Marine habitat first in line for NCL protection

| 26/08/2015 | 43 Comments
Cayman News Service

Silversides in George Town Harbour (Photo by courtney Platt)

(CNS): The marine environment is the first local habitat to be proposed for protection under the National Conservation Law. An updated version of the enhancement of the local marine parks presented by the Department of Environment more than three years ago is now open to public consultation to pave the way for more comprehensive and relevant protection for coastal areas and near shore waters. Given the massive changes that have occurred since the Cayman Islands had the foresight almost thirty years ago to put protections in place for its precious marine resources, the current measures are now in desperate need of enhancement.

Announcing the start of the public consultation process on the new proposals to protect local waters and how it will be managed, Environment Minister Wayne Panton said that the previous three decades demonstrated how important that vision was in the 1980s to put protection measures in place. While they have helped enormously to preserve Cayman’s precious but increasingly precarious marine environment, it is no longer enough.

“We have slowed the decline of the environment but now we need to do more,” Panton said at a press briefing on Wednesday, as he explained that the enhancement to marine protection would ensure the resources enjoyed in the past will still be there for future generations and to support the tourism product.

Since the marine parks were first established in 1986, Cayman’s population has grown almost threefold and visitor numbers have more than quadrupled. There has also been an unprecedented amount of costal development and destruction of mangroves — critical nurseries for marine life — which has put massive pressures on the marine life. On top of that, the invasive lion fish, climate change, acidification and coral bleaching have all take their toll on the local habitat, putting it under increasing stress.

Although Cayman is not a subsistence economy, with few people relying on fishing to feed their families, there are still a considerable number of people fishing to supplement their income using near shore waters, which is also adding to the pressure. DoE research has revealed that almost 15,000 fish are taken from local waters every month and 85% of that take is from the reef and shallow waters.

DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said that it was self-evident that things in Cayman had changed dramatically since 1986 and the time had come to enhance existing protections, as the pressures are increasing while the protection that had served Cayman well have not and are no longer sufficient.

The DoE began the public discussions about enhancing marine parks in 2012 but it has since collected considerably more scientific information after working with the UK-funded Darwin project. That data and the public input has all been fed into the latest proposals, which are now available for public viewing on the DoE website and will soon be on public display in libraries and other strategic places. The DoE will be hosting district and stakeholder meetings next month.

Ebanks-Petrie urged everyone to make their thoughts known over the next 90 days and play a part in ensuring that Cayman remains a regional leader in conservation at a time of exceptional pressure on reef systems and costal habitats.

The DoE boss said that since the parks were created, marine protection science has advanced and best practice now calls for more ‘no take’ zones over more areas. But she said this would lead to better spillover into fishing zones. Although the DoE is proposing to expand the areas where no one can fish anything, she pointed out that broader and better managed conservation areas will see marine life spread into the fishing zones, which will soon become more abundant.

With growing numbers of people also using the water for recreation and the challenges that were never anticipated in the past, the DoE has developed a comprehensive proposal to take conservation and environmental sustainability into the future. Ebanks- Petrie said the new proposed marine park maps won’t seem dramatically different; the most significant change is the ‘no take’ areas because the amount of take has now reached unsustainable levels. In addition, she said, the no dive zones were also being enhanced to better manage recreational access.

Simplifying the zones will also make it easier for the conservation officers, who now have real powers of arrest and enforcement, to police and make sure no one is fishing in the ‘no take’ areas and only using the designated zones.

For more details visit the DoE website here and check back for more on the proposal and the public consultation.

Check CNS tomorrow on how marine protections will sit with the cruise berthing facility proposal. 

Environment Minister Wayne Panton and DoE Director Gine Ebanks-Petrie at press briefing 26 August 2015

Environment Minister Wayne Panton and DoE Director Gine Ebanks-Petrie at press briefing 26 August 2015

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (43)

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  1. paul says:

    Good to see some constructive debate on this topic.

    Recreational fishing is as popular in my home country of new zealand as it is here. NZ has explicit policies in place as to the catch limit and minimum size for individual species of fish and this is vigorously enforced. It is rare to come back to the boat ramp after a days fishing in a popular spot and not see Fishery Officers stopping every single boat and inspecting their days take. These guys are not to be messed with.. anyone caught exceeding their limits can have their boat, trailer and vehicle impounded with immediate effect. Harsh.. but its a great deterrent! And most importantly, it works.

    In addition, much like here, nz has long established marine parks. Over time these protected habitats have proven to benefit the greater marine environment by providing safe areas for juvenile species to develop. Again, enforcement and education have been key in their success. Get caught taking any catch from these areas, say goodbye to your boat.

    As a result of this long standing system there is no excuse for anyone to claim ignorance of the laws. Additionally, an element of self-policing of the system has become the norm. The vast majority of anglers respect the quotas and do not take kindly to seeing anyone taking quantities of undersized fish.

    Developing a culture of sustainable fishing is reliant on enforcement of the stated policy. Hopefully DoE receives the funding required to be effective and the wider fishing community gets behind it too.

    • Moby Dick says:

      I am afraid that the realities of demography in the Caribbean (as compared to New Zealand) render your suggestions impracticable, not to say impossible.

      • paul says:

        Good point mr dick. Buying a dedicated fisheries boat and deploying a few officers to enforce legislation… highly impracticable. Imagine the logistics involved. Eg, would it be one man, one boat? There is no way this demographic could cope.

        Next issue, please!


  2. Fish Tales says:

    I’m curious to know the impact of the many fishing tournaments that are held each year have on the environment.

    Dr. Harvey I know educates in the are of saving sharks but what about all the other fish that gets fished out every year during these 3 and 4 day events.

    • Anonymous says:

      Those are all pelagic open ocean roaming fish. not Cayman resident fish.

      • Driftwood not born – who cares, right?

        • Anonymous says:

          Such a silly comment from someone who has no idea about fish and fishing. This is not an expat v caymanian thing. all this means is that they are not fish that come into near shore waters and have no effect on the fish that remain in the local area. they remain out in the open ocean and continue travel along in open ocean currents. They only pass by the islands with the main ocean currents.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Might also be time to think about requiring pollution free boats in some of the more intensely operated sensitive areas ??

  4. Another Dave in Paradise says:

    I don’t suppose there is any possibility of using the millions of dollars in the EPF to fund an enhanced enforcement program? I guess that money is just there to help massage the books. Until someone can figure out how to steal it or distribute it to voters.

    • Anonymous says:

      No. The EPF was created years ago to provide the money for environmental land banking, e.g., buying Barkers for a National Park. Not paying operational costs.

      • Anonymous says:

        So please explain why it has been used for other purposes in the meantime. I doubt it has ever been used for land banking.

        • Anonymous says:

          1) It has been used for some land banking, hence the Barkers reference. (Do searches on here and Compass site for the old articles.)
          2) As you read those old articles you’ll note that, yes, it has been used for other purposes. With objections. So, again, lets keep the EPF for what it was intended. Land banking and similar. Not operational expenses, e.g., Park Rangers, i.e., enforcement.

  5. Anonymous says:

    There are a lot more people than in the 70’s and many more seafood restaurants. There is not enough to go around. Cut the 17% import duty and take some of the pressure off. The local product is still going to get a premium on the menu.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’ve told my children about a time in the early 1970’s when you could just crush a soldier crab with a rock and drop it near the shore and simply kick this fish onto the beach. There were so many snappers that you would eventually get one or two large enough to eat.

    They don’t believe me and I find that sad.

    I doubt that we could return to that and our conservation efforts so far has been good. But I believe that we need to think differently if we are to have a sustainable marine program, because defending certain zones is clearly not enough.

    Every five years, we need to ban all recreation water activities for 1 year for everyone, no exceptions. So no motor vessels of any kind, no fishing, no diving or snorkeling. Unless you just swimming from a beach or you are cargo or military ship you have to wait until the following next year to use Cayman’s waters.

    The economic impact of doing something like this would be very big. But like everything else, if we plan for it we can do it. I believe that the reward to our marine environment would be enormous. Not only would it be more beautiful and sustainable, but we could start the bidding war for the first dives after that year of rest and easily make up for the economic loss. We would be truly exclusive.

    If the affected businesses do not like that explanation, then too bad. You need to understand that you are earning a living by using public spaces (i.e. Cayman’s waters). It does not belong to you, it belongs to the Caymanian people. You have failed to care for it and so the people need to take it back.

    Every young Caymanian should see Little Cayman’s marine environment to be reminded of what Grand Cayman used to look like.

    • Southsounder says:

      Whilst I sympathise with your observations, banning all vessels from local waters for a year, is an utterly insane idea, with no scientific evidence to support the proposal.

      All this will do is damage tourism, cause massive redundancies in the Marine service industry and be vigorously opposed by some very powerful Caymanian families, so not a great idea!.

      What it appears that we really need, is much better policing of the protected marine environment zones.

      The waters of the South Sound, a marine conservation zone, are plundered on a regular basis by local fishermen, visitors, residents, divers and snorkelers, both in and out of the Conch/Lobster seasons and it has been many years since I saw a Marine Parks Enforcement boat inside the reef, on patrol.

      There is no point in having laws if they are never enforced, you can legislate till you are dizzy but it won’t make a dam difference if there is no political will to fund the enforcement program.

      Funding from a boat licensing program would probably contribute a great deal to enforcement costs,but that’s another can of worms nobody wants to open!

    • WaYaSay says:

      I like the thought process of this argument, but I think it is too severe. We have to do something to cut back on the overfishing issue, especially conch, lobster and grouper. But we cannot cut off everything for a year, it would be disastrous. What may be feasible is banning the lobster, conch and whelk takes for a year or two straight. And make the penalties much more severe than they currently are. Enforcement will have to be stepped up a lot. And you have to ban the restaurants from buying local lobster, conch and whelks. And those penalties for any restaurant must be very severe too.

      I actually think that’s a terrible idea the longer that I think about it. There is no way that is sustainable. I plan on running for the next election and if one of those off years popped up while the country is on my watch, there is no way I’d be voted in the following election. I want power.

      • WaYaSay says:

        So what if I want to run for Government. I will not keep quiet. I will not stop voicing my opinion. I is who I is, dammit.

        • Anonymous says:

          OK dimwit, you can have the name WaYaSay, I will just post as anonymous. Now you can post as fake anonymous.

          You, fake WaYaSay, are obviously a sitting politician who is scared shitless of what I have posted on CNS in the past…………but this is ridiculous.

          You obviously have no credibility so you are trying to hang on to my coat-tails………….just make up a fake name for yourself.

          When you start posting and answering yourself using my fake name, it is time for me to give the name WaYaSay up to you.

          Now Sir/Madam……..What do you say?

          No longer WaYaSay!

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually it belongs to the Crown, on behalf of the British people, (including Caymanians).
      And what a catastrophic, and dare I say, stupid proposal. Cayman would be bankrupt within the first year due to the collapse of the tourism and service sector, there wouldn’t be anyone left to offer diving or snorkelling as all the respective operators would have either gone bust or relocated.
      And without any doubt whatsoever, it is the Caymanian people who are to blame for the destruction of the marine environment. From the evident greed of selling out family inherited land to developers, to over fishing and poaching, it is you who have destroyed the waters surrounding Cayman and the various Eco systems that they rely on. It is you who almost single handedly wiped out the green turtle and grouper population through the blind belief that God would provide. Well he didn’t and you can’t be trusted to put it right.

      • Anonymous says:

        Pretty harsh. Britain is not exactly a pristine undisturbed environment either. Should e trust them to put it right?

      • Anonymous says:

        You just could not resist……now could you? Bitter man. So sorry you missed out on the good times. I am sure God provided lots of Grouper and GreenTurtles for you in Britain.

        If they belong to the Crown ……….then I suppose they are responsible, if they are no longer around, because they did not protect them! They could have repatriated them back there you know.

        I do agree with the new conservation law put forward by Mr. Panton though………perhaps you noticed he IS a true Caymanian.

        No longer WaYaSay

    • Anonymous says:

      Seems to ban a lot of activities with zero impact just so the folks doing the damage can feel less guilty. Of course, the really bad actors, the poachers, already ignore the rules, they wouldn’t stop. “Oh, I’m just swimming from shore, all those conch followed me back…”

    • Anonymous says:

      Or maybe have one day/month that only LGBT’s are allowed to fish!

    • Anonymous says:

      Should we also become vegans and force all restaurants into vegetarian menus only as well?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Yet another non sensical Public consultation, (or delaying tactic as it is more commonly known) what happened to government by mandate?
    It seems that every piece of legislation is open to the committee of public scrutiny instead of being scrutinised, debated and promoted by those overpaid hopeless cases they call MLA’s. Exactly what do we get get for our general election pledges and CI$100k + a year politicians?
    And on top of that, how are these laws going to be enforced without quality enforcement officers, and more of them?

  8. Anonymous says:

    If DOE enforced any of the other laws as much as they enforce spear gun licensing we’d be in a great place. The main success of the spear gun regulation is due to the fact that you have to go to them to get the license. Heaven forbid the have to leave that air-conditioned building and office though and enforcement drops about 90%. Carl is one of the harder working guys but he doesn’t get a ton of support. You need marine police out there all the time and they need backing form the legal system.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I agree that more marine parks are not the issue. Size and bag limits with adequate enforcement and substantial fines would do the job. That would all hinge on the ability of the judges to uphold the fines and penalties in court rather than giving repeat offenders who decimate marine populations a slap on the wrist. Something I would agree with is the taking away of shore fishing in marine parks etc as I see many people (some of which are not even local) fishing every morning in South Sound on my way to work. One guy in particular has 4 or 5 lines out every morning and he catches baby fish. He is there 6-7 days a week.

  10. WaYaSay says:

    I hope Wayne has the foresight to put off gazetteing the regulations that will go along with this new law, until 2017, or Alden and Moses might have to put him in his place!

    If he waits until 2017, this can be a win, win , win, win, win, win, loose, loose situation for everyone involved.
    Win for Cruise Dock, win for Hon. Panton, win for Hon. McLaughlin, win for Hon. Kirkconnell, win for the duty free stores, win for pro dock group, loose for Save Cayman.Org and loose for the underwater environment.

    Oh yes, and a win for irony!

    • Anonymous says:

      I take offense to your comment, WaYaSay. Alden and Moses are completing the projects they campaigned on and won by a landslide victory. What you are forgetting is that the people of Cayman have voted them in to get these done and save Cayman’s economy and Caymanian’s jobs. These projects have not been shoved down anyone’s throats, they have been talked about for 20 years and the projects have started and stopped many times due to political feuds or change of Governments.

      There seems to be only a few sides that are against the cruise berthing facility being built; the tendering company owners, those who are friends with the tendering company owners or work for any of the companies also owned by the the tender company owners, and a few very loud environmentalists (most not from Cayman) who are being bank rolled by the tendering company owners. There seems to be a glaring connection between all of these.

      Oh and I forgot, there are people like you, WaYaSay, who are against it simply because you want to run for government and you are taking advantage of the polarity of attention this project is getting and you want to try as hard as you can to make the current administration look bad. Maybe you are also mad at the current administration because they did not elect you to any boards and now you feel powerless, and commenting on CNS is the only thing that makes you feel big and tall and proud again. It’s sad really.

      You don’t have to cry over spilled milk, WaYaSay, because you want to be in Governement and you’re jealous of all these projects happening. It is funny to see a hater hate though.

      • Anonymous says:

        Really………….PPM won by a landslide? Nine seats out of 18 is a landslide in your world? Come on man!

        Is that why they had to form a coalition Government? Is that why they had to make a deal with the devil and take on the UDP Deputy Premier and the UDPLite Premier and make her Speaker of the House, notwithstanding that she was accused of misappropriation of funds for paving driveways in Cayman Brac? Landslide my a**!…………….. Save Cayman’s economy my a**!

        I am sorry you are offended, but quite frankly my dear……….I don’t give a damn!
        You my friend are as dumb as a log

        I went to most of their campaign meetings and I did not hear too much about building a $200million CBF, nor did I hear anything about the details of said CBF.

        What I did hear is that they thought we needed 2 million cruise visitors per year. That my friend can be done without spending $200million.
        In 2006, McKeeva Bush managed to bring 1.93 cruise visitors without spending $200million on a dock. I voted for Alden because I thought, surely if McKeeva Bush could bring 1.93, utilizing the old tenders they had 10 years ago, then for sure Moses could hit the 2 million mark by working with the tender providers to upgrade their fleet. It appears I was misguided, although I still think PPM is better than UDP.

        With the Airport, the CBF, the necessary road improvements, the inability to claw back given away tourism taxes or change the illegal NRA deal, the necessary fixing of the dump, the kick in the teeth to CITA and stayover tourism and the wanton disregard for the George Town underwater environment ………..I am starting to see how misguided I was. The overspending spree has started again.

        My beef with the CBF is, and has always only been,…………..THE COST and how we are going to pay for it!
        Perhaps you could stop posting to me and tell us all how you see the financing of the CBF being worked out and how we are going to pay for the “loan” ………….Giving up more of our children’s Government revenue fees to some savior?

        I have no vested interest in the Duty Free providers nor with the tendering providers, indeed I put forward a far cheaper solution that will have both benefiting from 2 million plus cruise visitors per year. My solution had the added benefit of not dumping all 2 million onto Harbor Drive so that we did not overwhelm the George Town infrastructure. Moses can then brag about record numbers and that we are the forth largest cruise visitor port of call in the WORLD.

        I presume you realize that cruisers who are in George town that have no intention of shopping, just there to catch a cab to a West Bay destination, really are of no interest to the Duty Free providers. Non shoppers in a Duty Free store are only there for the AC and make the shopping experience more hectic for the serious shoppers ………….but I am sure that is too much common sense for you!

        If this CBF is such a great idea, how can anything I say “make the current administration look bad’? They do not need my help with that, with friends like you, they are doing a good enough job with that themselves.

        Please think before posting things like “environmentalists most not from Cayman” you make us ALL look like fools. The late Mr. Bobby Soto must be turning over in his grave.
        Do you even realize that the underwater environment is the cornerstone of our entire Tourism Industry?
        What above water, besides our friendly people and Seven Mile Beach, do you think a tourist would travel overseas to visit?
        Hell, the Turtle Farm, mount trashmore, Banking, Duty Free Shops? …….Come on man!

        With regards to me running for politics, I fully realize if I do and I am successful, I may end up representing some idiot like YOU!
        That alone is enough to put me off.


        • Anonymous says:

          This sounds like the ranting of a disgruntled ex-C4C big man who is still holding grudges from not sweeping and holding the flag of victory they proclaimed in the campaign. Also someone that felt they would have to be partnered with to form said coalition gov only to be disappointed again when Julie was chosen. Only to see a little complimentary seat thrown Tara’s way.

          No duty free interest you say. Well I guess not anymore.

          The world was a different place back in 2006 but that is nothing Mac can claim as his doing. The fact of the matter is that not your any future politician can bring 2 mill without berthing. The tender operators know that too, sure they are trying to cling on to the cash cow monopoly they have but who would blame them. At $5+ per head it doesn’t take too much to see how translating the tender fee into a berthing fee won’t take too long to pay for itself. We will just have to watch the next phase and wait to hear how many cruise lines will be investing but I doubt finding the funds will be an issue.

          As far as being as dumb as a log, you can’t be too far off if you really believe all the uber hype from save cayman.

          I can only thank God that you chose to take the sidelines in the last election so you aren’t in the middle of this decision or our children, grands and great grands would have you to thank for their dismal future.

          Not the new wayasay or the fake anonymous jus can tell a fool when I see one.

          • Anonymous says:

            Actually the numbers will hit 1.9m net year so Moses did a pretty good job of turning us around from the 1.3m we saw in 2012.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know what has happened with your website, but I can no longer vote or respond to any of your web news stores. If it is your software, then you need to fix it, if it is from being against the CBF then perhaps the pro dock people have blocked me with some kind of malware. If it doesn’t change, I will be forced to no longer use or read your site. A shame as I really appreciate your balanced reporting.

    CNS: I don’t think the software to block people with particular opinions will be available for another couple of decades. Can you email me with more details of the problem ?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Pretty soon there will be no where for the average person to fish. The areas that I used to fish as a boy in West Bay are now dive sights. This proposal is just taking the easy way out for the enforcement officers. What we need is bag and size limits. And dont tell me that they dont work. As it is I guess I will just fish as close to the marine parks as I can get use massive amounts of chum and keep as many fish as the boat can hold.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is selfish people like you that are the problem. Classic tragedy of the commons.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yep, is a good thing that you, the highborn can buy your fish at the supermarket that comes from sustainable fisheries in 1st world countries….. pure hypocrisy, the chicken you buy is from an intensive farm, so is the meat and guess what? the fish comes from a worst regulated place. just hush

  13. Eco Warrior says:

    Does this law and marine protection apply to the GT habor Hog Sty Bay Cheese Burger Reef and the area designated for the proposed Cruise Berthing Facilities?

    • Anonymous says:

      I hope so, they should make sure they correct the marine park so it doesn’t interfere with our nations one and only port. otherwise how else will we grow as an island.

    • Anonymous says:

      Those areas are already a Marine Park. So there is essentially no change in regulation there, at least as far as development of a dock is concerned.

      (Realistically, a Marine Park is not going to stop a project that size if all of the other impacts don’t. You won’t hear a decision-maker anywhere say ‘well, I don’t mind the loss of coral reef and associated fish life, but I can’t put a dock in a no-fishing zone because …’. Actually, I can’t even think of a ‘because’.)

  14. Anonymous says:

    We do not need bigger parks or shorter seasons. We need enforcement of existing restrictions! It is a free-for-all at the moment. Poaching is rampant on this island and I can’t tell you the last time I was approached by an enforcement officer (I’m always on the water). Please can we have patrols and spot checks on boaters every day of the week??

    • Anonymous says:

      I was about to make the exact same comment, but you nailed it. All this is going to do is make it harder for those of us who play by the rules. The existing marine parks, replenishment zones and closed seasons would be more than adequate if they were properly enforced. I have never once been stopped and spot checked and I also spend a lot of time on the water. It’s also well known that in certain districts (hello East End), marine park rules and seasons basically have no effect whatsoever.

      If the DoE is under staffed or lacking the power to do anything, fix that or put the Police in charge of enforcement, and use the environmental fund to pay for it – that’s what it’s there for

  15. Anonymous says:


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