Guam – Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz has introduced a measure which would allow for the recovery of damages and the assessment of civil penalties for damage to Guam’s coral reefs by marine vessels.
Cruz has dubbed his Bill No. 483 the “Coral Reef Protection Act.”
In a release he says its part of his ongoing efforts to protect the environment. And he says he will push for quick passage because the increased shipping coming with the military buildup “is certain to increase the potential for damage to Guam’s reefs.”
Vice Speaker Cruz has been critical of the Navy’s plan to dredge Apra Harbor to make way for an aircraft carrier berth. About 70 acres of coral reef inside the harbor would be affected.
The Speaker also points to the damage previously abandoned vessels have already done to the island’s coral reefs.
“Over 30 vessels in Guam’s waters have been abandoned.” In particular he cites the barge Tamara V which grounded in West Hagåtña Bay in 2007 and, Cruz states, “damaged approximately 2,700 square meters of reef area.” He also points to “a foreign-flagged commercial vessel which ran aground on Western Shoals in 2004, cutting a path of destruction through an area of high coral density.”
Western Shoals is a prime dive site for tourists and, Cruz says, one of the most economically valuable reefs in Guam. He estimates that all tolled, Guam’s “coral reefs are worth $127 million a year in economic revenues and their ecological and cultural value is priceless.”