Sat, Nov 13, 2004 - Page 4 News List

`Amorgos' wreck resulting in serious coral depletion

CNA , TAIPEI

Members of the Taiwanese Coral Reef Society environmental group appealed yet again yesterday to government agencies not to let the effects of the Amorgos pollution incident go any further and see to it that the undersea wreckage is removed at the earliest possible date.

Wreckage of the Amorgos, a Greek freighter that ran aground and sank off the coast of Kenting at the southernmost tip of Taiwan Jan. 14, 2001, is now "a slaughter hell" for coral in an area of Lungkeng off Kenting, said Cheng Ming-hsiu, Society chairman and a researcher with Academia Sinica's Institute of Zoology.

Since the freighter's sinking, its wreckage has continued to impair the growth of coral because of the sharp metal edges of the wreck, turning the area into a coral graveyard, Cheng claimed.

He added that after a series of observations, it has been found that in a 2km by 500m coral reef area near Lungkeng, Kenting, the coral coverage rate has continued to drop.

Contrary to previous speculation that the freighter's wreckage could become an undersea artificial fishery reef, he said, the ship has disintegrated in the strong currents and its debris has continued to spread, posing increasing threats to the coral.

The harmful debris will not disappear by itself and it cannot be "digested" by the sea, Cheng argued, adding that the only option is to have it removed before more coral, the ecological system and Taiwan's tourism resources are further compromised.

A similar situation has been found in an undersea area to the east of Green Island, where the freighter Picasso sank 12 years ago, Cheng said.

By comparison, he said, coral reefs near Penghu Island are found to be the most healthy, with coral coverage rate totaling nearly 100 percent.

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All 25 crew members were rescued, but the ship later broke in two and an estimated 1,150 tons of fuel oil gushed out of the vessel and blanketed coral reefs in the Oluanpi area.

The oil spill has blanketed coral reefs in the Oluanpi area, causing an ecological disaster that will take the sensitive ecosystem years from which to recover.

At least three officials were disciplined due to aftermath of that incident.

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