Reef may take 20 years to recover

Gladstone based Pacific Responder out on Douglas Shoal, helping the salvage effort for the Shen Neng 1 incident.
Gladstone based Pacific Responder out on Douglas Shoal, helping the salvage effort for the Shen Neng 1 incident. SUBMITTED

DAMAGE to the Great Barrier Reef as a result of the Shen Neng 1 grounding is the most significant seen by expert marine biologist Dr David Wachenfeld.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) chief scientist said his initial impression of the damage to the reef and Douglas Shoal suggested there was more damage in this incident than any other he had seen previously on the Great Barrier Reef.

It is reported that it could take 20 years for the reef to recover.

Dr Wachenfeld said due to wind and current conditions, Shen Neng 1 had moved throughout it’s nine-day stay on the reef.

“On the low tides, the vessel was making a much bigger footprint and much bigger damage because of the weight,” he said.

GBRMPA has found a number of areas that are between 20 and 40 metres across where Shen Neng 1 has rested on low tide and quite significant damage to the surface of the shoal, not just from impact but also from the anti-fouling paint on the vessel.

“In those sorts of areas, (the vessel’s impact has) completely killed any plants or animals that are there,” Dr Wachenfeld said.

He said one of the areas identified was 250m by 100m wide.

“The sea bed at this time has been completely flattened by the vessel,” Dr Wachenfeld said.

He said there was still a lot of investigations GBRMPA had to do along the 3km by 1.5km track the Shen Neng 1 took before being stabilised.

Dr Wachenfeld said samples of paint taken from the hull of Shen Neng and in the marine environment were due to arrive in Gladstone last night and will take days to analyse chemically to determine content and toxicity.

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