Navy, local and federal agencies continue work to restore coral in Apra Harbor

by Catherine Cruz Norton, NAVFAC Marianas Public Affairs/Communications Office
Stripes Guam

PITI, Guam - Navy divers and local and federal marine biologist divers have been working since June 28 to restore coral accidentally impacted during a military exercise at Jade Shoals in Apra Harbor.

“We always strive to be good stewards of the environment no matter where we are,” said Naval Base Guam (NBG) Commanding Officer Capt. Hans Sholley. “This is part of our outreach to the community and part of our responsibilities as stewards of the environment to help with projects like this.”

In a well-coordinated One Guam cooperative effort, divers are relocating the coral rubble dislodged by a French navy landing craft to a deep sandy area to prevent having it scour the nearby live coral with wave action. The dive team are also planning to reattach and stabilize seventeen of the larger coral heads at suitable sites using a special cement mixture, rebar, meshing and cable ties.

While coral reattachment is uncommon in Guam, a 2015 experiment used Navy divers to relocate 120 coral colonies within Apra Harbor. The experience gained during the relocation efforts bodes well for the Jade Shoals project.

“It has been over two years since those corals were transferred,” said NBG/Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas Environmental Program Director Ed Moon. “After five monitoring surveys by marine biologists, the vast majority of corals have survived the translocation.”

In the spirit of One Guam, project partners include personnel from NBG, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Five (EODMU5), the Guam Environmental Protection Agency (GEPA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Bureau of Statistics and Plans Guam Coastal Management Program, Department of Agriculture Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources (DAWR), University of Guam (UOG) Marine Lab, Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency (CQA), and the Port Authority of Guam (PAG).

“A clean and safe environment is one of the greatest legacies we can pass along to our future generations,” said Guam Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Walter Leon Guerrero. “Given the limited resources that exist on our island, our agency is blessed to have a great support network with our local and federal counterparts. PAG, Guam CQA, DAWR and UOG along with NOAA and Naval Base Guam have answered the call of a coral reef in distress.”

Marine biologists on the One Guam Team thoroughly evaluated the damage and developed a restoration plan for the Jade Shoals coral site that was affected.

“It is unfortunate that this incident occurred in the first place,” continued Leon Guerrero. “But we are glad to know that we can count on the sense of environmental stewardship of these concerned agencies, and we cannot thank them enough."

“We’re happy to provide divers and support for this critically important project to help make this a pristine place and to make Apra Harbor a wonderful habitat,” said Sholley. The team anticipates completion of the Jade Shoals coral restoration project by the end of July.

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