UPDATE, APRIL 5, 2016: According to a statement released jointly by the Cayman Islands’ Department of Environment and Paul Allen’s company, nearly 1,600 hard and soft coral plus sponges have been restored along the reef. The work reportedly took place over 24 days in March. A coral-restoration specialist hired by the Department of Environment will monitor the area in the coming months and years to assess success. “Both the DoE and Vulcan have worked hard to ensure that the implementation of this plan reflects the best international standards for restoration of coral habitats and are pleased by the completion of the work and the joint partnership that made it possible,” the statement adds.
Read on for our original article.
Tatoosh made international headlines last month when her anchor damaged a Cayman Islands’ coral reef. Now, owner Paul Allen has offered restoration assistance.
Allen and his company, Vulcan, have offered to send coral-restoration specialists to work alongside the Cayman’s Department of Environment. He and the company additionally have submitted a plan to the same department to ensure the reef is restored. In a statement posted earlier this week on its website, Vulcan says, “Paul G. Allen and Vulcan believe the most important action now is a rapid review of the remediation plan by local officials and the restoration of the reef. Time is of the essence, and we stand ready to begin playing our part in quickly implementing that plan.” The cost of the plan is not mentioned.
The 303-foot (92.38-meter) Tatoosh was in the Cayman Islands on January 14 when her anchor chain dragged across a coral reef. At that time, the nation’s Department of Environment stated that a 13,000-square-foot area was impacted. The agency added that 80 percent of the coral in that area was destroyed. Allen’s representatives have said that Tatoosh was directed by the Cayman’s Port Authority to anchor there. About two weeks after the incident, Vulcan posted this statement on its website:
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.
The Port Authority has not commented on the matter. Because investigations into the Tatoosh incident continue, the Department of Environment is issuing no additional comments.
The statement released by Vulcan on its website was updated earlier this week, underscoring Allen’s commitment to ocean-related causes:
Paul G. Allen and his company, Vulcan Inc., have a long history of commitment to improving the health and preservation of our oceans and marine life. As a global philanthropist and conservationist, Mr. Allen has developed programs and invested in solutions that protect and regenerate declining coral reefs, created the largest comprehensive data-collection and analysis of the world’s populations of reef sharks and rays, and is working to raise awareness and inspire action to address climate change and illegal fishing. Because of that commitment, the damage to the reef resonates particularly deeply with us and is why we supported swift action to help mitigate the impact and restore the reef as quickly as possible.
Regarding the remediation plan, Vulcan additionally says, “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 the Tatoosh.”
The statement has merit, particularly considering a highly publicized incident involving a cruise ship last December. A diver captured footage of the anchor chain draped and sometimes dragging across the reef. Despite obvious damage, the Department of Environment told the media the ship’s crew did no wrongdoing.