A cruise ship flying the Norwegian flag destroyed part of an important coral reef off the Caribbean coast of Mexico last week, newspapers said Saturday.
The cruise ship Leeward was believed to have caused widespread damage to the protected coral reef off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula as it left port.
Oceanographer Roman Bravo Prieto told reporters that it would take 500 years or more for the reef to recover.
He said more than 4,400 square feet of reef were destroyed. "The damage is worse than if a full-force hurricane had run ashore," he added.
The federal attorney's Office for the Protection of the Environment said Friday it would start legal action against the owners of the ship.
The damaged reef is part of the Great Maya Reef, the second largest in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef.