Cargo ship damages thresher-shark reef

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Cargo ship damages thresher-shark reef

A bulk-carrier has run aground near Malapascua island in the central Philippines, damaging marine-protected coral reef at world-famous thresher-shark scuba location Monad Shoal.

The 183m Belle Rose, owned and operated by Japanese-owned Sun Ship Management, was carrying 48,000 tons of clinker from Nantong in China to Cebu.

According to the Maritime Herald, human error led to the grounding, with the hull causing significant damage as it scraped over almost half a kilometre of shallow reef, affecting around 1% of the 300-hectare shoal.

The vessel was partially flooded but remained afloat, and there was no leakage of oil or other pollutants. Cargo was later transferred to another vessel so that the Belle Rose could be refloated.

“This is a key, key reef and it’s about the only place where you can see thresher sharks,” David Doubilet told National Geographic after the incident. The underwater photographer happened to be on assignment in Malapascua and photographed the damage to both the coral and the vessel’s hull.

The thresher sharks, designated as vulnerable to extinction, tend to stay deep for much of the time but come up early in the morning at cleaning stations at Monad Shoal, where divers encounter them. The stations were close to the boat strike but not directly hit, reported Doubilet.

The 20 Filipino crew were confined to the vessel while the coastguard investigated the incident, and the municipal government of nearby Daanbantayan in northern Cebu is reported to be seeking damages to fund rehabilitation of the reef. The captain has claimed that he was taking evasive action to avoid local fishermen.

Monad Shoal remains open to divers, other than in the immediate vicinity of the vessel.

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