US shipwreck removed – damage to be assessed
On March 30, after over ten weeks lodged on the reef, the last section of the wrecked USS Guardian was lifted off Tubbataha’s South Atoll by crane. The Singaporean salvage team will stay in the park for few more days to gather remaining debris from the reef.
ASSESSMENT OF DAMAGE
With the shipwreck removed, the Tubbataha Management Office will be able to conduct an assessment of the damage caused to the reefs by the grounding. On April 2, a team will arrive in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) to measure the actual damage area. The assessment itself will take place on April 8, once additional team members arrive.
These methods were proposed by the Automated Rapid Reef Assessment System Project, a group funded by the Philippine Department of Science and Technology. They will provide accurate data on the grounding area as well as a visual record of the damaged reefs, which can serve as reference for coral recovery monitoring. The assessment team will also collected data to compare coral cover inside and outside the grounding area.
It is currently thought that given time and stable conditions, the corals in the area will regenerate without assistance, however, the research team will create a plan for assisted coral regeneration, to be used in case the reef is unable to recover naturally.
Once the assessment of damage to the reef is complete, the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board – the policy-making body for Tubbataha – will issue a second notice to the US Navy and US Embassy informing them of the financial compensation due for violations of Park rules and destruction of natural resources.