04/21/2004 at 12:00 AM EDT
After Australian authorities discovered that contestants on CBS's top-rated "Survivor: The Australian Outback" illegally removed coral from the ecologically sensitive -- and government-protected -- Great Barrier Reef, producers of the American reality TV show apologized on Wednesday, reports Reuters. "On behalf of myself, production and the survivors involved, we extend our sincerest apologies for this error," "Survivor" executive producer Mark Burnett said in a statement released by Australian network Channel Nine. "Please know that this was an honest mistake which we deeply regret." Penalties for occurred are generally US$10,780 for individuals and appro ximately $55,000 for corporations. In last Thursday's episode, contestants Colby Donaldson and Jerri Manthey (the latter was ultimately voted off the show at the end of the episode) were flown to the reef; Donaldson returned with pieces of coral as souvenirs for other cast members. This is not the first time this season that the show has raised the ire of some viewers. "Survivor" outraged animal rights activists in February, when a cast member slaughtered a wild pig before the camera.