Two years after destroying part of the Belize barrier reef, an U.S. skipper has been ordered by a Belize court to pay BZ$3.4 million, roughly equivalent of US$1.7 million, for the damage.

On May 2, 2007, the skipper was trying to reach harbour in his double hull catamaran when it ran aground in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, causing damage to a piece of the reef measuring 125 feet by 75 feet.

Belizean magistrate Ed Usher ruled that the skipper did not exercise due diligence in navigating the atoll. Since the catamaran was so large, 37 feet x 21 feet, the person in charge should have hired a pilot and sufficient crew to navigate the reef safely. By neglecting to do so, the skipper recklessly caused a disaster that resulted in a loss to the environment.

The skipper must pay BZ$50,000 (US$25,000) within two months, but have been given a five year respite for the remainder of the fine. His catamaran, estimated to be worth around US$300,000, will however be held by Belizean authorities until he comes up with the money.