potential damage to the Reef in coming days and weeks.”
The Environment Protection Minister the Peter Garrett announced today the formation of a Scientific Panel to assess any environmental damage and to inform options for the ship’s removal.
We can only hope that the best efforts are made to minimize any damage caused, and the oil and coal cargo are dealt with quickly.
Thanks again to everyone for their support throughout the last year, most of all to our guests and crew and to all our agents and friends. 2009 was one our best years to date with more passengers enjoying the smaller group experience on our yachts then any year before. We saw many great things this year and had some great weather to back it up. The whales are increasing in numbers every year and we have seen larger schools of dugongs again. Manta Rays, Reef Sharks, Turtles, Clownfish and of course the charismatic Maori Wrasse are also amongst the favourites of our guests.
Thanks to all the guests who have recommended our reef trips to their friends, colleagues and family, we hope we have shown them as great a time as you had.
Continued active involvement in the Eye on the Reef program, and Reefcheck Research Programs have kept us all busy with what has been a great year for environmental awareness globally. We hope that 2010 continues to build upon all the work that has been done in the previous twelve months for a better world that will be enjoyed for generations to come.
Once again thanks to everyone and we hope that you have a happy and prosperous 2010!
Tony, Dara and all the New Horizon Team
People have been asking if I have taken an extended holiday or on a break from twitter and the blog. Well unfortunately, it’s neither of the above we are putting a new engine in Coral Sea Dreaming more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. This should be complete in the next week or so and she’ll be back in the water ready to go. This year has seen a lot of work on the beautiful old girl with, a lot of carpentry work, new awnings, and now a new engine. Make sure you come and experience the Great Barrier Reef in the best way possible and join us for the cruise with the smallest groups.
Well, first of all my apologies over the last couple of weeks for not keeping the blog up to date however we have been focussing on maintenance with Santa Maria for the upcoming season. She has had the hull sanded back and painted afresh removing years of built up of paint. The top deck paint has been retouched and some other minor maintenance has been carried out.
The upcoming season looks to be another busy and exciting time, with bookings for our reef trips selling out fast. The year so far has had some great marine sightings including birds, whales, turtles, dolphins and of course countless other species of the reef. Many of these creatures have to be seen to be believed, their behaviour is quite extraordinary and fascinating to watch. Entering their peaceful and relaxing environment and seeing their interactions and relationships that have developed over the centuries is quite amazing.
That’s a quick update for now. So make sure that you make the time, come down to Australia and treat yourself to an adventure you will remember for a lifetime. We look forward to meeting you and relaxing on the deck in the afternoon after a great day of exploring the reef, maybe enjoying one of our fantastic sunsets.