Cayman’s reef threat goes global

| 29/09/2015 | 88 Comments
The Balboa Shipwreck and reef is located in 10 to 30 feet of water immediately in front of the cruise ship landing and will be completely removed by dredging operations if the cruise berth goes ahead as planned. Many consider the Balboa to be both, the number one and number two of the top ten dive sites in Grand Cayman - night dive is #1, day dive is #2. (Photo by Courtney Platt)

The Balboa Shipwreck and reef is located in 10 to 30 feet of water immediately in front of the cruise ship landing and will be completely removed by dredging operations if the cruise berth goes ahead as planned. Many consider the Balboa to be both, the number one and number two of the top ten dive sites in Grand Cayman – night dive is #1, day dive is #2. (Photo by Courtney Platt)

(CNS): International news leader CNN has published an article by three leading marine scientists who are raising the alarm on the world stage about the threat to Grand Cayman’s reefs as government continues to pursue plans to develop cruise berthing facilities. As Cayman waits to see if the Cayman government will press ahead, despite the dire environmental warnings but under significant pressure from a minority of powerful retailers, the story from the three experts warns, yet again, that any meaningful coral relocation is impossible.

In an engaging opinion piece Ellen Prager, Steven Miller and Carl Safina, all leaders in marine science, point out that the Cayman Islands government is about to destroy an historic shipwreck, acres of living coral reef and turn the water in George Town’s unique and beautiful harbour milky white from dredging.

Predicting that not only the George Town Harbour but the whole island will be altered forever, the experts explain why the idea of relocating coral is a myth that the pro-port lobby are using to misinform the wider public.

“Relocating entire coral reefs is impossible,” the marine scientists write in the CNN article. “It can’t be done, and the proponents of the project who suggest otherwise are wrong.”

The independent scientists, who have nothing to lose or gain by what happens in Cayman, explain that coral reefs are large, complex three-dimensional structures that form over thousands of years — but only when biology, geology, chemistry and physical factors align under the right circumstances.

“Warm ocean temperatures, sufficient flow and salinity, a stable substrate and pollution-free water, especially as related to nitrogen and phosphorus, are prerequisites for coral reefs to grow and thrive. And relatively shallow water is important so light can sustain the symbiotic relationship between corals and the microalgae that live in their tissues,” the authors state in the piece that sets out the fundamental problems with the idea that corals can be successfully moved.

The scientists write that the reef is not just what’s on the surface, but the three dimensional structure, which in George Town Harbour is comprised of “building-sized units” across dozens of acres, spelling out the scale of the destruction threatened if government agrees to the project in the face of emphatic and repeated advice from environmental experts not to press on.

The scientists acknowledge that coral reef restoration holds great promise as a mechanism for  expanding living corals but not starting from scratch to build entirely new reefs, which would be required if the Cayman government presses ahead with the controversial project.

The authors also warn that the example of Falmouth, Jamaica, as a model for successful coral reef relocation is misguided as the high mortality of the corals was an issue from the start. After transplanting many corals, very few actually survived at their new location and it has proved to be a very poor example.

“Simply put, there is no reef relocation, transplantation or mitigation that will bring back or restore the natural environmental and economic treasure that will be lost if the unique coral reef resources of George Town Harbour are destroyed,” the authors write, as they offer their support for sustainable tourism and the cruise industry.

The article comes at a time when concerns have been raised by local activists, the dive industry and environmentalists that government is about to announce its plans to press on towards a request for proposal, even in the absence of an updated business case from consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers – the outstanding but critical document that government would need to inform the decision it makes in regards to the economic viability of the project.

Despite enthusiasm for the project among most members of the government front bench, there have still been no details on how the government proposes to finance the development of two piers to accommodate four ships, including two of the larger cruise liners now sailing in the region, as well as the necessary upland development and supporting infrastructure.

However, speculation is mounting that the premier will announce government’s plans to press ahead with the project at tomorrow’s (30 September) Legislative Lunch hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.

CNN op-ed: Grand Cayman’s coral reefs must not be destroyed

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature, USA, World News

Comments (88)

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  1. R. Rogers says:

    Keep it Local, Either you don’t know many people, or you are a liar. Did you make this up by yourself?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Let this be confirmation to the Moses Kirkconnell to build the dock!

    What a clear desperate attempt by the eco-extremists to *get* CNN to run this utterly fabricated, incoherent, totally exaggerated liberal BS, to sway the government’s resolve to build the dock by bringing international attention on this issue. Which really is a non-issue in any normal developing country, which Cayman is (and has to) like it or not.

    Be a leader, and build this dock that should have been built two decades ago.

    • Anonymous says:

      When all that Cayman has left is gone, you will be the first saying “we shouldn’t of done that”, but will be too late, it will not be replaceable…so go ahead, punk, take the risk you world reef expert, make Caymans last days….

      • Anonymous says:

        Someone sounds salty. And as usual very over the top. Most of the Caribbean islands, smaller and larger, were able to put piers in and it did not end the world as you are trying to say. Get a grip buddy, get a grip. Stop exaggerating and sound like an ignorant fool.

        • Anonymous says:

          And your qualifications, punk? Lots of world experts commenting here on shit they know nothing about. General rule of thumb, if it aint broken, leave it well alone. History has shown that man interfering in matters we know little about, especially when advised by not qualified to speak no hopers like you, never ends well for us. You can see all the people from the shops and so on that may going to benefit on here-no proof that it will do no harm, but lots of meaningless words, just aimed at getting their pieces of silver in their filthy pockets.

          • Anonymous says:

            First mistake you made is that you don’t realise town has been broke for a while. Cruise is the only thing that is going to fix it.

        • Anonymous says:

          You should read about the piers in Falmoth, Jamaica. Everyone was told it would their saving grace, employment opportunities for all, money will start lining everyone’s pockets and the country would propser beyond their wildest dreams.
          \Did that happen? Nope. Sounds very familiar.

          • Anonymous says:

            Which is why CIG is making the cruise lines pay for the piers…so they will not abandon the destination.
            In any case Jamaica with its aggressive hassling in your face tour operators vendors and taxi drivers has to accept the blame.

    • Anonymous says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more.
      It is time to move ahead with this vital infrastructure project that will secure our cargo life line for our country and our people.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I love it when the Kirk-bots get stuck into voting.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I don’t live in Cayman, but I can tell you that news of this reef destruction is being reported with alarm in the press, tourist, scuba and dive magazines, and other sources worldwide. Its all over the place.

  5. Anonymous says:

    CNS, you forgot to add the first part of the article that tells you it is not CNN’s position on the matter:

    “The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.”

  6. Frogman says:

    Something that gets missed is that like myself, many divers have never even heard of the Balboa until this dock was brought up.

    Are there even any marked dive buoys on the Balboa? Does anyone sell regular daily Balboa dives?

    The Kittiwake is unreal! Such a big fuss and it isn’t even a productive dive site. The economic loss of this will be nil. I dive a couple times a month and the George Town area doesn’t even come up as an option to our group in discussion. I was at Joey’s party and I think they have done a great job and I love diving but in reality this cruise dock won’t make hardly the slightest impact on any of the dive companies I know.

    • Pj says:

      Balboa wreck don’t have dive buoy due it is in middle of shipping lane for tenders and cargo ships. There is no daily dive to Balboa only dive when no cruise and cargo in town. You must have a permission from harbour master before dive Balboa.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds like you just arrived. The Balboa has been a dive site since 1932.

      • Anonymous says:

        This comment is giving factual friendly information to someone so how can it attract “dislike” “lol” and “troll”? CNS there really appears to be some screwed voting on this site at present.

    • John H. says:

      From a political perspective ,the present government is choosing to once again address long standing matters that previous administrations have failed to deal with in a comprehensive manner. There have been no formal studies of the impact of dredging for commercial cruise purposes before for any location in the Cayman Islands. For this aspect they should be lauded to a great extent for now the people of the Cayman Islands as a whole have the benefit of more knowledge on what can be the long term impact positive and negative on both the environment as well as the monetary investment , even though there seems to be a on intolerable high degree of speculation at.both ends of the spectrum.

      One must wonder given previous history if the Progressive Government and other nicely named Government’s are really equipped to properly evaluate and weigh seemingly feel good and/or legacy building projects against true value present and future for the Cayman Islands ,based on value for money. and financial impacts in the event of economic down turns etc . Is there any thought being given to the fact that in our present financial model we do not possess means of extricating ourselves from circumstances beyond our control especially when we don’t have the ability to create substantial reserves on an ongoing basis that in the event of a major negative occurrence can be relied on. Clearly there has to be an assessment of what if scenarios included in any project of the size being proposed; a lesson which one would think had been learned in a not too long ago four year term.

      The real questions that we must ask ourselves in the final assessment ahould be; are we able to afford this, can we realistically expect that cruise lines will be able to commit a number of passengers to make this project financially feasible to themselves and more importantly to Caymanians if they face adverse trends. In the scenario of the cruise ships building the piers can we the people again be able to afford to provide significant enough incentives bearing in mind our present and near term overall financial position?.

      Only time will tell if the decisions of today were to the benefit of all of the people of the Cayman Islands. Only time will tell if our leaders of this era are truly equipped for the task of determining the people’s future, only time will tell whether we are cutting off our noses to spite our face in contemplating speculative grandiose schemes.

  7. Anonymous says:

    When Alden has his dock , can’t wait for the first real Nor-wester like we used to get in the early to late 80’s. Cayman has been in a relatively quiet period of cold fronts the last decade or so, but that will change. I am sure there are readers here who will recall the Christmas eve Nor-wester of 1989 ? It is going to get interesting along North Church Street. All the experts and millions $ spent on EIA & coastal impacts just don’t have a clue to what mother ocean can dish out. Meanwhile, I hope to dive the Balboa at night & bid farewell to one of the worlds great shallow water wreck dives. It is not to be missed & I urge all citizens and residents & visitors alike who are able, to not let a last chance to view this undersea gem pass them. Such a shame the current government ( and Helen) has no idea of what lurks just a few hundred feet offshore GT Harbour & how rare it is to have them.

    • Anonymous says:

      Since you’ve been around a while you’ll remember. We used to get waves crashing on chocolate box door step, until they built royal watler. Then no more NW waves on the street. I imagine same thing here, safer town not more waves.

      • Anonymous says:

        Since you too seem to have been here for a while, you will also know that whenever a NW’er comes into town the waves still do come crashing over the wall in several places along the coastal road in GT, and the road still does on occasion get closed because of this. So once the protective effect of what little reef we have left is gone, there is nothing to stop the build up of waves and the inevitable flooding of the coastal road that follows.

      • SSM345 says:

        Has an 89′ Nor’Wester hit the cargo dock or town since it was extended? No. Greta argument 9:54pm.

    • Anonymous says:

      A good North-Wester will be welcome right after the dredging, as it is known no foreign material will stand the test of our storms, unless it is permanently anchored to the seabed.
      Meaning that all loose stones and fines from the dredging will be washed out to the drop off and leave a clean bottom, in all reality our sea bed in the harbour is hard stone (lime stone) sand and not mud like other sea bed in other countries that has a continental shelf.
      Yes we will witness a milky colour of the water when the cutter is cutting our lime stone. The reason for this is the stone at on the ocean bottom is alive with microorganism, when disturb or killed they will bleed a white substance.
      This bleeding will dissipate within weeks, the currant will take it out to the drop off and disappear. It will not be permanent.

    • no name says:

      How about Devils Groto… It will be gone too… It is one of my favorite shallow dives…no telling what the dredging will do to the coral…It is really sad and once its done… It’s done… all gone and for what…

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am concerned about the safety issues that surround mega ships. Having more people aboard increases risk of outbreaks of illnesses like the norovirus.How would the HSA handle the arrival of a mega ship with a couple of thousand sick people? What would happen if there’s a fire on a ship of several thousand passengers?

    • Otis Redding says:

      Cruise passengers are expendable. You should be more worried about the shithole that they will step in to when they come off this concrete monstrosity.

      • Anonymous says:

        I am the poster, and was trying to point out one of the many problems with visiting mega-ships. I do worry about the eyesore they’ll be stepping into when they come off. The proposals for town “improvements” are ridiculous – an ice rink? With any luck GIG will hire consultants in urban planning, but then they’ll just cherry-pick what benefits them and their cronies.

    • Anonymous says:

      Handle it the same way if this would happen if two smaller ships were in port and the outbreak of illness occurred.

      • The Statistician says:

        What’s the chance of two ships coming in with an outbreak at the same time?
        Answer: Little or none.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The cruise industry is expanding in Asia-they are already moving ships over there. They will only ever go where their clients want to go. There is no guarantee that this dock will ever pay for itself.

    • The Thinker says:

      It is possibly worse than that. When tourists find that in Grand Cayman they are packed together like cattle the word will get out and they will go to better places WITH OR WITHOUT super docks. A fancy dock doesn’t make any island a desirable place to visit. If our glorious leader wants to increase the number of bodies coming to our islands, he shouldgive them something worthwhile to see and do! Don’t spend money we don’t have on a dock we don’t need.

    • Anonymous says:

      As the cruise lines are responsible for the financing…they will make damn sure it pays for itself..

  10. SKEPTICAL says:

    Wonder who tipped them off

    • HatterasHottoras says:

      I think I have an idea

      • Anonymous says:

        For those of you who are stuck in Cayman and clearly clueless as to how the rest of the world operates, the international scuba and diving industry have been raising awareness on this for some time, and there has been quite a lot of debate internationally on the internet and news stories. Nobody tipped anybody off – fact is, we already knew.

  11. Anonymous says:

    “Their science lady” You couldn’t sound any more ignorant if you tried. No surprise you’re pro-port.

  12. Koolaid Stand Operator says:

    I can’t wait for the magic cruise dock. It will create employment for all Caymanians, not to mention Indians, Romanians and Yugoslavians, and will put so much cash into the economy that the island could very well sink. And I am given to understand it will also cure dengue fever, end world hunger and make pandas fertile. Oh blessed times are ahead for Cayman and the whole world.

  13. Anonymous says:

    There’s no “if’s” about it, the deal is done, the dock is going ahead. Soon to be announced unfortunately and I am gutted!!
    What a damn shame we are lead by a bunch of shortsighted incompetents. These fools will never get another vote from me!

    Angry Caymanian

    • Anonymous says:

      Vote out the PPM for this madness! All of them!

    • Bangers and Mash says:

      Bloody well hope so!

      I’m tired of both sides exaggerating. Only a little bit a reef that we don’t dive anyway will get taken out and the ships won’t completely stop if the sorry excuse for an environmental group stops the dock.

      You know it will be built whether this government or the next. try to do it well and redesign town and let’s all get on with life.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Get your lazy a$$es on a tender and leave my harbour alone

  15. Ron says:

    With every country having global warming as part of their manifesto, why is it Cayman is going the other way? Path of destruction of our reefs and environment?

  16. Anonymous says:

    In response the PPM commented, “Experts?! Meh. More like expats.”

    • Anonymous says:

      Try again please Gina Ebanks-Petrie is not an expat. She is the Director of DOE

    • Anonymous says:

      Sad but true. Why spend millions if there is no intention to follow the technical advice?

      • Anonymous says:

        True, technical points all lead to one answer: build the dock. So you’re right! I agree. Follow the technical data, build it!

        • Anonymous says:

          Good lord, if you have read the technical reports and come to the conclusion that they recommend building the dock, you need to get back in a reading class. Some one must be writing this for you.

      • Anonymous says:

        Money. More money for a small group of influential already rich people who do not have a concept of enough. Easy really.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I looked up the link and this is the same thing, same story and same lady that was brought down here by the tender boat people to talk against the dock.
    Try so tell them they must leave us Caymanians to make up our own minds ourselves. How come every time we turn around someone that don’t come from here tries to tell us what we are supposed to do in OUR country? I just get vex sometimes because all these people that are sitting in they comfy houses up in the states or from where ever they from talks this garbage about the whole reef dying they are not going to do a thing to us if we don’t have jobs. That much I can promise you.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Dear PPM

    You are proving to the world that the Caymans are really a Banana Republic. Stop embarrassing the majority who read the EIA which states this is a destructive and horrible idea. Please listen to the scientists and experts you’ve paid millions of dollars to help you make the right decision

  19. Anonymous says:

    No doubt the “go ahead” announcement tomorrow will be toasted with local rum followed by ample helpings of rum cake.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I just saw an article showing that Cuba will have MSC ships home port there. Right now because the ships are smaller they will be stopping in Cayman on their itinerary.

    What happens once the flood gates open and all the larger ships are going there?

    I hear all these people crying about possibly losing some coral in the harbour but not one of them really seems to be talking about how they plan to feed us when all the business goes to other islands.

  21. Anonymous says:

    PLEASE CAYMAN PLEASE do not build this dock it will be such a huge mistake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE!

  22. Anonymous says:

    CNN, Marines experts, in fact the entire world is wrong on this and should be ashamed of printing such false rumors.

    Best regards,

    Pro-Port Alliance.

    • true lies says:

      In case you didnt realise the marine “expert” is thesae person that was brought here by savecayman before. But just like the ncc doe and eab that pretend they are different voices but actually run by the same people this is what you are seeing

  23. Anonymous says:

    the problem is the influence of a few money people and how they control the powers

  24. Anonymous says:

    The entire push against the dock has been run and directed by foreigners. From an expat dive master and hotel manager who rings in his former company in DEMA, to an American marine scientist they are trying to make decisions for Cayman but not co sidering Caymanians.

    • Anonymous says:

      False! I am Caymanian to the bone and the majority of my Caymanian friends are also against the dock!

    • Kirkamaty says:

      The push for the dock has been entirely by Jamaicans looking to make a quick buck for themselves.

    • This Moses won't part the sea, but he might turn it red. says:

      Actually those against the dock are trying to keep you from ruining your home, putting you and your family in deeper debt, and for you to find a way that you, your children, and your grandchildren can live, enjoy and work in this wonderful place.

      Your short sighted sale of your birthright will cause those that come after you, like your children, curse your decision they will have to carry.

    • Anonymous says:

      OK lets forget the environmental issue for a moment. Shouldn’t, but we will for the sake of the discussion.
      Bottom line, this project is estimated at what about $150m for the dock alone, let alone the infrastructure to support it, so let s say what, another $100m? Given the track record of any project of this size on this island I bet you can add another 30% to those figures, easily.
      So who exactly is stumping up the $195m for the dock and the $130m for the support structure?
      All that investment and not one tiny bit of guarantee that you will see any financial benefit? Do you see the issue here?
      The people of this island will be paying for this project for years, as will their kids and their kids kids. Long after after all the ex pat dive masters and ex pat jewellery store employees have gone because at the end of the day, we can leave.

    • Anonymous says:

      When the pro-port lobby starts printing anti foreigner sh*t and a Caymanian stands up to defend it, its time for a referendum. Except for the tiny weeny problem of CIG looking after its friends interests. If it wasn’t for that, wouldn’t happen.

    • G. Hayes says:

      @ Anonymous 3:20: Run and directed by foreigners? You’ve been drinking too much rum. You keep fibbing like that and all your children will be born naked.

  25. Kadafe says:

    Thank you for bringing this to the light scientists. While I agree that a new dock could be beneficial and am all for developments that will improve the country, there has to be a better way than the plan currently on the table.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Moving slightly away from the environmental issues I have a question for the politicians and businessmen pushing this project.

    If you go ahead and spend $150+million of public money on this and the cruise ships don’t come will we all get a refund? No, I didn’t think so!

    Right now this is really no different from a certain party leader playing at the tables in a casino.

    • Anonymous says:

      Idiot this is PPM not UDP…the cruise lines are paying for the dock not CIG and no “commissions” either.

  27. Anonymous says:

    If you want s real and scientific assessment of the danger to the reef, you need go no further than the local bunch of down-clicking watch salesmen. Apologies to the pope;)

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