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Billionare and DOE face off in accountability showdown

An undersea showdown is taking shape.

Billionaire software tycoon Paul Allen and his company, Vulcan Inc. said their experts are standing by to fix a coral reef, but the Department of Environment is standing in the way.

At issue: an admission of accountability.

The DOE said it can’t give the green light to the billionaire’s reef restoration plan as long as disagreements persist over the source of the damage.

The latest salvo in what’s becoming a war of words: put aside liability issues and let us fix the reef.

Billionaire Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen said an expert team of reef restorationists are on standby to clean up a 13,800 square foot mess of dead and broken coral in the West Bay replenishment zone.

“We are ready to put aside issues of liability, to be resolved later, to fix the coral now before it degrades further,” Vulcan Inc. said in its latest statement, issued 20 February. “By contrast, [the DOE] has continued to delay approving or implementing action on the remediation plan.”

Minister Wayne Panton, speaking this month on 4 February’s broadcast of The Panel, made government’s position on the Tatoosh matter abundantly clear.

“It doesn’t have to be a criminal prosecution, but certainly there needs to be something that reflects the fact that there is an acceptance of accountability,” said Mr. Panton.

No one from the Ministry or the DOE have consented to an interview or made public comments on the Tatoosh matter since then.

From the beginning, Vulcan has questioned whether the nearly 14,000 square feet of damage to the reef was even caused by the billionaire’s 300-foot mega-yacht Tatoosh, saying the crew anchored as directed by the Port Authority.

While it appears the DOE and Mr. Allen’s company agree on the basics, what needs repair and how to get it done, roadblocks persist in what has become a standoff.

The DOE showed no signs of blinking in a 19 February statement:

“Because Vulcan continues to disagree with the scale and the source of the damage, as well as the length of time required for the restoration effort, details of the remediation plan have not been finalised,” said DOE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie in that statement.

Now, more than five weeks after the damage was reported, time is running out to save what coral might be left.


The DOE said while a remediation plan sits in limbo, it has been working with a coral restoration firm contracted by Mr. Allen’s company to do emergency stabilisation to the reef and coral salvage work in the damaged area.

We’ve reached out to several contacts at the Department and at the Ministry for interviews, but have not heard back.

About the author

Joe Avary

Joe Avary

Joe Avary has been with Cayman 27 since 2014. He brings 20 years in television experience to the job, working hard every day to bring the people of Cayman stories that inform the public and make a difference in the community. Joe hopes his love for the Cayman Islands shines through in his informative and entertaining weather reports. If you have a story idea for Joe or just want to say hello, call him at 324-2141 or send an email to

1 Comment

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  • Where is the sense in risking the viability of the coral restoration just so they can point the finger at someone. Why does it matter , Vulcan offered to fund the work to be done to repair the damage whether they caused it or not. This is all a political that will simply end int tax payers bearing the financial burden of repairing the coral or just just simply nothing gets done. The Tatoosh will just sail on never to return to Cayman .

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