Anchors Away: Pioneering Tools to Protect Coral Reefs
Anchors and coral don’t go well together; even minor injuries can take hundreds of years to heal. In 1981, Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary was the first in the world to develop embedded mooring buoys as an alternative to anchoring on coral. This system is now being used to protect coral reefs and seagrass beds in marine protected areas in more than 50 countries all over the world.
Although the mooring buoy technology went a long way toward alleviating damage to corals from anchors, it was not a panacea. Some areas are simply too large, remote, and deep, and need blanket prohibitions on anchoring to protect the ecosystem. In 2001, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary pioneered the use of internationally recognized no anchoring zones established through the International Maritime Organization. Clear markings on all international charts now prevent vessels in nearby shipping lanes from mistaking coral reefs as appropriate anchorage locations. A no-anchor zone was also established on Cordell Bank in 2008 to protect the living reef that thrives on the rocky ridges and pinnacles of the Bank.