DoE officers get power to protect

| 23/04/2015 | 18 Comments
Cayman News Service

DoE officer untangles a turtle from an illegal net

(CNS): With the commencement on Earth Day (Wednesday 22 April) of the bulk of the National Conservation Law, important local flora and fauna across the Cayman Islands are now, finally, after years of waiting, lawfully protected. Species like the banana orchid, the country’s national flower, and the silver thatch palm, its national tree, have protection under the law and the head of the Department Of Environment confirmed that DoE enforcement officers now have the power to enforce that protection.

Speaking at a press briefing yesterday to mark the implementation of a large part of the legislation, the DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said that Part 6 of the legislation finally gives the department’s officer the power to properly protect Cayman’s endemic species and powers of arrest where they suspect unlawful action against protected species.

She explained that the DoE has added two new enforcement officers to the team, bringing the total to seven full time officers, who can now carry batons and cuffs. They have all been trained by the RCIPS and there are internal policies and proper procedures in place to complement provisions of law and ensure officers conduct themselves constitutionally and fairly.

Their new power will make a significant difference on the ground to help enforce practical conservation measures and stop people deliberately violating the law, Ebanks Petrie said.

Cayman News Service

Banana orchid (courtesy of Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park)

However, the director said it would never be possible to have enough officers to cover the entire coastline and terrestrial areas all of the time, which was where the environment had to depend on people taking personal responsibility for it as well.

“We want people to internalize how valuable the environment is and why we need to protect it,” she said. “We hope to see people starting to exhibit behaviours that respect our environment.”

Wayne Panton, the minister responsible for steering the legislation through the parliament, despite considerable political opposition, explained that the enforcement issue was important but the law was about embracing sustainable development, not about preventing economic growth, and that it had struck the right balance. Regardless of the new powers of enforcement, for the law to be a success, it required people to take responsibility, he added.

The minister agreed with the director that there would never be enough resources to guard the marine and terrestrial life in Cayman round the clock but he said that was where education campaigns and awareness programmes would be important. Panton said that, when it came to policing the law, the DoE would be relying on the public to assist. Just like the police depend on witnesses, he urged those who see people committing offences against the environment to call it in.

Ebanks-Petrie said the DoE has always had a reporting line and urged people to continue using it to help them enforce the law. The National Conservation Council will appointing appoint wardens, who will also be able to assist in the goal to protect the beautiful and valuable local environment, she said.

People can call to report environmental infractions on the office line 949-8469 or the chief enforcement officer directly on 916-4271. People on Cayman Brac can call 926-0136 and on Little Cayman 916-7021 or 926-2342. But all suspected offences can also now be reported via 911.

Check back to CNS later for more on this commencement and the future full implementation of the NCL.

The National Conservation Law, 2013

The National Conservation Law, 2013 (Commencement) Order, 2015

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Category: Land Habitat, Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (18)

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  1. 12:46 says:

    Been there, done that, had it addressed. Hence why I think it can be done. Half of Cayman’s problem is the public not getting off their dudgeon and acting on their own behalf.

  2. Anonymous says:

    10:52 – My experience has been that they do – employ staff with integrity, civility & backbone. So here’s a challenge to you. Go to the Director, Chief Officer or Complaints Commissioner (depending on how far removed from the source you want to go) and say ‘I gave actionable information to officer so-and-so at time/place and nothing was done’. Otherwise there’s just your anonymous say-so against my expectation that they would react officially and negatively to any of their enforcement staff ‘ignoring’ a good report of poaching.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is Cayman, do you really think that making a complaint will actually be dealt with appropriately. You live in a dream world my friend. Too many family connections and too many people in positions of influence who don’t want to be accountable for their own, or others actions.

    • Anonymous says:

      And my experience seems to have struck a cord with quite a few people. Perhaps my experience is more common than yours.

    • Anonymous says:

      Here’s a challenge for you 12:46. Try making an allegation against a govt officer without corroborating witnesses and see how far your complaint goes. Take your head out of the sand, life, especially here on Cayman, isn’t as simple as you claim.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Imagine if even a small portion of the Environmental Protection Fund ($45,000,000 and counting) could actually be used for its stated and intended purpose.

    Oh well. One can always dream.

  4. Anonymous says:

    So we have seven full time DoE officers now. Well if they are all as unhelpful, discourteous and evasive as the one I met in WB recently then God help us. He seemed to go out of his way to avoid reacting to an eye witness account of local men taking lobster out of season. I know not why but can only assume that he either couldn’t be bothered and had more pressing things to do, or he was deliberately avoiding possible confrontation.
    Whatever the reason for his behaviour, unless the DoE employ staff with integrity, civility and some backbone, then all the laws now enacted will be useless.

    • SSM345 says:

      You sure that was a DOE Officer and not one of the poachers friends pretending to be one?
      All the DOE officers I know and have encountered would not act that way, they would have reacted accordingly.

      • Anonymous says:

        Actually, I observed one in the East who acts like he is the strong arm of the law, like the air of authority is more important than the job in hand. I regularly walk my dogs at this spot and have seen him a few times. He’s not very approachable at all.

    • Anonymous says:

      Make a report to the enforcement supervisor, he will address the problem confidentially.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah right.

      • Anonymous says:

        Is this going to end up like the landlord and tenant, and other “gratuitous gesture” laws – as I have now come to call them? Just gathering dust on the shelf with no effective (yet sorely needed) enforcement because money is better spent entertaining petty nonsense it seems?

        Good news but only if it really happens.

      • Anonymous says:

        As a former DoE employee who no longer resides on Cayman, I can confidently say that reporting anything to enforcement management is a non starter, especially if a Caymanian is involved. This dept, to my knowledge has an appalling record with staff discipline and has had several issues with dubious enforcement staff in the past.
        Whilst the majority of staff are loyal, diligent and proactive, some in the past have not and that has reflected poorly on the others. Every organisation has bad apples, the DoE is no exception.
        The solution is a stronger, more professional and more resolute management, the very same people who you want to report to

  5. Anonymous says:

    The purpose of this law is to protect biodiversity on land and in the water. If we are serious about this, and not just doing this for show, we have to do something about the green iguana. The damage that this species is causing to the ecosystem is severe.

  6. Mike says:

    Now getting them out of their trucks and actually arresting someone will be the next step. Perhaps being trained by the RCIPS wasn’t a good place to look for an example.

    • Anonymous says:

      Fair point, but with seemingly only a few officers on duty at any one time, (days off, leave, sickness) it must be impossible to patrol the entire island without long periods sitting in trucks.
      As a recently retired law enforcement officer I have also observed some shortcomings in their MO. I would think that a terrestrial and marine based unit should have the means to patrol on land but absolutely must have the appropriate number of water based assets in order to maintain a near constant presence on the water, (inside and outside of the reef and at less predictable hours). After all, it would seem to me that the wide spread poaching of marine life and the destruction of the marine environment is the major law enforcement priority of this unit.
      Other points in need of attention must be the need for a serious upgrade of equipment to enable officers to do their job effectively and safely, and definitely more operational staff.
      It is easy to criticise those who try their best with minimal resources, but with little chance of back up and low pay, would you take their place?

      • Mike says:

        I resigned my post from law enforcement in Cayman very recently and I can say with 100% surety that, no, I would not take their place for all the tea in China.

  7. anonomyous says:

    Hallelujah we have finally entered this century!! NOW give this wildly underfunded Dept. some money to do their jobs!!!

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