Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is coming under fire for an accident involving his massive 300-foot yacht, which ploughed into a protected coral reef on January 14th. The damage was extensive: the ship’s chain ripped up 14,000 square feet, or 80% of the reef. What makes this especially embarrassing is the fact that Allen is a well-known marine conservationist — last year alone, he donated $2.6 million to help preserve fisheries.

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It’s unclear whether or not Allen was on board the vessel at the time of the accident, but his investment firm claims that the yacht crew immediately responded to reports that they may have impacted the reef by relocating the ship. Allen could end up being fined up to $600,000 for damage to the reef, although with an estimated net worth of $17.4 billion, paying the bill is not likely to be a problem for him.

This isn’t the first time a ship has ripped up a coral reef in the Cayman Islands recently. In 2014, a Carnival cruise ship damaged a reef in the George Town harbor, prompting the company to make a $100,000 donation. Last year, a Pullmantur cruise ship took out another large tract of reef, although the company managed to get off without paying any fines or donations. While the latest incident is bad publicity for Allen, it’s clearly part of a larger problem.

Related: The Caribbean has Lost 80% of its Coral Reefs According to Catlin Seaview Survey

With research showing that half the world’s coral reefs have been destroyed in the last 30 years, regular incidents like this are inexcusable. In a statement to the Guardian, a spokesperson for the Cayman Islands’ department of environment acknowledged that there were lessons to be learned so accidents like this could be prevented in the future. Maybe the takeaway should be that the presence of large ships should be limited to areas far away from vulnerable reefs.

Via The Guardian

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