Cuban rock-laden ship headed to Mexico damaged corals, diver says

Cancun, Mexico, Mar 18 (EFE).- The anchor of the ship “Melody,” carrying 20,000 tons of porphyry rock from Cuba to be used as ballast for Mexic’s ambitious Mayan Train railways project, has damaged a coral area situated between two protected nature reserves, a diver and submarine photographer has alleged.

Alberto Friscione said in an interview to EFE that earlier this month during a dive with a friend, he found that the attempts to anchor the ship had affected several corals that are protected by Mexican law.

“We went to dive specifically to see the anchoring, the waters were great and we were driven by curiosity, because the area allowed for anchoring is situated between the Puerto Morelos reefs and the Gran Caribe reserve,” he said.

“It has a lot of sponges, brain corals, staghorn corals and many other varieties protected by the law,” he added.

Friscione said that the problem arose when the anchor was dropped, probably due to lack of supervision.

“When they threw the anchor it fell on top of many sponges, displacing the entire chain by several meters, and as the ship moved, it dragged the chain and began to slowly break off several corals that were on the spot.

The underwater photographer said that the problem could have been avoided if the ship management had consulted local experts from Puerto Morales, who could have guided them about where to drop the anchor.

Friscione said that once it was revealed that “Melody” had damaged the corals, it was removed from the affected area and is currently stationed near the Cozumel island.

“The ship moved to an area, now duly assigned by the National Commisiosn of Protected Natural Areas, which has a larger sandbank and has much less (coral) species than the earlier spot,” he said.

The diver said that complaints were being filed over the environmental damage through appropriate channels, seeking to establish if the anchoring had caused damage inside any of the protected natural areas in the region, as several known and protected coral species had been damaged.

“If any of us even touch a coral, you are almost thrown in jail, and therefore it is unacceptable that they come and drop the anchor – deliberately or unwittingly – and cause such a massive destruction that we are seeing,” Friscione said, reiterating that the area had been protected for many years under the National Reef Park of Puerto Morelos and the (Mexican) Gran Caribe reserve.

The diver and naturalist had recently participated in the planting of nearly 2,000 corals.

“I cannot believe that even in these modern times we continue to harm the nature in this way, and all for the Maya Train project,” he said.

The Maya Train – a pet-project of President Lopez-Obrador – is an over 1,500-kms (over 900 miles) long intercity railway that will encircle the Yucatán Peninsula, aiming to connect tourist destinations in the Caribbean with lesser-known sites inland, including historic Mayan sites from which it derives its name. EFE


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