Paul Allen yacht destroys coral reef

The Department of Environment of the Cayman Islands has claimed that billionaire Paul Allen’s mega yacht, MV Tatoosh, above, has destroyed 14,000 square feet of protected coral reef. Photo: Courtesy of Nobiskrug

According to a report from officials in the Cayman Islands on Monday, billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s mega yacht “MV Tatoosh” has destroyed roughly 80 percent of a protected Caribbean coral reef.

In a report from the Cayman News Service, representatives from the Department of Environment in the Cayman Islands claimed that the anchor chain of the 303-foot luxury boat irreparably damaged roughly 14,000 square feet of reef within what is known as the West Bay Replenishment Zone.

Allen’s company Vulcan Inc. responded to reports of the boat’s destruction by calling the media coverage of the story “greatly exaggerated.”

“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 said in a statement to GeekWire on Wednesday.

“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.”

RELATED: Video shows cruise ship destroying protected coral reef

It’s unclear whether the 63-year-old billionaire was aboard the yacht (listed as the 49th largest in the world) at the time of the damage, but if he is found to be responsible for the destruction of the reef due to incorrect or illegal anchoring practices, he could incur a heavy fine.

The entire story is oddly reminiscent of a December incident in which the Pullmantur cruise ship Zenith wrecked another Grand Cayman reef with its anchor chain. No fines were levied in that instance.

For their part, a spokesperson with the Department of Environment told the Cayman News Service the government will be attempting to learn from this incident.

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

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