Fri, May 05, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Wrecks harming reefs, warn environmentalists

CORAL IN DANGER Lawmakers and green groups held a joint press conference to warn about the damage that sunken ships were doing to the nation's undersea coral reserves

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

While the rich coral ecosystems beneath the seas of Taiwan attract many visitors during the coral spawning season in springtime, several sunken ships are damaging and killing the reefs, environmentalists warned yesterday.

"The sunken boats have been in the ocean for ten years, but so far we haven't seen the government come up with a solution," the environmentalists said at a press conference held by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇).

At the beginning of the press conference, President of the Taiwanese Coral Reef Society Jeng Ming-shiou (鄭明修) played a documentary.

The film showed the wreckage of the Amorgos, a Greek cargo ship which grounded in January 2001 in Kenting National Park's Lungken (龍坑) Nature Reserve.

"Five years have passed since the incident, and there are still about 9,000 tonnes of steel plate and 30,000 tonnes of iron grits there gradually destroying the coral ecosystem," said Jeng, who is a researcher from the Biodiversity Research Center at Academia Sinica.

Another documentary was shot near Green Island, where coral reefs off the coast of Taitung County seemed to be on the brink of destruction because of the wreckage of a cargo ship, the Picasso, which ran aground there in November 1992.

Jeng said that the area affected by the Picasso was about three hectares and the area affected by the Amorgos was approaching five hectares.

"The contaminated areas have become burial grounds for the coral reefs," he said.

"If the government doesn't get started and remove the wreckage of the sunken boats, I am afraid that there might be no coral reefs within 20 years," he added.

"The documentaries made me feel distressed. We called ourselves an `ocean nation.' I can't believe we treat the oceans in such a crude manner," said Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛).

Tien criticized the government for not resolving the problem of sunken boats and paying no attention to the dying coral reefs.

Yeh Jun-hong (葉俊宏), deputy director of the Department of Water Quality Protection under the Environmental Protection Agency, said that the wrecks did pose a serious threat to the ocean, but noted that getting the wrecks out of water was the responsibility of the Ministry of Transportation and Communication.

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