Restoration work on a section of coral reef in the Cayman Islands that was damaged by Paul Allen’s 92 metre superyacht Tatoosh in January has been completed.
The work, which took 24 days and more than 300 man hours, was jointly undertaken by experts from Polaris employed by Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc and the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DoE).
The damaged reef in the West Bay Replenishment Zone was first discovered by a local dive company who immediately alerted Tatoosh's crew and the Port Authority. An initial in-water survey estimated that 1,200 square metres had been damaged and that more than 80% of the coral within this area had been destroyed.
Vulcan Inc has always maintained that Tatoosh was directed to the anchorage by the Port Authority and has questioned how much of the damage was caused by the superyacht.
After a short dispute between Vulcan Inc and the DoE work began on the reef on March 1. It has now been revealed that the team reattached approximately 1,600 benthic organisms including — 429 hard corals more 20 centimetres in diameter, 955 hard corals less than 20 centimeters in diameter and 208 soft corals and sponges. More than 30 tons of cement and sand and eight tons of rubble were used to rebuild and restabilise the impacted area.
The redemption work took place under the oversight of coral restoration expert Dr. Harold Hudson.
“The reef remediation by Polaris Applied Sciences was an experienced-based approach to help minimise the damage and improve the likelihood of coral recovery in the area," said Dr. Hudson. "The swift implementation of this plan provides the greatest chance for recovery of the affected area and I commend both Vulcan and the DoE for their efforts to help ensure its rapid completion.”
A statement by Vulcan Inc reiterated that the DoE and Paul Allen remain “deeply committed to ocean health and conservation”.
“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 added.
The site will continue to be monitored in order to assess the reef's recovery.
This is not the first incident of this nature in the Cayman Islands. Last year another superyacht was accused of damaging a coral reef in the Cayman Islands but not enough conclusive evidence could be found to prosecute anyone for the damage.