Who will speak for our reefs, if not the Cayman Islands Ministry of Environment?
It has been a week since Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced he had presented Cayman’s government with a plan to remediate coral allegedly damaged by his 300-foot mega-yacht Tatoosh. Yet, on the substance of the proposal, all our officials have provided is “no comment.”

According to statements from his representatives, Mr. Allen understands the “biological” clock is ticking on the viability of the broken reef: “Mr. Allen and [his company] Vulcan asked the Department to consider the plan on an expedited basis …”

“[T]he 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 …”

“We supported swift action to help mitigate the impact and restore the reef as quickly as possible.”

On the part of the statutory stewards of Cayman’s reef, however, there has been no corresponding sense of urgency — at least not publicly.

Spooked, perhaps, by the global media attention the incident has received, the Department of Environment referred questions to Ministry of Environment spokeswoman Angela Piercy, who served up a warmed-over dish of bureaucratese: “Because the matter is under investigation, DoE will not make further statements until the time is more appropriate.”

What, we ask, is there to investigate — or, more specifically, what is there to investigate that would prevent officials from commenting on the matter of Mr. Allen’s proposal?

If Mr. Allen is offering to repair the reef out of his own pocket, then, doesn’t that achieve the goal of the investigation, while avoiding reams of extraneous paperwork and purposeless finger pointing? (Remember that no one has disputed the assertion from Mr. Allen’s representatives that the Tatoosh captain moored the vessel in a location directed by Port Authority officials — who have also maintained their wonted silence in the wake of coral destruction for which they may bear at least partial responsibility.)

On the other hand, if Mr. Allen’s proposal is not adequate, shouldn’t our local environmental experts have been able to recognize that almost immediately, and respond accordingly?

If it’s not as simple as that, surely the government could have at least acknowledged receipt of the proposal, outlined some key points of the plan, and said it’s under consideration.

On the contrary, it appears our officials are insistent on keeping their heads underwater, on the pretense of studying coral fragments. While Mr. Allen is taking reputational licks from the international press, Cayman’s government is doing little that is visible or audible to ensure the situation is resolved, quickly, for the benefit of all parties.

Lately, the relationship between Cayman’s environment and visiting billionaires seems to be one of animus. If it’s not Mr. Allen’s yacht encountering coral, it’s Sir Richard Branson being swarmed by voracious stingrays. Although Sir Richard reacted to his stingray “bite” with characteristic good humor, we presume that Mr. Allen is less accommodating about any unnecessary damage to his preciously purchased image as an ocean conservationist.

We are not finding fault with the Department of Environment’s referral of press inquiries to the ministerial level. In fact, we think that’s entirely appropriate given the seriousness of the situation, the brightness of the lights, and what’s at stake for Mr. Allen and Cayman.

On this topic, the microphone deserves to be in the hand of Environmental Minister Wayne Panton. Rather than issuing dueling statements and non-statements, Minister Panton would ideally be sharing a stage with Mr. Allen (or a high-ranking representative) to make a joint announcement that, thanks to Mr. Allen’s conscientiousness, they have struck an agreement to realize a commonly shared goal.

That is, to save Cayman’s coral.

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  1. Mr Allen I believe had the best intentions, however ” Patience is Virtue” and I always heard that “Haste makes Waste” If he is not travelling off to another Planet, where he cannot be reached, my suggestion would be that he make an offer, NOT for the Government eyes only, but for those of the people to know too.
    To question, as to what is there to investigate should be lulled, because we all know that “Now -a- days” is not like old times, where the Governments could just go ahead and accept and make decisions. In these times an answer has to be made for all contracts and decisions[ or the public will demand answers from questions. I do not feel that they are just keeping heads under water just so, I feel they are being careful to dot all I,s and cross all T,s.
    I understand how Mr. Allen may feel over- zealous about his princess yacht, however who wouldn’t. It is not too late to take a bite of the characteristics good humor of Sir Richard. So my suggestion to all is not to fan a fire on this , We want to encourage Mr. Allen to continue enjoy always his visits to our Islands and that we not cause any mountains to be made out of this coral hill.

  2. “Haste makes waste” is true in many circumstances, but in this situation, “DELAY makes waste.” Corals NEEDS sunlight to survive. Unless the photosynthetic algae living within the coral animals is exposed to sunlight, the coral will die. Plain and simple. The longer it sits buried under the broken coral rubble caused by the yacht, the more of it will die. Just like you and I need air to breathe in order to live, the corals need sunlight to survive. If someone were holding your head underwater, I’m sure you would not be thinking, “patience is a virtue!” As government hashed out the details of the best way to go about letting your head go back to the surface, you would not be thinking, “It’s all good–haste makes waste!” I encourage Government to get the ball rolling. At the very least, unbury the live corals and expose them to sunlight, before it’s too late, while the rest of the details get hashed out.

  3. I am not surprised at all that Allen presented a remediation plan even with the questions surrounding who is actually at fault as well as the fact that the coral had already been greatly damaged. I am also sure that they had the best people on the job to create the plan. He has been investing into protecting the oceans for a long time and I’m sure he’d take this personally just because his name is associated with it, so they will need to turn this into positive publicity which will not be cheap.

    I’d say just let them deal with it, they will surely spend a mint on it doing it right which will only benefit the reef in that area and bring more needed positive publicity to Cayman. The folks currently working to restore the other reef damage may also get some assistance from them or at least a few pointers from the experts. We all must also know by now that if they don’t do it no one else will.

    Those involved are more than likely looking closely to insure that they milk this situation as much as they can and insure that it is politically beneficial.