Threats continue as CIG mulls marine park plans

| 19/04/2016 | 31 Comments
Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands coral reef (Photo courtesy Department of Environment)

(CNS): The National Conservation Council (NCC) and the Department of the Environment (DoE) are waiting for the greenlight from government to begin implementing the proposed enhancement of local marine parks in an effort to conserve local reefs while they are still relatively healthy. As the conservation clock ticks, direct threats to coral reefs around Cayman from development, over-fishing and climate change are increasing and both NCC Chair Christine Rose-Smyth and DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie have stressed the importance of the proposed enhancement.

Rose-Smyth explained that the NCC has approved the final proposals for the marine parks to become the first conservation areas in Cayman under the National Conservation Law. The proposed new ‘no take’ areas have been changed to accommodate concerns raised during extensive public consultation to strike a balance between the very pressing need to protect marine life while still allowing some fishing on Cayman’s very narrow reef shelf.

“The reason for the urgency and the priority of implementing the marine parks enhancement are closely connected,” Rose-Smyth told CNS. “The need for expansion of protected areas and improvements in their management has long been recognised. The proposals have been through continuous refinements and public consultations. With all this foundation work in place, it is clear that transitioning the existing proposal to the conservation law procedure was not only necessary but it was also sufficiently ready to be the first implementation of new protected areas under the new law.”

The DoE has a goal of protecting between 40-50% of the reef. This means that people will still be able to fish on half of the reef, Ebanks-Petrie said, explaining that the line-fishing zones will ensure that people who fish will benefit from the stock that will spill over from the protected areas as the numbers begin to improve. However, she warned that the expansion to the marine parks must happen sooner rather than later.

“None of the threats to the marine environment are reducing,” she said. “The rate of development and the fishing levels are not lessening and no one can say how badly climate change could impact reef health in the near future. We need to make the changes now while we still have some marine resources to protect. If we don’t take action now, we will see the resources decline far more rapidly and there is no benefit to be had in delaying the decision to expand the parks.”

Ebanks-Petrie said the decision to establish the marine parks thirty years ago was not popular at the time but today everyone agrees that it was a significant move back in 1986 to start restricting what could be taken from the sea and ensured that there is still something left to protect today.

Recent studies found that more than 15,000 fish are being taken from local waters each month, 13,000 of which are reef species. Ebanks-Petrie said this was an unexpected figure and showed that the level of pressure on the reef from fishing was even greater than the department had suspected.

Researchers in Australia studying the Great Barrier Reef have confirmed the theory that fish keep reefs healthy and that ‘no take’ zones work. The scientists have shown that the protected areas of coral reef had more fish and the reefs were healthier, but also that fish from those protected areas spill out into ‘take’ zones, and so improve fishing.

Twice the coral trout in Great Barrier Reef protected zones, 27 March 2015

Great Barrier Reef no-take marine reserves protect much more than just the fish, 4 April 2016

Given the importance of the local reefs to tourism as well as Cayman’s way of life, Ebanks-Petrie stressed the importance of implementing the enhance marine parks and ‘no take’ zones here as quickly as possible.

The proposal to nominate the marine parks as Cayman’s first conservation zone under the law was approved by the NCC at the end of February, and they and the DoE gave a presentation to the PPM caucus a month later. It is now in the hands of the ministry awaiting Cabinet review.

Details of the proposals and review can be found here

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (31)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    To my knowledge work permit holders (i.e. non-Caymanians) require fishing licenses in order to exercise that privilege. I wonder how many licenses have been issued, who monitors who is in possession of same and who enforces against who is not?

    Just like the law against littering – it is not enforced!! Shame on DoE or whomever is responsible!! Yet, Government is eager to impose and collect on every fee applicable to locals!

    BTW, that policy is not xenophobic – Canada has a similar requirement, for good reason!!

    • Anonymous says:

      None have been issued because no one can tell you how to obtain a fishing license.

    • Anonymous says:

      None have been issued because the first time one was taken to court it didn’t even make it to trial before it was questioned and withdrawn on human rights grounds. The Law will need to be rewritten. Perhaps you can post a reference to the Canada rule?

      I can. The ‘Fisheries & Oceans Canada’ official government website states, and I quote, “All anglers must have a licence to go fishing.” That’s the subtle difference. You can treat different groups differently, as long as they all need the same base requirement, e.g., anyone needs a fish pot licence in Cayman, but only Caymanians are eligible to receive on. In Canada everyone needs a licence. For residents it $22 per year, for non-residents its $106.05.

      PS> As a Caymanian I’m not paying for a licence to go fishing, no matter how cheap it is, so keep that in Canada please. As long as we don’t take the small fish and follow the other proposed rules there’s enough for everyone.

      • Jeff Smith says:

        ” As a Caymanian I’m not paying for a licence to go fishing, no matter how cheap it is, so keep that in Canada please. As long as we don’t take the small fish and follow the other proposed rules there’s enough for everyone.”

        I’m not Canadian…but from Michigan where fishing is a way of life. We all (over the age of 12) are required to purchase a license for fishing or hunting or trapping…it’s not a matter of origin of birth. The monies collected go towards conservation efforts, maintaining healthy fisheries, clean up of damaged waters, and promote responsible and ethical taking of game. In other words, the money I spend to fish in my home state benefits me as a fisherman…something perhaps a Caymanian fisherman should consider.

    • Ron Ebanks says:

      Taking action to protect the environment wasn’t popular 30 years ago , but it’s the right thing to do today . Is that not the same thing as having $10,000.00 in your bank account and keep spending until you are down to $50. 00 and now you see that it is important to do something about the money situation .

  2. Anonymous says:

    There’s a Cuban guy that fishes off south sound every morning with at least 5 lines. Every fish he takes is under sized. He even threatens people with his knives if you say something to him. Not one police or doe agent cares but he should be ticketed and removed.

    • Anonymous says:

      There’s a Jamaican guy that fishes by the empty lot next to Miss Lassies house who kills everything he catches. I recently saw him swinging a moray eel on the end of his line and smashing it against the sand to kill it. He probably knows what happened to the dead stingray found on the same beach earlier this year too (although I didn’t witness that one).

      • I have said this before MANY times and will say it again.If you are here on a work permit you should NOT be allowed to fish from shore or any where else for that matter.Many nationalities that come here and are on work permits come from countries where they have fished out basically anything that swims and this CANNOT be allowed to continue here.Sorry if I have offended anyone but the future of our marine life is vital to our future generations.Support the needed changes to our marine parks as they are vital to our future

        • Anonymous says:

          Guess what. If you are on a work permit the law already makes it illegal to take marine life. You need a license. Of course the law is not enforced so ….

        • Anonymous says:

          Hahahahaha So Caymanians NEVER fish where they shouldn’t! Caymanians all follow the laws of your own land! Really makes me laugh at the stupid double standards. Only work permit holders commit crime in Cayman?

        • Ron Ebanks says:

          Peter , I would say that idea of putting about half of the surrounding reef to shore around the Islands is necessary to do today , it should have been 30 years ago . And every person on the Islands that want to fish should have to buy a fishing license and your license would cover certain category of fishing , Tourist wishing to fish small license fee too . Those licensing fees and fines will help support law enforcement and vehicles /boats .
          But drastic measures was needed long time ago .

      • Anonymous says:

        Did you report it.

    • Anonymous says:

      He was working as a gardener in a public primary school before that. I’m quite sure he’d happily take his job back and leave the little fishies for the “locals”

  3. Sunrise says:

    I would like to ask a few questions concerning the new proposed Marine Conservation Laws.

    1) Why did we have to change to accommodate concerns raised during extensive public consultations? Why are we still allowing fishing to continue on the shallow reefs, if it is a direct threat to the reefs? Over fishing can be a very serious threat to the healthy life of our reefs. We should all be very concerned about this as we have seen in the past in other areas, that this can be very damaging and should be looked at seriously!! Also, as a Caymanian, I would love for my children and grandchildren to enjoy for a very long time the wonders of the the ocean. The underwater world is quite amazing, as I really loved snorkeling the reefs as a child and adult. We have to sometimes forget about the ones that just want to benefit for themselves and step up to do what is right for everyone.

    2) Why is the no diving zones, not extended to the south side, including the seven mile beach area? It is a proven fact that scuba diving, can be almost as damaging as fishing in the reef areas. We should have included no diving zones along the seven mile beach area as well. I have no problem in tourist enjoying our beautiful underwater world, however there should be a limit as to how many dives are made at dive sites per year. If we are going to save the reefs it has to be a concentrated effort on all parties involved. If this comment receive negative results, then I will have to assume that the parties involved is in it just for their own wealth.

    3) Why is coastal development left in the hands of the Cabinet? I see this step as very destructive also. How can we not have a National Conservation Law, that will have to be reviewed by a lot more conservationist boards instead of just Cabinet? I think that we have to do more to stop the destruction of the mangroves for development, as this is where the marine life starts.

    I would love to see the three areas addressed properly so we can truly start to save and enhance the marine life on these Islands. I would love to comment more on these issues, however I have a prior commitment to attend to.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed. Especially that diving is as damaging as any other invasive activity. Go check the Save Cayman Reef facebook page to see how bad diving is mashing up cayman reefs. Even the dive masters have pictures touching the coral. It says cayman is only supposed to allow like 5 divers per site per day. We let more than that from one boat and probably dozens or hundreds on each site a day.

      • Anonymous says:

        That comment is ridiculous, Save Cayman Reef is ridiculous, 5 divers per site per day is ridiculous, dozens or hundreds on each site a day is ridiculous.

        For goodness sake get some valid information from a reputable site not some propaganda from the pro cruise ship pier site. Talk with Peter Milburn who has been diving around Cayman for 40 years.

        It is not your fault and I appreciate your “outing” this ridiculous source of misinformation. Thank you.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Since CNS has printed criticism alleging “Caymanians'” disregard for the marine environment, I trust it will be fair and print my response to those incorrect, misinformed and one-sided arguments.

    For generations have Caymanians fished these waters and did not take certain species or size of fish and crustaceans. However, as our population has increased over-fishing has become a bigger problem. But not solely because of increased numbers of people. A real and bigger problem is that some nationalities who reside in our islands do not have any standards about what they catch. I have personally seen people from two particular nations (our Caribbean neighbour and a Pacific island nation) taking any kind of small fish they can catch – including using nets, I must add! They take sergeant majors, blue tangs, “cat-teeth”, fries, periwinkles, bleeding-teeth, sea cucumbers and the like. Caymanians have always taken fries for bait but have never taken nor have eaten these other species! These guests in our islands indiscriminately fish in the mangrove fringes which are the fish nurseries and they take, take and take!! This cannot be disputed and I am not being prejudiced or “anti-foreigner” in any way. It is simple fact!!

    One foreign man told me when I questioned his 5 buckets of fries that they “make good soup”!! Another time I saw another foreign national on the ironshore by Grand Old House with two buckets of colourful, small and very dead fish. Although he was a stranger and I’m not one to be confrontational, I told him that if the fish were still alive, I would have kicked over his buckets!!

    Combine that FACT with the fact that because of less fish and shell-fish, SOME Caymanians have become more indiscriminate and now take sea life which they previously or otherwise would not have taken. I refer particularly to the “crack-head” types who will take and sell a conch or lobster no matter how small and regardless of season. Of course, they could not sell them unless someone bought them, and buyers are not confined to native Caymanians!

    Add the lion fish scourge and warming waters damaging coral and no wonder the fish population is diminishing. But, to all who like to curse “Caymankind” a major contributor to this particular problem is most definitely “furriners”!

    Please acknowledge this instead of always blaming “Caymanians”!!

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ll lay my cards on the table, I’m a British Expat worker here and have always enjoyed shore fishing. I use circle hooks (no gut hooking) and catch and release EVERYTHING – snapper from Fosters are cheaper than my bait – so I’ll buy a snapper if I want one.

      I love your post, if only more people would take ACTIVE action – at most fishing spots I visit on island, I see the same type of person taking everything out of the water , and unfortunately, its not as simple as saying 1 nationality. yes I’ve seen one Caymanian in particular using nets at Spots to capture everything, but its mainly as you say, people with no idea how the seas and fish stocks work and just want a cheap meal.

      Caymanians and sport fishermen don’t seem to be the problem, the problem seems to be that none of these rules are enforced. I’ve had proper arguments and pushing and barging over telling people that if they continue to take protected species, spawning fish and undersized fish; there wont be any left.

      I’ve reported one fisherman in particular to the DoE and the police and absolutely nothing has come of it. I’ve confronted him twice and wont again after the last response I got, but its not my job to do it.

      I think the answer is simple – Shore fishing with line and non-Caymanian ? take anything from the sea and face the fines that are threatened. I still see no problem with catch and release, as long as you stay tidy and retrieve any lost bits of your rig.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Could someone please enlighten me as to the local mentality not from all Caymanians certainly but clearly a sizable number that the environmental measures to protect marine life is a scam put forth by driftwood to breakdown Caymanian culture.
    Furthermore the local belief that by virtue of living one’s life in Cayman one is expert in the marine ecosystem and its stewardship. Given most grouper spawning sites have been fished out one has reason to doubt local wisdom.

    • Anonymous says:

      In reading the following contributions from Caymanians who seemed to feel that I was attacking them certainly there are foreigners who abuse the marine environment and on that we agree.
      I noticed in both that neither responded to the grouper spawning sites that have been fished out. This abuse was not done by foreigners. A number of years ago the Caymanians from the Brac who were fishing the grouper while spawning and cleaning their catch left 100s of pounds of eggs on the dock to rot also wasn’t mentioned.
      As foreigners we have no vote, at the last election some Sister Island politician wanted to lift the grouper spawning ban. Not for foreigners but for Caymanian votes.
      As with every group of people you have good and bad and I sincerely apologize to those Caymanians who care about the marine environment.

  6. Anonymous says:

    You would think that the many generational Caymanian owned tourism businesses that depend on a vibrant marine ecosystem would be advocating visibly for enhanced protection of the very basis for their economic viability.

    These matters simply cannot be left to a gaggle of aging vocal throwbacks to decades past who believe that every turtle, grouper, conch, lobster and whelk must be taken.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Funny there is no mention of all the heavy public oppositions to the proposed plans. and how local data was very much more detailed and accurate as compared to data the DoE provided in their public meetings.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Whilst the premise is good, the truth is that without ‘enforcement’, this is merely paperwork for the record. I sit on my waterfront property and watch the groups go out almost daily, pretending to be snorkeling for hours on end (truth is they are shucking conchs, whelks and anything else they can find.. right under the water) and then return to shore and drive away with bags of illegal takings. All the while, police cars drive by and helicopters fly by.. nothing gets done. Not to mention the jokers fishing from shore… to this day I can’t figure out where you buy a fish-hook that small to catch a fish that small. Yes, they take those micro-fish from the shoreline by the bucket full daily.. no enforcement… no REAL care. What a pity !!

    • Anonymous says:

      I notice that YOU never once called the (marine) police. you just expect someone else to solve the problem. Next time you see someone breaking the law call 911 or DoE Enforcement (916-4271).

  9. Anonymous says:

    We might as well take what we can now before sea surface temperature rise combined with ocean acidification kills everything off.

    This isn’t scaremongering, we are on the verge of the biggest mass extinction our planet has ever seen. Our seas and oceans are clinging on by a thread and will all soon be dead.

    • Anonymous says:

      No, because of those real threats now is the time to reduce other threats (like fishing pressure) in order to increase the resiliency of our reef ecosystems. – So eat more local lionfish. (If in a restaurant, tell them you hope its real, local, lionfish.)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Please give us a week notice so we can plan a little fishing trip for the last time before it is banned.

  11. Anonymous says:

    classic turtle speed government from the ppm…….zzzzzzzzzzz

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