[Coral-List] alternative - Majuro barge mining

Karl Fellenius michka at fellenius.net
Thu Feb 9 13:07:55 EST 2012

orig. sent from unsubscribed coral list address, so I am re-sending the post to the list.

From: Karl B Fellenius 
Sent: Wednesday, February 08, 2012 12:02 PM
To: Ron.V.Simpson at FAA.gov 
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov 
Subject: alternative - Majuro barge mining

Mr. Simpson,

I am fully aware of what is going on in Majuro with regards to the coral mining from shore at the airport. My reason for writing to you is to add a perspective from a different region of the Pacific with somewhat similar issues as the RMI. I used to work as a marine science lecturer and fisheries survey diver in Majuro about 7 years ago. Dr. Dean Jacobson was my colleague. I respect his opinions immensely. Since then I live in Port Vila, Vanuatu. My work is doing EIAs as an independent consultant on shoreline development projects. Marine life surveys and operational recommendations essentially. To complement the good work done by Fisheries and Environment.

Proposed dredging operations using excavators from the shore have been redirected in favour of offshore barges. It works, and it might even become common practice someday. Here in Vanuatu though, we are fortunate to have coral aggregate available in land-based quarries. Even so, there has been much evolution in recent years about how to mitigate reclamation impacts from using such materials. Or rather, how to effectively minimise sedimentation and nutrient loading. EIAs were done here for the US funded MCA ring road around Efate. In the media it was written up that we were so fortunate to have US influence here on such a mega project so that EIAs could be brought up to a responsible international standard. I must say, that I am extremely disappointed to understand that such US efforts are piecemeal, and selective. If it were across the board for US projects in the Pacific, the FAA approved LIVE coral mining in Majuro would not be happening, would it?

Here in Vanuatu there are times when Fisheries and Environment approve development in proximity to some coral. It happens. But in those cases the coral cover is low (less than 10%), the type of coral is common, and the shoreline protection offered by the few coral bommies is minimal. And efforts are made at relocation and transplantation. And development work (almost!) always takes place with a fine silt curtain under low tide and calm conditions. I'm not saying its always the best solution, but we have guidelines. Even China tries to adhere to them here on their many 'aid' projects (Vanuatu does not recognize ROC). China more environmentally responsible than the US? Who would have thought? That comment is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I don't mean to belittle the US environment record in its entirety. Most certainly, Vanuatu would NEVER allow direct LIVE coral mining, let alone in an area with close to 100% cover as the Majuro reef in question. In my years here I always spoke of the Marshalls as being comparably very forward in terms of its coastal resource management. Largely I attributed this to the US presence (nuclear issues aside), and RMIs early success with marine protected areas and decision-making in working groups. And lately with its shark sanctuary. So why this backward step?

I know the reef Dr. Jacobson is talking about. The reef is very important for all the reasons he has already mentioned. It should not be mined. But it won't stop there. The impacts of allowing this live coral mining will reverberate throughout the Pacific. Already the news has reached Port Vila. Key people here have asked me why we go to such lengths here to limit sedimentation on already degraded reefs around the capital when the US allows destruction of healthy reefs in former territories? They know the answer of course. Politics and money and vested interests. But the real damage Mr. Simpson, is incremental wearing down of the motivation of middle and lower managers and field compliance officers, when they learn about the inability of the 'big boys' (NOAA, FAA) to do the right thing. Motivation gets replaced by apathy. You are potentially affecting further afield than you realise.

And don't worry about Jerry Kramer and PII. They've known for years that barge mining regulation was likely. They are just getting what they can from shore before it happens. NOW is the time to implement the change, before this project demoralises everyone who understands the damage its continuation will do to the maintenance of any decent standard for coral mining in the tropical and subtropical Pacific.

Thanks for your time. 


Karl Fellenius, MRM
karl at fellenius.net
PO Box 3183
Port Vila, Vanuatu

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