JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's government said Tuesday it will take strong action after a cruise ship destroyed coral reefs in a popular tourist area known for its extensive marine biodiversity.
The 4,200-ton cruise ship M.V. Caledonian Sky entered the waters of Radja Ampat in West Papua province on March 4 after visiting the surrounding islands for bird watching and art performances. When it started to sail to Bitung off Sumatra island, it ran aground on coral reefs, the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs said.
It said the ship then sailed to Bitung without waiting for an assessment of the damage, and is currently in the Philippines.
The ministry described the damage to the reefs as irreparable. A preliminary investigation found that the ship destroyed about 1,600 square meters (17,200 square feet) of coral in the heart of Radja Ampat, an archipelago with more than 1,500 small islands, cays, and shoals known as a center of marine biodiversity.
"The destruction of the Radja Ampat coral reefs, which were developed by nature over hundreds of years, occurred in less than one day," the ministry said in a statement. "It is simply impossible to restore that part of Radja Ampat. Fish that were normally seen in that particular area are all gone."
Ministry official Arif Havas Oegroseno said a task force has been has been formed to deal with both civil and criminal aspects of the damage.
"We are ready to take any possible steps to address the issue," Oegroseno said.
Under Indonesian law, destruction of natural resources such as coral reefs, peatland and forests are criminal acts punishable by three years in jail.