Microsoft co-founder faces fine for coral reef damage

Cayman authorities are considering prosecuting Paul Allen after his superyacht Tatoosh was linked to extensive coral reef damage in the Caribbean

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen could find himself in hot water with the Cayman Islands authorities, who are currently investigating damage done to a 14,000ft2 stretch of coral reef.

Mr Allen’s 303ft superyacht Tatoosh (pictured above) was anchored close to the Doc Poulson wreck and The Knife dive site when the coral reef damage occurred.

Officials from the local Department of Environment told the Cayman News Service that more than 80% of the coral in the area had been damaged by the superyacht’s anchor chain.

A spokesperson told the local news provider: “In addition to assessing the damage and determining the cause of this incident, we are also paying close attention to lessons learned so that we can more effectively prevent these accidents while still hosting visiting yachts.”

However, a statement from Mr Allen’s communications team suggests that he is not taking responsibility and argues that his crew were simply following orders from the local port authority when choosing this anchorage.

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It would appear that prevailing winds required the superyacht to change position and the crew took evasive action to avoid any further damage.

Although fines can be levied against owners for coral reef damage, the Cayman News Service cites two recent examples of cruise ships causing damage and avoiding prosecution by making a donation to local conservation efforts.

Whether Mr Allen chooses to go down this route remains to be seen, with further evidence from dive teams due to be delivered next week.

The smaller of Paul Allen’s two superyachts, Tatoosh was launched in June 2000 by German yard Nobiskrug and was bought by the technology mogul in 2001 at a reported cost of $100m.

The full statement from Paul Allen’s communictions team Vulcan Inc. is as follows:

Vulcan Inc. and Paul G. Allen have a long history of responsible exploration and a commitment to ocean conservation.

On January 14, 2016, MV Tatoosh was moored in a position explicitly directed by the local Port Authority.  When its crew was alerted by a diver that her anchor chain may have impacted coral in the area, the crew promptly, and on their own accord, relocated their position to ensure the reef was protected.

Vulcan and the ship’s crew are actively and cooperatively working with local authorities to determine the details of what happened.  An investigation by local authorities is ongoing.

UPDATE: On February 11, Vulcan Inc. revealed that Mr Allen had begun steps towards restoration of the damaged reef. The second statement is as follows:

Since the incident occurred, Mr. Allen and Vulcan have taken steps to develop a remediation plan to restore the reef.

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 MV Tatoosh.

Mr. Allen and Vulcan retained experts in coral restoration to assess the situation and provide assistance to the government, and on February 3 proposed a remediation plan to the Department of Environment.


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