Minister talks accountability after Tatoosh reef damage incident

Calling it a ‘tragic’ situation for our reefs, Minister of Environment Wayne Panton took to Cayman 27’s airwaves, breaking government’s radio silence on the most recent case of damage to a proi

“People are just making mistakes, doing things stupidly, recklessly, I don’t know what it is, but damage is being caused to the marine environment, which has an immense value to us,” said Mr. Panton.

Enough is enough, said the minister.

Speaking to Cayman 27’s Tammi Sulliman on this week’s edition of the panel, he fielded questions about this latest reef left in shambles by a visiting yacht owned by billionaire software tycoon Paul Allen.

“As I understand it, this vessel caused this damage, and it’s clear that is an issue. It’s an offense under our marine conservation law,” said Mr. Panton.

He told Cayman 27 an offence is an offence, no matter how deep the offender’s pockets might be.

“Whether it’s caused by a 50 foot boat owned by somebody who is a millionaire, or less, has less net worth, or whether it’s caused by a vessel of 300 feet owned by a multi-billionaire, it shouldn’t matter. We should hold people accountable and address the issues,” said the Minister.

He said accountability won’t necessarily mean anyone will be dragged into the courtroom dock.

“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 and some degree of sorting this out by contributing funds to either repair the reef or contribute to someone else doing it,” said Minister Panton.

Though it may be too late for this nearly 14,000 square foot stretch of prime diving real estate on the island’s west side, Mr. Panton told Cayman 27 he’s on board with calls to install permanent moorings for mega-yachts.

“It’s a bread and butter part of our tourism product, so we have to protect it, and do what we can,” said Minister Panton.

The minister acknowledged that putting in moorings strong enough to hold a vessel in the same size class as Tatoosh will be a challenge.

He said over the last decade, with an increase in visits from larger yachts and an accompanying increase in reef damage incidents, he will push for two, possibly three permanent moorings for vessels over 120 feet.

There are already permanent moorings for smaller craft, up to 120 feet, in George Town harbour.

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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  • Curious, I hear a lot of people throwing hate at Mr. Allen for this, but has there actually been an investigation into what happened. From their position they anchored where they were told, if so then who was it that told them to drop anchor there ?

    It ‘s very easy to point the finger at the rich guy an say it’s all their fault. Peter Allen is a billionaire philanthropist that supports Ocean conservation in huge way so I find it hard to believe that they would not be wiling to pay for damage they caused at their own fault. They may have even been willing to assist is wasn’t their fault if accusations hadn’t immediately started being thrown at them.

    It shouldn’t be a big deal to investigate and find out why they dropped their anchor where that did and who was actually responsible for it. If they were at fault there shouldn’t be any issues with seeking damages from them, unless they were not actually at fault.

Kirk Freeport – June 2019
Tanya’s Kitchen
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