This article made me crazy...

Summerwind Belize’s Department of Environment (DOE), the San Pedro Tour Guide Association, Fisheries Department, the Belize Tourist Board, and other concerned agencies will be seeking court action against the person(s) responsible for the reef damage caused by a luxury yacht in front of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. This is what environmental officer Albert Roches of DOE told Ambergris Today early this Monday morning when our newspaper contacted his office in regards to the negligent actions of the motor yacht “SUMMERWIND”.

In a letter written by the San Pedro Tour Guide Association to the DOE on March 28, 2005, SPTGA President Phillip Leslie states his concern over the reef damaged perpetuated by the yacht Summerwind. The letter states that on Tuesday, March 29, Summerwind moved from its safe anchor harbor in front of San Pedro Town to a site on the outer side of the reef where most of the local scuba diving takes place, directly in front of Ramon’s Village. The yacht released a very large anchor secured to approximately 200 feet of chain down to about 70 feet deep. The anchor ripped off a large section of coral, and the chain then started to break off big sections of hard coral, soft coral and sponges as it moved from side to side, swayed by underwater currents.

At about 9:00 a.m. last Tuesday, the San Pedro Police, Hol Chan Marine Reserve staff, and the Belize Fisheries were notified by the SPTGA to the careless situation and at 10 a.m., the police escorted an individual off the vessel. The person was brought to the police station in San Pedro and told to visit the Hol Chan Marine Reserve office to see the fisheries officers. For some reason or the other, the person failed to comply with the police directive and went back to his vessel. The boat remained anchored all day and night on the fragile reef, continuing its damage of the reef, without the owner or captain taking any corrective measures under consideration, despite the concerned efforts of the police and SPTGA. It was not until Wednesday morning, March 30 that the motor yacht dragged its anchor off the reef and returned to safe harbor.

Later on the week, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve staff escorted one of the crew members of Summerwind to their office where he was questioned about the vessel’s actions. Then, the SPTGA, with the assistance of local tour guides from Reef Adventures, Amigos del Mar, and a concerned American tourist, ventured to the reef site and witnessed major sections of coral reef damage caused by the Summerwind. The damaged area measured 200 feet north to south and 250 feet east to west, where most of the hard corals, soft corals and sponges were removed by Summerwind’s anchor and chain.

“The San Pedro Tour Guide Association would like to see that this individual be taken to court and prosecuted for this tremendous damage,” stated SPTGA President Phillip Leslie in the letter to DOE. “The SPTGA is demanding that all authorities take the proper actions against such careless destruction and fines be set high.”

According to DOE’s Albert Roches, a meeting was held last Friday to address the reef damage issue which occurred in front of the island. Another meeting was held this Monday, and from information obtained from Mr. Roches, all indications are that court actions will be initiated against those persons responsible for the reef damage caused by the Summerwind.

- By E. Brown Ambergris Today, Week of April 7, 2005, Volume 7, #14