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Stranded fishing boat damages coral reefs

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A boat stuck at Scorpion Reef won’t be easily freed without causing damage to coral life there. Photo: Courtesy

A fishing boat has been stranded for nearly a week now, damaging coral reefs off the coast of Progreso, said federal officials.

The Lipari ran aground 9 nautical miles from the Perez Island, one of the five land masses that form the protected Arrecife Alacranes.

Four fishermen were on board, intending to go offshore for scallop fishing, and were rescued by the Navy several hours after the incident.

The five sandy islands that make up Scorpion Reef, as it is known in English, is guarded by environmental officials. It has 116 species of birds, 136 types of fish, 24 species of sharks and 34 coral types.

The owner of the boat is liable for fines up to 5 million pesos, and even prison time.

It’s not a simple matter to free the wooden fishing boat.

The Lipari will require three steps to get it loose without causing more environmental damage to the fragile ecosystem,  said the director of the national park, Cristóbal Caceres G. Cantón.

The first step was to remove hydrocarbons, oils and equipment to lighten the load on the wooden boat, he said.

The second step is for the ship’s master to make and deliver a Plan de Salvataje, or a Rescue Plan, to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (Profepa).

Then the plan is carried out under the agreed-upon protocol.

Workers need to act fast. Bad weather could cause even more damage, especially if the boat begins to break apart.

“So far we have verified that there are 72.8 square meters of damaged corals, but when the vessel is removed we will re-inspect it because, during the rescue maneuvers, the damage will increase,” said the park director.

The boat lost its rudder in high seas, and drifted to the reef area, where it became stuck, the captain has told officials.

Sources: La Verdad, Diario de Yucatán

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