British Cruise Ship Causes Severe Damage To Endemic Coral Reefs Of Raja Ampat Islands

First Posted: Mar 18, 2017 05:24 AM EDT

The most unfortunate event that leads to the destruction of several rare and endemic coral reefs near the Indonesian Raja Ampat islands has left environmentalists and locals in despair. The incident happened when the "Caledonian Sky" cruise ship steered into the coral reef in the Dampir Strait, during a bird watching trip.

The ship is owned by Noble Caledonia, a British company. It weighs 4,200 tons and was carrying 102 passengers when the incident happened.

Researchers from the Conservation International Indonesia (CII), Papua State University as well as the Regional Technical Implementing Unit (UPTD) made an early assessment of the damage caused. Ricardo Tapilatu, who led the research team, informed that several endemic coral reefs including "Genus Porites, Acropora, Poicilopora, Tubastrea, Montipora, Stylopora, Favia and Pavites" were acutely damaged. It was estimated that complete restoration of the natural marine biodiversity in the region would take around 100 years, Metro reported.

Apart from the damage to the natural ecosystem, the incident is likely to have adverse impacts on the socio-economic framework of the people residing in the nearby islands. Raja Ampat islands have long been the center for nickel mining. Once the mining resources ran out, the Indonesian government collaborated with the Conservation International, an American environmental organization, and started working on preserving the natural bounty of the region and using it to develop tourism.

According to The Jakarta Post, the region was shortly proposed as a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site and was known far and wide as a haven for divers. The livelihood of the people living on these islands is largely dependent on the revenue generated from the tourists and divers who come to drink in the scenic beauty over and under the sea.

Since coral reefs were the main attraction for the divers, the damage to these reefs is surely going to deter the number of tourists. Hence, it will deteriorate the living standards of people nearby.

Ruben Sauyai, Head of Raja Ampat Professional Divers organization, said "The area is a popular diving spot for tourists because it has lots of beautiful coral. Now, I am afraid we cannot take tourists here because nothing is left due to the incident."

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry staff members are busy calculating the overall damage caused by the incident so that an official suit for compensation can be filed. The Noble Caledonia company officials have acknowledged the incident as "unfortunate" and said that "the company is firmly committed to the protection of the environment and as such deeply regrets any damaged caused to the reef."

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