Abandoned Vessels: Impacts to Coral Reefs, Seagrass, and Mangroves in the U.S. Caribbean and Pacific Territories with Implications for Removal
Abstract:The NOAA Abandoned Vessel Program (AVP) surveyed a subset of known abandoned/derelict vessels in sensitive habitats in 2002/2003 in U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific. Vessels were surveyed to determine current and potential impacts to benthic environments, particularly coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove habitats, and for potential navigational, pollution, and public safety hazards. In all, 180 vessels were surveyed, and the range of potential environmental implications varied. The majority of vessels surveyed in reef habitats were aground on hardbottom with low relief and low percent coral cover, and therefore were not considered to be producing substantial environmental impacts. The few vessels that were aground on or near higher quality habitat and/or had extensive debris fields were of very high concern to the AVP and local managing agencies. If the potential impact of these vessels is not addressed, further injury to surrounding habitats is likely. Damage to seagrass habitats also varied widely, but those vessels causing active erosion to seagrass beds, particularly when moved during storms, should also be considered a priority for removal. Damage to mangroves were typically less substantial than to coral reefs and seagrass, but the cumulative impacts of clustered vessels that have grounded during storms in sheltered, mangrove-lined habitats should be addressed.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 2004
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