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The Hon Peter Garrett MP
Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts

Marine scientists inspect Reef damage

Media release
12 April 2010

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A team of marine scientists are now on site and preparing for an inspection of the environmental damage caused by the grounding of the Shen Neng 1 on Douglas Shoal.

The environmental assessment of the incident is being led by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) with strong support from the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Minister for Environment Protection Peter Garrett said this includes an initial exploration of the environmental damage at the site.

"Ship groundings can result in significant localised damage to habitats. Groundings such as this often leave grounding scars in the reef substrate where the coral is crushed and compacted."

"I have requested the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority take the necessary steps to gather some preliminary information as to the condition of the impact site in the first instance."

"I am advised that preparations are continuing to facilitate the safe re-floating and removal of the vessel from the shoal.

"However, this initial inspection is an important early step in assessing how this shipping incident affected the shoal."

The environmental inspection will initially comprise locating the different areas of the damage zone including where the ship first impacted the shoal, its path between there and its current location. The team will also be attempting to gather photographic and video evidence of any damage.

Once the vessel is removed, this will be followed by full mapping of the damage zone, quantification of the damage and sampling for pollutants.

"I anticipate the assessment and monitoring of this site and the other environmental impacts of this grounding are likely to be ongoing," Mr Garret said.

"The Scientific Advisory Panel I asked GBRMPA to establish earlier this month, will review the information from the environmental inspection and advise on the next steps."

Commonwealth of Australia