On February 15, 2005, the U.S. National Science Foundation vessel Maurice Ewing struck a reef some 30 miles off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula. The grounding damaged 30 square meters of the reef - 10 meters of the damage was to coral.
The reef was clearly marked. The skipper of the Maurice Ewing was clearly negligent. The ship now faces heavy fines for running aground on a protected reef. "The fines will be based on the amount of damage done," said Mexico's Attorney General for Environmental Protection Jose Luis Luege. "I can't say offhand what the fine will be, but it will be sizeable."
The grounding of the Maurice Ewing is the most recent negative environmental activity of this U.S. National Science Foundation ship. Just prior to the reef damaging incident, the vessel was engaged in deploying seismic waves to search for traces of the asteroid impact that occurred 65 million years ago. This seismic activity represented a significant harassment to marine wildlife populations. Several strandings of cetaceans in the Caribbean area during this activity are believed to be a result of this research.
The Maurice Ewing is currently moored off the end of Progresso Pier and will stay there until whatever fine imposed is paid. Their work permit has also been suspended until the fine is paid and there is also a move underway in the Mexican Senate to permanently ban the Maurice Ewing from Mexican waters.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society applauds the government of Mexico for seizing the Maurice Ewing until a legal judgment determines what the fine will be and is paid.
Officials with Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which operates the Maurice Ewing, have refused to comment on the incident.
Sea Shepherd is calling for the cessation of the research by the Maurice Ewing on the grounds that the crew conducting the research are incompetent. "Here we have a ship full of scientists arrogantly disregarding the welfare of living whales and dolphins in their efforts to seek the cause of the mass extinction of dinosaurs," said Captain Paul Watson. "They claim they have the technology to detect evidence on the sea floor of an event 56 million years, yet they can't even avoid a reef that is clearly identified on nautical charts."
Please write to PROFEPA (Procuraduria Federal de Proteccion al Ambiente) and encourage the Mexican government to permanently confiscate this ship which has caused so much damage to marine habitat and wildlife:
Luis Fueyo Mac Donald
Director General de Inspeccion de los Recursos Marinos y Ecosistemas Costeros
Carretera Picacho-Ajusco 200
Col. Jardines en la Montana
Deleg. Tlalpan, C.P. 14210, Mexico D.F.
Tel: +54-49-63-00 ext. 16323
E-mail: [email protected]