Billionaire Paul Allen may have damaged a Caribbean reef with his mega-yacht

Allen and the offending boat

With great big yacht ownership, comes great big responsibility. For billionaire Paul Allen, best known as the co-founder of Microsoft along with Bill Gates, that responsibility should be concern for the environment.

Allen, who is worth an estimated $18.2 billion, is being accused by Cayman Island officials of shirking that responsibility. His $160 million 300-foot mega-yacht, MV Tatoosh — ranked the forty-third super-yacht in the world — may be seized for claims it had destroyed 14,000 square feet of protected Caribbean reef. The damage caused by an anchor supposedly dragging through protected coral could come with a high price — a $600,000 fine and up to four years in prison.

The Daily Mail reports that Tim Austin, the deputy director of research and Department of the Environment said that under the Cayman Islands national conservation law, damaging coral could be prosecuted as a criminal offense.

Allen’s team has fired back explaining the incident has been “greatly exaggerated.” While they are fully co-operating, a spokesperson for Allen’s investment and philanthropy firm, Vulcan, said that “the crew moved the vessel, on its own accord, as soon as it learned from local divers that there might be a problem.”

This recent debacle comes with an ironic twist. The philanthropist has championed sea-related environmental causes in the past, spending $2.6 million in 2014 to fund the University of British Columbia’s “Sea Around Us” to fight illegal fishing. Last year, he also funded the Smart Catch initiative to implore restaurants to use sustainable seafood.