Error processing SSI file

Error processing SSI file


Welcome to the Wellwood Reef Restoration site where you’ll find up-to-date detailed information about restoration of one of America’s most significant coastal barrier coral reefs. From this site you can learn what is involved in coral reef restoration following a large vessel grounding within a unique marine protected area, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This is one of the many significant management challenges faced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Photo of grounded M/V Wellwood with port side tugboats positioned for removal of vessel from reef. Click image for 300 dpi version. (Photo: Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary)

Project Overview

On August 4, 1984, the M/V Wellwood, a 122-meter freighter carrying pelletized chicken feed, ran aground on Molasses Reef within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which was then the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary. Due to complications with removal, the ship remained on the reef for 12 days. The total destruction from the grounding included 5,805 square meters of living corals and injury to 75,000 square meters of reef habitat. It is NOAA’s goal to restore physical relief back to the damaged site and encourage natural recovery. In order to do this, reef modules will be placed in the injured areas to provide a substrate for new coral colonization. Subsequent to the physical restoration; biological restoration wil also take place with a mix of techniques including transplants and the facilitation of coral larval settlement.

M/V Wellwood grounded on Molasses Reef. Click image for 300 dpi version. (Photo: Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary)

Whenever a grounding occurs within a national marine sanctuary, NOAA can seek damages to cover response, injury and damage assessment, restoration and replacement of the damaged habitat or acquisition of equivalent habitat, and compensation of the public for the value of the damaged resources until full recovery. NOAA has this authority under the National Marine Sanctuary Act 16 U.S.C. 1431 et. seq.

A claim was settled for the M/V Wellwood grounding on December 12, 1986. The responsible parties agreed to pay damage costs through a fifteen year annuity. The costs for both the United States Coast Guard response efforts and the NOAA Sanctuary response and assessment efforts needed to be reimbursed first. The civil penalty and restoration funds were then paid over the remaining years. The final payment installment, which went toward restoration, was received in December of 2001.

Relevant Documents

Pre-Construction Coral Survey
(pdf format)

Environmental Assessment of Wellwood Grounding Site Restoration (pdf format)


Project Log
May - July, 2002

Project Mobilization
(text and images)

June 3 - 11
(text and images)

June 12 - 21: Rough Seas
Delay Restoration


June 22 - 29
(text and images)

June 30 - July 9
(text and images)

July 10 - July 16
(text and images)

July 17 - July 21
(text and images)


NOAA logo Revised September 12, 2023 by Sanctuaries Web Group
Many links leave the National Marine Sanctuary Web Site - please view our Link Disclaimer for more information
National Ocean Service | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | U.S. Department of Commerce | NOAA Library | Privacy Policy
Contact Us |