Though he was not aboard Tatoosh (pictured above) at the time of the incident, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, Paul G. Allen, has come under fire after his 300-foot yacht was blamed for the destruction of an approximately 14,000-square-foot patch of protect coral reef.
According to multiple reports, Tatoosh was anchored near the island's capitol of George Town in a designated "replenishment zone." Though technically a protected area, replenishment zones differ from marine parks in that they do not limit the size of vessels allowed to anchor in the area.
Allen has been cooperating with local officials during the investigation but could face a maximum fine of up to $600,000 USD. In a statement issued via Vulcan, Allen's Seattle-based company, he has been adamant that the boat was located in an area "explicitly directed" by local port authorities.
The direct culprit of the damage appears to be Tatoosh's anchor chain, which dragged though the coral fields below. "Early findings already indicate extensive damage," a spokesman from the Cayman Islands' Department of Environment told the Cayman News Service.
Unfortunately for the Cayman's this is not the first time in recent history that a protected coral field has been damaged in recent history. As early as December 2015 the Spanish cruise ship Pullmantur Zenith, which is owned by American Royal Caribbean Cruises, was given permission to anchor off Grand Cayman despite being in a protected area.
In a similar turn of events, the Zenith's anchor chain dragged though a protected reef, obliterating the coral in a matter of seconds; a stark comparison against the estimated centuries it took for the coral to populate the area so extensively, according to a HuffPost story detailing the incident. The video below, taken after the Zenith incident is a strong illustration of the damage caused by dragging chains over coral.
The irony to all this is that Allen has worked extensively in the past to become a champion of ocean conservation. In fact, according to an NBCNews post, "the incident comes just five months after Allen announced support for research to 'stabilize and restore coral reefs.'"
Local authorities are still investigating the extent of the damage.