Mega-yacht owner plans reef restoration

Paul Allen's yacht Tatoosh is blamed for anchor damage to the reef in the West Bay replenishment zone. - PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER
Paul Allen's yacht Tatoosh is blamed for anchor damage to the reef in the West Bay replenishment zone. - PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

Representatives of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen say he has developed a remediation plan to help restore damaged reef impacted by his 300-foot mega-yacht Tatoosh.

The billionaire businessman retained experts in coral restoration to “assess the situation” and has submitted a plan of action to the Department of Environment, according to a statement from his company Vulcan Inc. The company did not reveal the cost of the remediation plan or how it would be funded.

It also stopped short of accepting responsibility for the damage, saying, “We took this step even though extensive past and recent damage to this same reef, as a result of other incidents, makes it difficult to determine what, if any, actual damage was caused by the Tatoosh.”

An anchor chain from Mr. Allen’s yacht was blamed for damaging coral across a 13,000-square-foot area of reef on Jan. 14. Video footage by divers, shared with the Cayman Compass last week, showed where coral had been sheared off from the reef.

The Department of Environment has declined to comment beyond an initial statement outlining the size of the impacted area and indicating that 80 percent of the coral within that zone had been destroyed.

Mr. Allen, through his company Vulcan, has consistently maintained that the yacht moored in a position explicitly directed by the Port Authority. The Port Authority has declined to comment.

In a statement this week, Vulcan said it had developed a reef restoration plan which was with the Department of Environment for review and urged the Cayman Islands government to get on with implementing it.

According to the statement, “Mr. Allen and Vulcan asked the Department to consider the plan on an expedited basis and have continued to offer the services of the experts to consult and work with the Department.”

“Paul G. Allen and Vulcan believe the most important action now is a rapid review of the remediation plan by local officials and the restoration of the reef. Time is of the essence, and we stand ready to begin playing our part in quickly implementing that plan.”

The statement went on to outline Mr. Allen’s credentials as a “global philanthropist and conservationist.”

“Mr. Allen has developed programs and invested in solutions that protect and regenerate declining coral reefs, created the largest comprehensive data-collection and analysis of the world’s populations of reef sharks and rays, and is working to raise awareness and inspire action to address climate change and illegal fishing. Because of that commitment, the damage to the reef resonates particularly deeply with us and is why we supported swift action to help mitigate the impact and restore the reef as quickly as possible.”

The Department of Environment has referred questions on the incident to Angela Piercy, spokeswoman in the Ministry of Financial Services, Commerce and Environment.

She said Tuesday, “Because the matter is under investigation, DoE will not make further statements until the time is more appropriate.”