Cruise Ship Finds New Way To Ruin Oceans: Mowing Over Coral Reef

Aren't the coral reefs suffering enough as it is?

Coral reef in Raja Ampat's Mansuar Island, Indonesia — AFP/Getty Images
Mar 15, 2017 at 2:22 PM ET

Coral reefs are under threat around the world from climate change and pollution. The last thing they need is to be run over by a cruise ship.

That’s what happened in early March when a British cruise ship damaged 145,000-square miles of an Indonesian coral reef. New estimates from researchers approximate that the damage equates to about $18.6 million, all told.

“It will take decades to restore the reef,” the lead researcher told the Jakarta Post.

The Caledonian Sky cruise ship responsible had reportedly entered the area against the advisement of local guidelines in its trip from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines on March 4. A tug boat that was used to help re-float the ship after the initial incident added to the damage by entering the area during low tide.

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Noble Caledonia, the company that owns the ship, has since stated a fund to help the local population and is working with experts and the Indonesian government to determine a “fair and realistic” settlement to cover the damage. A petition with over 2,000 supporters and counting advocates that the company provide physical support to repair the reef as well.

In addition to the loss of habitat for the marine animals who live among the reef, loss of tourism is another major concern. One professional driving instructor from Raja Ampat, the island chain where the reef is located, told the BBC that he cried after seeing the damage. He noted that the majority of the island inhabitants work in the tourism sector, which centers around the reef.

This is hardly the first time the cruise ship industry has come under fire for its disruption of aquatic ecosystems. Cruise lines are rarely transparent in disclosing their environmental impacts, and often emit massive levels of sulfur dioxide. Some experts note that many cruise lines have outdated sewage filtering systems, leading to the release of as much as 21,000 gallons of improperly treated waste into the ocean each day they’re at sea. Anchor damage and vessel groundings have also been known to wreak havoc on coral reefs.

Coral reef damage, incurred by both accidents like these and the continued rising of sea temperatures due to global warming, threatens marine ecosystems and cannot be undone. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, one-quarter of the coral reefs worldwide are damaged beyond repair.