Panama Canal Port Dredging That Damages Coral Reefs Stopped By Legal Action

The lawsuit by Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM) against dredging that would damage coral reefs in front of the Panama Canal (based on GCRA reef surveys with the Galeta Marine Laboratory) was admitted by Panamanian Courts on 8 January 2018. This means that the construction works in the port must be suspended while the Court provides a final merits decision. Because we filed an amparo de garantías action, we argued infringement of the constitutional rights to a healthy environment, sustainable development and health. Because of these arguments, once this type of lawsuit is admitted it immediately suspends the legal effects of the resolution that approved the project’s EIA until a final decision is made by the Supreme Court.

Please read more on the news that was published on January 29 in Panama’s leading newspaper, La Prensa: 

Before and After : Biorock Electric Reefs in Curaçao

Before and After time-lapse series by Michael Duss showing spectacular coral growth on Biorock electric reefs in Curaçao.

This video shows the coral development at our BioRock project in Curacao with the status September 2017. The video was created by the Curacao Divers for the Curacao BioRock Foundation.


Brief overview of Biorock Technology Applications

revised: July 10 2014

Biorock® Technology:
Cost-effective solutions to major marine resource management problems including construction and repair, shore protection, ecological restoration, sustainable aquaculture, and climate change adaptation

Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance


BIOROCK® technology is a innovative technology that uses safe, very low-voltage, electrical “trickle” charges to grow and repair marine structures at any scale and to rapidly grow or restore vibrant marine ecosystems.

The BIOROCK® process was originally invented by the late architect Professor Wolf Hilbertz to produce natural building materials in the sea (also known as Seacrete, Seament, and Mineral Accretion), and developed by him and biogeochemist Dr. Tom Goreau to restore degraded marine ecosystems, fisheries, and beaches.

BIOROCK® provides greater benefits, faster results, and lower costs than any other alternative to solve a wide range of crucial marine management problems:


Reefer Madness – The Economist

The Economist – Turning oil rigs into reefs saves money and marine life. Yet many greens oppose it. Jun 14th 2014 | SANTA BARBARA
The Economist, ReefingWHEN an offshore well stops producing oil, what should be done with the rig? One option is to haul it ashore, break it up and recycle it. This is expensive. For a big, deep-water oil or gas platform, it can cost $200m. Just hiring a derrick barge massive enough to do the job can cost $700,000 a day. But there is an alternative: simply leave most of the structure where it is. That is what you would expect a greedy oil firm to do: despoil the ocean just to save a lousy few million dollars. The surprise is, the cheap option may actually be greener.

For a start, it takes a lot of energy to move a rig. The ships that would be needed to shift California’s largest one would emit 29,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide, by one estimate. And moving a rig disturbs the organisms that have attached themselves to its underside, or jacket. Far better, some say, to turn old rigs into coral reefs.

“Reefing” typically involves bringing a platform’s above-water parts ashore and cropping the lower parts to leave at least 26m of clearance: deep enough for ships to pass over, yet shallow enough for photosynthesis to nourish organisms on its upper reaches (see picture). Oil-rig reefs may shelter and feed up to eight tonnes of fish. In 2009 Shell moved a jacket in the Gulf of Mexico ten kilometres (six miles) away. The fish followed.

More than 490 platforms in American waters have become reefs in the past three decades. The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement urges states to issue reefing permits. State coffers gain: oil firms typically hand over half the money they save by reefing.

Those savings vary greatly. Small platforms in shallow waters can often be removed for $10m, but sometimes for as little as $1m, according to DecomWorld, a consultancy. But for states with lots of offshore oil rigs, the windfalls soon add up. Mississippi pocketed an average of $625,000 for each of the 12 permits it has issued, according to Melissa Scallan of the state’s Department of Marine Resources. Louisiana’s take has averaged $270,000 per reefing—and the state has seen 336 of them, says Mike McDonough of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Currently, less than a tenth of America’s old oil and gas platforms are reefed. Sometimes the reasons for this are practical. For example, platforms may be removed if waiting for a permit means weathering another hurricane season (in 2005 150 defunct platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were toppled by winds and waves). Operators typically favour reefing but it is not always economical or allowed, says David Welch of Stone Energy Corporation. The firm has only reefed 12 of the 60 Gulf of Mexico platforms it has decommissioned.

That share is likely to grow. Within five years oil firms will be reefing one offshore rig in four, predicts Quenton Dokken of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, a conservation group. Gulf states, particularly Louisiana and Texas, are making “a big push” to streamline the permitting process, he says.

Far bigger savings are possible in the deep waters off California. Four years ago the Golden State passed a law allowing reefing. Operators are loth to estimate costs publicly, but the Tulane University Energy Institute reckons that reefing the state’s 27 platforms could save $2 billion. A platform or two could be retired as early as next year, though rising oil prices may mean they keep pumping longer.

The California Ocean Science Trust, a research group that has advised lawmakers, thinks that platforms increase marine life and should not all be removed. Skyli McAfee, the group’s director, describes this conclusion as “a big fat duh”. Studies by Milton Love, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, support it. Oil platforms serve as “excellent nursery grounds” that boost fish populations, he says. The bocaccio, a rockfish whose numbers are worrying fishing authorities, is one big beneficiary.

Yet the odds of preserving most oil-rig reefs look bleak. Public opposition is robust. Not one platform off California has been reefed. Activists quote the findings of scientists such as James Cowan, an oceanographer at Louisiana State University, who studied isotopes, tissue caloric densities and the stomach contents of creatures from both natural and artificial reefs and concluded that the latter generate no extra biomass. The Environmental Defence Centre in Santa Barbara, a group that files anti-development lawsuits, advocates the complete removal of oil platforms. Linda Krop, its chief counsel, says that abandoned structures might damage anchors, rob natural reefs of fish and even leach poisons. She does, however, acknowledge the environmental damage associated with complete removal.

When reefs cause grief
Greenpeace, a pressure group, makes a different argument. John Hocevar, its head of ocean campaigns, concedes that in some locations reefed platforms, if non-toxic, may increase marine life. But they should be banned anyway, he says, because they save the oil firms money and therefore encourage them to drill more.

The debate is likely to intensify. In the Gulf of Mexico some 400 platforms are now being decommissioned each year. Divers and many fishermen want more to be reefed; shrimpers complain that reefs prevent them from dragging nets across parts of the ocean floor. In California operators must decide quickly if they wish to turn redundant rigs into reefs. Until 2017 firms can keep 45% of the savings. After that the figure falls to 35% until 2023; then it drops to just 20%.

For now, the evidence suggests that reefing is a rare policy. It is both eco-friendly and pays for itself.


Original article…

Sustainable Ocean Management for Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

A Vision for the UN SIDS Summit in Mauritius, January 2005

Thomas J. Goreau, Ph.D. President, Global Coral Reef Alliance UN Expert Meeting on Ocean Management in Small Island Developing States, Suva, Fiji, May 2004

1. SIDS depend on healthy oceans All SIDS are intimately dependent on healthy marine habitats for most of their fisheries, protein intake, tourism, sand supply, shore protection, marine biodiversity, and other benefits. Their marine energy resources could provide all the renewable power they need, if it were developed it instead of wasted. SIDS marine resources have been devastated almost everywhere in recent years from combinations of coral heatstroke from global warming, new diseases, land-based sewage and fertilizer nutrients, mud from eroded deforested watersheds, global sea level rise, over-fishing, toxic chemicals on land and in the sea, and direct physical damage from destructive fishing, dredging, boats, anchors, tourists, reef harvesting, and increased storm wave intensity.

2) Our marine resources are quickly vanishing As a result, renewable marine resources are vanishing, endangering food supplies, tourism income, and shorelines. This forces people to harvest species previously regarded inedible, until nothing edible is left, and causes steadily increased fishing pressure on offshore banks and remote reefs, which are the only remaining sources of new baby corals and fish for impoverished coastal ecosystems. These critical nurseries must be protected, not wiped out. The losses are mounting as corals die and we kill the last big wild fish. Future generations will never be able to be sea hunters like their forefathers: they will have to become ocean and reef farmers, or starve. The methods to reverse course and nurture our reefs back to life are already available, but are not being applied on a meaningful scale.

3) SIDS are the first and worst victims of global climate change SIDS are the most vulnerable countries of the world to global warming and sea level rise. Dead reefs cannot protect shorelines or provide fish and beach sand. High temperatures have already killed most corals in many islands, and entire islands are disappearing beneath the waves. The last time global temperatures were one degree C above today’s levels, during the Ray Ban outletinter-glacial period 130,000 years ago, sea levels were 7 meters higher than today, crocodiles and hippopotamuses flourished in London, England, and tropical coral reefs were smashed flat by violent storms. At that time our ancestors did not have the technology for deforestation or to pollute the air and water, and CO2 levels were 30% lower than they already are today. Therefore conditions at that time greatly underestimate the changes we will ultimately see even if no more fossil fuels are ever used, much less if CO2 doubles from fossil fuels in the next generation!

4) Adaptation is essential, it is too late to avoid the impacts of global climate change Even if the entire world were to abandon fossil fuel addiction today these changes would still continue for a thousand years, due to excess greenhouse gases already polluting our air. We URGENTLY need large scale funding to adapt to the changes that are inevitably overwhelming all our coastal resources on land and in the sea. Pretending that these changes are not happening and will go away by themselves is inviting certain disaster. Marine Protected Areas, fashionable and worthy as they are, cannot protect corals from the major factors killing them, increasing global warming, new diseases, and land based pollution. Reefs in MPAs are full of dead and dying corals and increasingly barren of fish. Fish populations and diversity will not recover if the habitat is so degraded that it can no longer support the variety and numbers it did in living memory.

5) Restoration is essential to maintain ocean resources Without large scale restoration of degraded habitats to make them capable of supporting larger fish and shellfish populations, there will be few or no fish in the future. Without healthy growing corals, there will be no beaches or tourism income, and in many cases, no islands. Restoration of degraded reef and coastal habitats on a scale that makes a difference must be the number one environmental and ocean management priority of SIDS, not an afterthought. More conventional management will not restore reefs and fisheries without active large scale programs to grow them back: our ecosystems are under such increasing strains that they can no longer recover naturally the way they used to. The damages will rise dramatically unless we apply new methods to grow corals faster and make them more resistant to environmental stress.

6) The technology already exists to restore reefs and fisheries and protect shorelines New Biorock technologies developed in SIDS and applied in around 20 islands increase coral growth rates 3 to 5 times, increase coral survival under lethal high temperatures, pollution, and mud by 16 to 50 times, keep corals alive where they would die, grow reefs where corals cannot recover naturally, create lush ecotourism and fisheries habitats, even denser with fish and shellfish than normal reefs, and turn severely eroding atoll island beaches into growing ones in a few years at a fraction of the cost of concrete or stone breakwaters and with vastly greater ecological benefits. Large scale research and training programs are critically needed to train SIDS students, fisherfolk, and tourism interests to apply the new coral reef and fisheries restoration technologies on the scale needed for sustainable fisheries, tourism, and shore protection.

7) The technology already exists for large-scale ocean energy production in SIDS Ocean currents and temperature gradients contain a vast storehouse of power that is completely untapped. The tidal currents running like clockwork through the reef passes of all Pacific and Indian Ocean islands could provide all their energy needs plus enough to export, if only they would apply already existing turbine and thermal energy technology that languishes undeveloped and unapplied where it is most needed. A tiny fraction of these vast renewable energy resources would be enough to grow coral walls around islands that keep pace with rising sea level and provide mariculture of fish and shellfish without external food inputs, and to grow new islands. A crash program of sustainable marine energy development is needed now in SIDS.

8) SIDS must develop their own capacity to solve their problems SIDS will be hit with a tidal wave of environmental change in coming years and decades that will dwarf anything we have ever seen, and for which we are now wholly unprepared. We will have to evolve or drown. The technology already exists to grow our way out of these crises using local sustainable ocean energy, only if we have the seriousness to develop it. It is time to stop copying incremental and outdated solutions that have failed elsewhere, and develop our own capacity. We have allowed our “development” to be determined by international aid programs that are largely irrelevant, and not based on long-term wide-scale, functional understanding of the changes that have taken place or serious analysis of what is needed to solve them. They do not reflect what we want our islands to be!

9) SIDS Leaders must take the lead funding sustainable development in Mauritius SIDS need to work to create their own solutions and not await the random drift of “expert” overseas consultants peddling “solutions” that have not worked. An immediate effort is needed to develop SIDS research, development, and training institutions to refine these new technologies and apply them on the large scale needed for sustainable ocean and coastal management and a better quality of life for our people. This is our only way out, short of emigration. We call on all SIDS heads of states at the UN Summit in Mauritius to urgently pursue major new international funding for this effort. Our children and grandchildren cannot afford a business as usual approach. Future generations will not forgive our leaders and international funding agencies if they fail to grasp the opportunity to build sustainable SIDS ocean management in Mauritius.

Calcium Carbonate Deposition By Coralline Algae And Corals In Relation To Their Roles As Reef-Builders

Calcium Carbonate Deposition By Coralline Algae And Corals In Relation To Their Roles As Reef-Builders

Thomas F. Goreau
Department of Physiology, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, W. I.
and Department of Marine Biochemistry and Ecology, New York Zoological Society, New York, N.Y

Annals New York Academy of Sciences

The scleractinian corals and the lithothamnioid algae which secrete large massive skeletons of aragonitic or calcitic CaC03 have for a long time been regarded as the main reef frame-builders and cementers (Gardiner, 1931; Ladd and Tracey, 1949; Ladd, 1961), the algal component being dominant in the building up of atoll reefs (Gardiner, 1903; Tracey et al., 1948). Much less well understood in the formation of reefs and their associated unconsolidated deposits is the part contributed by the smaller calcareous algae since these are not, except for some of the Halimedas, very conspicuous components of the reef biota. Nevertheless, a study of fine reef sediments indicates that these algae are much more important in this respect than has been realized.
Field investigations under way in Jamaica since 1960 show that over 70 percent of the total CaCO3 contained in the large reef systems is in the form of fine, unconsolidated sand deposited in thick beds over large areas adjacent to the living reef frame. The chief sand builders appear to be the small delicate calcareous algae, with Foraminifera, mollusks, and echinoderms also making important contributions; the corals and massive lithothamnioid algae are relatively insignificant as a source of fine detritus in most environments. Our studies have also pointed out that the ma­jority of the sand building flora actually occurs in the reef itself, so that the framework zones (see below for definitions) must be the principal site of sand production, not the lagoons.
It is often very difficult to evaluate quantitatively the role played by a species in a reef community in terms of the rate with which it contributes CaCO3 to the system. This is due to the lack of correlation between the abundance, or standing crop of a species, and the volume of skeletal detritus it produces. Neither underwater population surveys nor sedimentary analyses give accurate information in this respect: biological surveys tend to overemphasize the importance of the standing crop, whereas sedimentological analyses deal with the end product of a complex chain of biological, chemical and hydrological events and ignore losses due to mass transpor­tation and solution. The unifying principle that is missing is a rate parameter, i.e., the velocity with which calcium carbonate is formed by the different lime producing organisms under natural conditions, probably a far more important quantity than either standing crop or sedimentary mass.
In addition to their ability to form CaCO3, impregnated exoskeletons, reef-corals, and calcareous algae possess in common the capacity to photosynthesize. Indeed calcification and photosynthesis unfailingly occur together in all Recent reef-building organisms regardless of whether they are plant or animal; but, whereas the algae are true photoautotrophes, the reef-corals are carnivorous plankton feeders (Yonge, 1940) which have only secondarily acquired photosynthesis by their commensal association with zooxanthellae. The effect of xanthellar photosynthesis in corals is to stimulate CaCO3 deposition into the skeleton so that the rate of cal­cification increases in bright light, and falls by an average of ninefold when the corals are put into total darkness (Goreau, 1959b). In species which lack zooxanthellae, or in cases where the algae have been removed by grow­ing the corals in darkness for a time, the calcification rates are low and unresponsive to changes in the light intensity (Goreau, 1961a; 1961b). Pre­liminary experiments on three calcareous algae showed that these calcify more rapidly than the corals and that skeletogenesis is less effectively controlled by the light intensity (Goreau, 1961a). In view of the need for more information on the calcification rates of reef-building algae, a com­prehensive physiological and environmental study on CaCO3 production and photosynthesis was undertaken on 36 of the principal coralline algae inhabiting the reefs of Jamaica; only the first part of the work is presented in this paper, the ecological investigations are to be published elsewhere in greater detail.

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