Situated on the west end of Bermuda in the Royal Naval Dockyard, Heritage Wharf is one of the two ports on the west end (the other being Royal Wharf) that can accommodate the growing global fleet of state-of-the-art cruise ships. Heritage Wharf was remodeled in 2009 to provide the structural facilities required to support these "mega ships," including the construction and installation of thruster walls between the wharf and nearby shoreline intended to deflect the strong flows of water from the ships' bow and stern thrusters and minimize the resuspention of sediments that might impact the fringing reef. Since that time, the thruster walls have been damaged and now require removal or modification to prevent potential damage to visiting cruise ships.
In 2012 the Bermuda Department of Environmental Protection accepted a proposal submitted by BIOS's Coral Reef Ecology and Optics Lab (CREOL) to monitor the effects of thruster wall removal at Heritage Wharf. The four main objectives of the monitoring project included:
- Measuring sediment flux across the area of potential impact by cruise ship activity
- Determining the impact, if any, of cruise ship activity on the reef fish community
- Determining the impact, if any, of cruise ship activity on the reef benthic community
- Determining the impact, if any, of cruise ship activity and coral health
By employing a variety of techniques, deployment of sediment traps, stationary point counting of fish species, analysis of in-water survey photo quadrats, and assessment of coral pigment levels via optical spectral reflectance, researchers were able to gather data to successfully address the above objectives. The project PI, Dr. Eric Hochberg, submitted the final report to the Bermuda Department of Environmental Protection in February 2013.