From: Associated Press
Published March 1, 2005 12:00 AM

U.S. Research Ship Pays US$2 Million Fine for Reef Damage

MEXICO CITY — Mexico announced Monday that a U.S. research ship has paid a fine of 2,221,720 pesos (US$20 million, euro15 million) for having run aground on a coral reef and damaged it.


Mexico's Environment Department had forced the U.S. ship Maurice Ewing to stop its research voyage until it paid for damage done to underwater rock formations and coral about 30 miles (48 kms) off the Yucatan peninsula in the Feb. 14 accident.


Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which is in charge of operating the Maurice Ewing, paid the fine, the environment department said in a press statement.


While the Attorney General for Environmental Protection, Jose Luis Luege, said the payment "concludes the legal proceeding against the ship," he did not say whether the vessel would be allowed to finish up its experiments in the Gulf of Mexico.


But his agency did say it "recognized the good will of Colombia University, which obeyed and lived up to the agreement signed by both parties."


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The ship was using the underwater seismic pulses to explore the Chicxulub Crater, a depression about 120 miles wide just outside the port of Progreso, 190 miles west of Cancun. Experts believe a comet or asteroid carved the crater 65 million years ago, coinciding with the mass extinction of species, including the dinosaur.


Mexican authorities said they would use the money to study the damaged reef, restore it, place marker buoys around it, and run educational programs. Luege said the money would also help "open significant opportunities for the sustainable use of the reef, through diving and by attracting responsible tourism."


The Feb. 14 accident affected about 20 square yards (meters) of underwater rock formations and about 10 square yards (meters) of coral.


Environmentalists long opposed the ship's activities. They had argued that the sound-pulse technology could harm sea life, including whales, which use sound waves to communicate.


Source: Associated Press


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