While NGOs want full protection of the National Park, the barrier reef came under attack late last week. An investigation is underway into the damage of approximately ten meters, a little over thirty feet, of coral reef near the Blue Hole in the Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, an area co-managed by the Belize Audubon Society and the Forest Department. Both the Department of the Environment and the Belize Ports Authority are leading the probe. A private vessel, known as the Sun Dancer Two, ran over a strip of coral reef to avoid a collision with another incoming vessel and in the process destroyed a part of the reef. On January twenty-first a team of environmental technicians were dispatched to the area where a damage assessment was conducted. News Five spoke with Advocacy Manager, Areini Palacio Morgan of the Belize Audubon Society.

Areini Palacio Morgan, Advocacy Manager, Belize Audubon Society

Areini Palacio Morgan

“It came to our attention that there was an incident out at the Blue Hole which is managed by the Belize Audubon Society. Our personnel along with the relevant authorities did an assessment that will be forwarded to the Department of the Environment.”

Isani Cayetano

“Can you speak to us preliminarily what may have taken place that resulted in those damages?”

Areini Palacio Morgan

“We at this time are not able to comment on that. We would have to look at the assessment and also look at the report. D.O.E. is the responsible authority to make any decisions after that.”

Isani Cayetano

“In terms of more or less how long this incident took place prior to it getting to your knowledge, can you speak to us on that as well?”

Areini Palacio Morgan

“It was immediate and as a responsible organization we made a report as immediate as we found out.”

Since the findings of the assessment are still under review there has not been any dollar amount attributed to the damage nor has there been any indication by the Department of the Environment whether action will be taken against the captain of the vessel. In April 2010, the owners of the Dutch cargo ship Westerhaven were ordered by the Supreme Court to pay over eleven million dollars in damages when that vessel ran aground on the Barrier Reef fifteen miles northeast of Dangriga Town in 2009. Other instances are in 2010 when the Great Escape ran into the reef and in February 2009, the Carib Mariner also caused damages to the reef. The Great Escape Owner escaped by faking a heart attack. He has still not faced the courts.

News 5