Crews clear shipwrecks to help coral reefs survive

Published On: Jan 29 2014 10:12:56 PM HST

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has launched a program to clear shipwrecked vessels from the ocean in order to give coral reefs a better chance at survival.

Click here to watch Paula Akana's report.

Nearly 1 million pounds of scrap were recently loaded onto barges docked in waters off Campbell Industrial Park headed to California for recycling and disposal.

It came from an area nearly 1,000 miles from Honolulu, recovered from three shipwrecks off Palmyra Atol and Kingman Reef National Wildlife Refuge.

The wrecks attracted fish, but also attracted invasive organisms that were killing the reefs, which contain coral gardens and fish.

The iron in the shipwrecked vessels fuels the growth of organisms like the corallimorph, which radiated out from a wreck to an area now smothering healthy coral reefs more than a mile across, surrounding the wrecked vessel.

Marine salvage crews spent 79 days picking up debris, cutting up the wrecks and loading them onto barges.

The 121-foot Hui Feng No. 1, a Taiwanese vessel that sank in 1991, also contained more than 600 gallons of fuel which was all removed.

At Kingman, an unmarked vessel, grounded since 2007 and containing iron, teak and fiberglass, was taken apart. Crews worked in violent and breaking surf to get the job done.

By removing the wrecked ships, crews remove the nutrient source for the invasive organisms. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will now work to control the organisms, which they hope will improve the reefs' chances of survival.


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