A $162 million (£114 million) yacht belonging to Microsoft’s co-founder and outspoken environmentalist, Paul Allen, has ripped up 1,300 square meters (14,000 square feet) of coral reef.
The monumental mess-up happened in the West Bay replenishment zone of the Cayman Islands on Thursday, January 14. The yacht's anchor chain dragged along the reef behind the yacht, eventually destroying up to 80 percent of the area’s coral.
The Microsoft mogul was reportedly not onboard the yacht at the time. Despite this, his links to the accident will come as an embarrassment particularly after his years of wildlife conservation and environmental efforts. Many of these have been specifically aimed at solving the problems faced by the world’s oceans, such as the millions of dollars he has given to support sharks and coral reef ecosystems.
A fine of up to $600,000 (£422,215) is expected to hit Allen – a drop in the ocean of his $18 billion (£12.6 billion) wealth.
“Early findings already indicate extensive damage,” a spokesman for the Cayman Islands' Department of Environment told the Cayman News Service. They also said they were “paying close attention to lessons learned so that we can more effectively prevent these accidents while still hosting visiting yachts.”
Vulcan, Allen’s investment firm, released an online statement, saying: “Vulcan Inc. and Paul G. Allen have a long history of responsible exploration and a commitment to ocean conservation.
“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.”