A cruise ship from British tourism company Noble Caledonia has plowed into a coral reef along the Indonesian island chain of Raja Ampat. The chain and its coral reef had previously been so pristine that it had been considered for a spot among UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Now, an estimated 17,000 square feet of the reef has been damaged, and local officials say that it could take up to 10 years for the reef to fully recover. These officials have also stated that the cruise ship’s company should pay for the damage.
According to Noble Caledonia, the ship was caught in a low tide and needed a smaller tugboat to help the cruise ship get back in motion. Unfortunate, this caused more damage. The Research Center for Pacific Marine Resources, located at the University of Papua, helped investigate the incident, and noted that the tugboat could have avoided causing more damage by waiting for a high tide. Damage is estimated to cost $1.28-$1.92 million in repair efforts and loss of tourism.
So far in the investigation, researchers know that eight different coral reef groups have been damaged or affected. Coral reefs are incredibly biodiverse ecosystems, and the Raja Amat area is known to have some of the richest biodiversity in the world. The World Wildlife Foundation describes the area as “legendary among experienced scuba divers” and “the richest reef in the world”. Despite damaging an ecosystem with an estimated 10 times as many coral species as the Caribbean, the ship and its passengers sailed away largely unscathed.
Investigations are still underway. Noble Caledonia has publicly stated that it will cooperate with the investigation, and will incorporate recommended changes into its operating procedures. No word yet if the World Wildlife Foundation’s can still incorporate “richest in the world” in its statement on the Raja Ampat coral reef.