The improper use of anchors is a major cause of coral reef damage, on many other reefs around Tobago where marine tourism activities are concentrated. While some boat owners take great care in positioning their anchors on sand, this is sadly not the case with all boat operators – both local and visitors.The aim of this project was to install suitable moorings in Buccoo Reef Marine Park to be used by reef tour operators in order to prevent damage to corals caused by anchors.
Buccoo Reef receives an estimated 45,000 visitors every year. Glass-bottom-boat tours of Buccoo Reef typically include a stop at Coral Gardens, where the boat anchors on sand adjacent to the coral formations to allow passengers to snorkel over the Coral Gardens. The type of anchors used by these boats is generally a large “grappling hook” which has poor holding strength in sand. The anchors therefore frequently drag until they hook a large piece of coral ruble or a live coral head. The anchor rope is also often a cause of reef damage, and has been observed knocking down sea-fans and rubbing coral heads as the boat swings on its anchor.
Custom-made 18” mooring buoys were imported from Florida and designed to allow the chain to pass right through them to make it very hard for potential thieves. Each mooring buoy is fitted with a 6ft long, easily replaceable, piece of polypropylene rope, which the reef boats can pick-up and tie onto using their own length of rope.
The buoys are attached to the seabed using a “Manta Ray-type” anchor system, which was designed, built and installed by local company, Dredging and Diving Contractor. The large 4ft anchors were buried at the selected sites using a powerful water-jet. The water-jet is used to liquefy the sand which allows the anchors to literally sink into place without the use of noisy pneumatic-hammers or potentially polluting hydraulic drills and fluids. The water-jet was powered by a sea-water pump operated from a small barge, and the operation was closely supervised by staff from the Buccoo Reef Trust and the THA.
The project was coordinated and implemented jointly by staff of the Department of Marine Resources and Fisheries and the Buccoo Reef Trust. Glass-bottom boat operators were consulted for the design of the mooring system to be used on Buccoo Reef and were instrumental in advising on the locations for the installation of the mooring anchors. The anchors coordinates were recorded with a GPS and sent to the Maritime Services of Trinidad and Tobago to be incorporated in official charts.