On Monday, the captain of the mega yacht White Cloud, Benjamin Craig Cameron, was found guilty on three counts related to coral reef damages in the Magistrates Court on Providenciales resulting from damages to the reef in the Northwest Point National Park.
The charges included the following:
1. Violation of National Parks Ordinance Regulation 3(1)(e), which prohibits anchor damage to reef structures and associated marine life;
2. Violation of Fisheries Protection Ordinance Regulation 9(h), which prohibits breaking or causing damage to any coral reef or marine plant within the fishery limits of the Islands; and
3. Violation of Fisheries Protection Ordinance Regulation 10(1), which prohibits disturbance of coral, sand, rock and other substances forming part of the sea bed.
Craig-Cameron was found not guilty on the charge of anchoring a vessel greater than 60 feet in length other than in an anchoring zone (National Parks Ordinance Regulation 3(1)(f). He was also ordered to pay a $30,000 fine within 90 days.
On April 1, 2013, DEMA responded to reports from dive operators that the anchor and chain of the mega yacht White Cloud was causing extensive damage to coral reef within the Northwest Point National Park, at a dive site known as “Boo’s Garden.” Quantitative damage assessments later confirmed that the coral injury was among the most catastrophic in TCI’s history.
Commenting on the verdict, DEMA director Kathleen Wood noted, “DEMA is very satisfied with this outcome, and we are pleased that justice has been served in this case. We want to thank all of the dive operators who responded at the scene and testified in court. Their dedication and commitment to the preservation of TCI’s fragile marine ecosystem is both humbling and inspiring. DEMA and the entire TCI community are indebted to them.”
In a demonstration of good faith, the White Cloud’s insurer AIG has contributed approximately $150,000 to the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund’s large vessel and dive boat mooring initiatives. Negotiations towards a damage settlement between TCIG and AIG are ongoing.