MV Tatoosh, Paul Allen’s 303-foot yacht, has destroyed about 80 percent of a protected coral reef — 14,000 square feet — in the Cayman Islands, according to officials there.

Share story

One of Paul Allen’s big yachts has destroyed a high percentage of a protected coral reef in the Caribbean, according to officials in the Cayman Islands.

Yacht & Boating World reported that the Caymans’ Department of Environment has accused Allen, the Microsoft co-founder and owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, of having caused serious damage to the protected coral reef in the West Bay replenishing zone.

After an inspection by local divers to assess the damage, officials have found that Allen’s 303-foot yacht MV Tatoosh wrecked a high percentage of the coral, which is essential for marine life.

It is thought that the accident was caused by a yacht’s chain when it was anchored near the Doc Poulson shipwreck and The Knife dive site.

The Tatoosh is the 49th largest yacht in the world, according to Described as “a model of understated luxury” in those big-yacht rankings, it is manned by a crew of 30 and has two helipads.

Cayman News Service reported that the yacht’s anchor chain destroyed close to 14,000 square feet — three-tenths of an acre — of the coral reef in question, or about 80 percent of it. Coral reefs are considered vital for marine life to flourish, and they help protect coastlines from big waves and tropical storms.

Vulcan spokeswoman Alexa Rudin said Allen was not in the Cayman Islands at the time of the incident. She also questioned the 80 percent figure and said the proportion of the reef damaged has yet to be determined.

Allen’s  camp is blaming the Port Authority, “claiming that they followed instructions when mooring the superyacht,” Y&BW’s Stef Bottinelli reports. “Shifting winds reportedly changed the position, pushing the ship toward the reserve but it was relocated to avoid damage,” the Cayman News Service says.

Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. issued a statement to GeekWire saying that the yacht’s crew was directed to anchor in the designated area and moved the ship when it found out something could be amiss:

“On January 14, 2016, M/V 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.”

The Cayman Islands Department of Environment is expected to issue its findings next week, and Allen could incur a big fine if he’s found to be responsible (though the Cayman News Service says the government there has failed to collect on similar sanctions levied on cruise-ship lines and other megayacht owners).