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November 1, 2005

Greenpeace ship damages coral reef

Greenpeace is to pay a $6,857 fine after damaging a coral reef in the Philippines.

"We ran aground on a coral reef we were trying to protect, " says Greenpeace. "Our ship Rainbow Warrior was in the Philippines, documenting the potential impacts of global warming on coral reefs in a World Heritage site. We were operating with a government chart which claimed to be up to date, but showed us to be 1.5 miles away from the reef we hit around 7am local time."

"This incident is very regrettable. Within minutes after it happened, we called up the marine park ranger station to inform them about the accident," said Red Constantino of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. Marine park rangers, assisted by Greenpeace, immediately conducted an assessment of the damaged reef.

The park officials' final assessment of damage covered a total area of 32 meters by 3 meters (105 x 10 feet) of the reef.

The fine was set at 384,000 pesos (US$6,857).

"This accident could have been avoided if the chart was accurate. We feel responsible, however, and this amount will be transferred on Wednesday, November 2," said Constantino.

The grounding did not cause any major damage to the ship nor serious delays to the ship's expedition.

Healthy coral on the left, bleached coral on the right. The animal giving the colony its colour has already died from increased water temperature, and the remainder of the colony almost inevitably follows.

"We appreciate the work that Greenpeace continues to do for the environment. We also appreciate the immediate action they took to get the full assessment of the damage," said Tubbataha Park Manager Angelique Songco.

Greenpeace and the Tubbataha Protected Area Management board both agreed there is a serious need of updated maps and precise maritime charts of the Tubbataha Reefs to avoid similar accidents.

The expedition to the Tubbataha Reefs is part of a global effort by Greenpeace to document what is at stake should global warming worsen.

The Rainbow Warrior is on the "Asia Energy Revolution Tour" of Australia, China, Philippines and Thailand to call for an urgent break from coal and to promote a massive shift to clean, renewable energy.