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Rebuilding a Hawai’i Coral Reef after a Ship Grounding in Hawaii

When a large ship runs aground, it’s not only distressing for the ship’s crew—it can also cause harm to ocean habitats. That’s what happened when the bulk carrier VogeTrader ran aground onto a coral reef outside of Barbers Point Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii on February 2, 2010.

Dive and support teams were on site immediately to assess the damage to the reef. NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard, and other local authorities provided guidance on how to remove the ship from the area to prevent further damage. Inevitably, coral mounds became detached, crushed, and buried as the ship was being towed away.

Coral reefs are especially vulnerable to these incidents because they grow and reproduce very slowly. When a ship strikes a coral reef, entire coral mounds can break off and the pieces can become crushed. The broken coral pieces can then cause further damage to nearby reefs when they are picked up and moved around by ocean waves. Sometimes more damage can occur during removal of the grounded ship than when it first runs aground.

So how do you restore a coral reef after a tragic event like this one? Biologists from the NOAA Restoration Center are experts on this topic and they have employed some innovative restoration techniques. This video shows how they took advantage of a unique natural event that provided a source of healthy corals to repopulate the impacted area.

Posted October 13, 2015