Ship Grounding | Puerto Rico | April 2006
On April 27, 2006, the oil tanker T/V Margara ran aground on a shallow coral reef close to the Bahia de Tallaboa in Puerto Rico. The oil tanker was carrying over 300,000 barrels of #6 fuel oil when it ran aground. While none was released, it still posed a substantial threat of discharge of oil into Bahia de Tallaboa, Puerto Rico triggering Oil Pollution Act authorities.
The vessel was successfully removed from the site the following day without leaking oil into the water. However, response efforts and removal of the ship caused significant additional injury to the reef.
Emergency restoration was conducted at the site between 2006 and 2008. These actions saved approximately 10,500 corals and addressed some of the restoration needed at the site.
What Were the Impacts?
The grounding and subsequent response activities resulted in significant injury to the fragile reef ecosystem. Preliminary estimates indicate that approximately two acres of reef were affected. Several species of coral were impacted, including six listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
What’s Happening Now?
The coral reefs along the southwest coast of Puerto Rico are highly productive and important environments, as well as home to a great diversity of tropical marine organisms including fish, shellfish, other invertebrates, and several protected species.
To further restore impacts to the injured habitats and resources, NOAA and co-trustee Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PRDNER) received $5,197,774.44 from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to implement primary restoration (Phase I) in 2019. The selected restoration project aimed to stabilize the reef to prevent further damage and bolster recovery for corals and the many species that rely on them.
On December 9, 2021, NOAA and PRDNER released the Final “Phase II of the Comprehensive Plan for the 2006 T/V Margara Incident Natural Resource Damage Assessment: Compensatory Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment'' (PDF, 93 pages). The trustees selected a compensatory restoration project that would consist of propagating corals in nurseries and outplanting them to reefs in Puerto Rico. The trustees anticipate that this project would eventually provide ecological services equivalent to those lost as a result of the T/V Margara Incident.
“Emergency restoration at the grounding site saved thousands of corals. However, additional restoration is needed to stabilize the loose rubble, and increase survival of new corals so the reef will recover.”
NOAA Coral Reef Restoration Ecologist