NCC faces speargun conundrum

| 20/05/2016 | 73 Comments

speargun(CNS): The National Conservation Council is facing a challenging problem because of a compromise the environment minister was forced to make over spearguns in order to gain support from his political colleagues on the National Conservation Law. As the last parts of the law are implemented, which is expected to be over the next few weeks, the NCC has been clearing up its administrative process for issuing and renewing all licences for fishing, including those for using spearguns in local waters. But the use of these guns flies in the face of the NCC’s directive in law to protect the environment and places it in a legal quandary.

Efforts to eradicate spearguns from being used to fish in Cayman waters were thwarted when government back-benchers rebelled against Cabinet and forced Environment Minister Wayne Panton to accept an amendment to the law allowing local fishermen who had spearguns to retain those fishing weapons. But in the absence of the enhanced marine protection laws, which have not yet been approved by Cabinet, the NCC will struggle, given its legal requirement to protect the environment, to issue any speargun licences.

Discussing the current unsustainable fishing level on local reefs, council members noted that they need to tackle the problem presented by the law that any licensed fishing doesn’t adversely impact species by the ministry.

“The council will be hard pressed to satisfy the provisions of the law for fishing licences when it comes to spearguns,” said Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie, noting that this was especially so without the enhanced marine park protection.

Council members agreed at this month’s open meeting, held this week, that they will write to the minister asking what the council should do in the face of its legal requirements over licensing when it comes to spear-gun applications.

The law effectively prohibits the council from issuing licences that will threaten species, habitats or environments. But even though the conservation law replaces the old marine parks law, without the much-needed enhanced legal protection for marine parks, the licensing of spearguns presents a conundrum for the council which it cannot resolve.

On the one hand the law prohibits the licensing of fishing techniques that would undermine species conservation; on the other it provides for the licensing of spearguns for those who are already in possession of them.

Officials told CNS that around 400 people in Cayman have at one time or another had a speargun licence issued by the old Marine Conservation Board. Once the last part of the National Conservation Law is implemented, that licensing function will be taken over by the NCC, but unlike its predecessor, it must consider strict criteria before issuing any kind of fishing licence.

Those provisions would prevent the board from legally licensing spearguns because of the significant threat they pose to marine wildlife.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (73)

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  1. Panton needs to man up says:

    Why dont they do something about the hundreds of foreign nationals who on a daily basis raid the iron shore and docks like locusts taking anything they find edible including juvenile reef fish? I went to one of the S Sound docks the other day and couldnt evem get to the end of the dock because I was tripping over their buckets lines and nets. Where was the DOE that eveing? Add up the damage these people are doing on a daily basis and there is no wonder our marine life is threatened. Lets protect the environment but also respect Caymanian tradition even if it means banning certain activities for non-Caymanians. Time to stop being so politically correct and do something for Caymanians.

    • Jotnar says:

      Fishing from shore is already illegal for non Caymanians. Did you call the police? I have reported lobster poachers and shore fishing before, and always had an officer come around to check.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed – its not those spear fishing who are destroying all the marine life. Its hard work to hunt a fish and not every fish which is shot at is killed. Most only hunt enough for a meal or two. DOE need to watch these big shots who take their fancy boats out 3 or 4 times a day in conch and lobster season. Greedily taking much more than the limit just because they can. Also, I agree that people are taking very small fish from the shore, which will not be able to grow to maturity and breed, collecting crabs from the beaches in such places as Frank Sound. The beaches and iron shore need to be patrolled. Caymanians have been spear fishing for many many years. Why are you going to take away yet another tradition. One which people have used to help feed their families.

  2. Anonymous says:

    All of the vegans bashing spearfishing should check out what soy plantations are doing to the environment. Please do some research next time you put some of that tofu crap into your mouth.

    Taking one fish at a time by spear gun is much better than buying and supporting the industrial scale fisheries which wipe out everything by long line or nets.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t eat tofu. Don’t make up lies please. I am just saying to think about killing animals. It’s very old school Christian, lord of the earth and all that bs.

  3. Anonymous says:

    There is nothing wrong with hunting fish. Or any animal, that isn’t endangered of course. We are a part of nature, and nature is beautiful and ugly. We hunt because it’s in our genes. Humans we’re hunter gatherers and still is. How do you all think we got to where we are today? We have to eat. Even if that means killing something, whether it disgust you or not.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Spearguns are an easy target with very little political risk. God forbid NCC tried to protect snapper spawn sites from line fishing or for that matter, anything from line fishing. Some of our most beloved politicians love nothing more than filling the boat with lagoon snappers during the spawn. The leader of DOE is a survivor and knows well how to stay out of serious political trouble. Spearguns…low political risk and always good for front page publicity. Great job DOE and NCC.

  5. Anonymous says:

    As a licensed recreational spearfisherman this does not surprise me one bit! We have been taking a bad rap for years and years. The simple truth is that we have to be very selective in what we take. Years ago we used to able to spear inside of sounds and our limit was a total of six fish with no more of three of one specie. That has changed to three fish and minimum depth of water must be twenty feet. So that puts us over the reefs- not a problem! I agree with this, and with the new three fish limit we have to be even more selective.
    We are blamed for the targeting of breeder fish but the truth is those big breeder fish don’t get to the large size they are because they are stupid! 99% of the time once you are spotted they are gone.
    I strongly believe that the main problem here is proper enforcement and management. Whilst the handful of spearfishermen that Cayman has busting our butts holding our breaths free diving to spear three fish for our personal consumption. You have guys with hook and line slaughtering the lagoon snappers by the hundreds every night during their spawning season. You also have guys killing hundreds of bar jacks during the nights of new moon. I won’t even mention the Spratt guys!!
    I really think that DOE/NCC should really look and see instead of taking the easy road and banning us they should look and see how they could improve and preserve it for us through proper management of areas along with seasons,size limits etc.In the long run everyone will benefit.

    • Anonymous says:

      and walking on the coral at places like Beach Bay to get to the sprats, collecting bucketful after bucketful of sprats. It is disgraceful.

  6. Anonymous says:

    And there you have it. Well guess what. The Caymanian people are the equivalent of the Indians, and despite your best efforts, we are not going out anywhere.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just a comment regarding the photo CNS used for this story. Presumably it is a file photo from outside the Cayman Islands because the use of spear guns is not permitted with dive gear. This photo suggests the person is a diver although tanks are not clearly visible.

    There has been long concern that many people who are not “native” Caymanians (let’s not get into the semantics of generational definitions) who use spear guns while scuba diving which is a clear disadvantageous threat to marine life. Clearly there is valid concern about “no-natives” fishing from shore and catching and keeping every small fish they can.

    When the CIG, through it’s various enforcement arms, start enforcing actions against those two categories of poachers, yes they are poachers, then they can fairly attack native Caymanians for unlicensed spearfishing. meanwhile this campaign is one-sided, as are many issues in Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      For what it’s worth, that is a free diver with a wetsuit. No tank.

      • Anonymous says:

        Wearing a glove

        • Anonymous says:

          Gloves…another stupid law and one I will break every time to protect my hands. A little common sense and an educational campaign about protecting coral from glove damage would have been a much more effective way of dealing with that issue. There is no need to grab on to coral with or without gloves. I am a spearo, I love and protect the environment, and I consider myself a conservationist. Sorry for you if you can’t wrap your head around that one.

          • Anonymous says:

            Gloves are for soft hand wimps. Man up and leave the glove at home.

          • Jotnar says:

            if there is no need to hang on to coral because you are such an accomplished free diver, then why do you want to wear them to protect your hands? You are clearly aware of the damage done to coral by touching it, so it cannot be that. So yes, struggling to wrap my head around how you can simultaneously say you love and respect the environment, know what you are doing, have the ability to dive without using your hands to hold on, but still want to wear gloves to protect them.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The comments listed really show the public’s truth opinions and feelings on this matter, however what the comments clearly identify is the misguided bias, inconsistencies and the agenda of the DOE and NCC bureaucracy to control and prevent the people’s freedom and rights in pursuing a simple sport to feed themselves and their families. This is just another example of the continuing erosion of our freedoms and rights carried out by a dictatorial bureaucratic empire masquerading as the environmental custodians and sacred protectors of our social and community environments.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Spearfishing is the most conservative type of fishing you can do. You are selective with what species of fish and size. It is the people who go behind the reef and fish out hundreds of snapper in one night which is detrimental to our conservation agenda. Those people aren’t any better than the lion fish roaming around eating everything. That’s CIG for you though. They like to do stuff backwards. I’m sure a lot of people on here can agree.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s the big momma groupers that need protection from spear guns. The comments show that spear fishers only want to hunt the biggest thing they can find. Stop fishing out the spawning places.

  10. Anonymous says:

    More biased reporting from CNS. This is a none issue. Once again DOE trying to circumvent the law of the land because of their personal objection based totally on emotion not on facts. Spearfishing is selective, and has limits. All other methods are not.
    Pure scare mongering

  11. Devil Hole Crew member says:

    You know what… my growing up in the early 80’s spearfishing was a hobby that kept us teenagers all out of mischief…besides a few encounters with the sharks of course:)… I am today a professional with a clean police record, a stable family life and yet I can’t pass on to my 13 year old son, something that was a Cayman tradition. I will respect the law because I wouldn’t want a police record and certainly would never teach my son to disobey the laws that govern our marine environment but in fact to respect it. I have to say that it is far easier to get a licensed handgun, which I have absolutely no use for, than it is to obtain a spear-gun and continue a Caymanian tradition. Those who didn’t grow up in these islands during a time far different than now will never be able to relate, so for now the new item for my son is the tablet; enough said.

  12. Anonymous says:

    What about people who want to spear pelagic/highly migratory species of fish such as mahi, wahoo and tuna? I personally have no interest in shooting the small reef fish but would love to own a blue water gun and hunt the larger offshore species of fish.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Note to NCC: Enforce the 3 fish spearfishing limit, impose line fishing limits on high risk species, protect ALL spawning times and sites, ban commercial sales of local caught lobster, conch, and reef fish, introduce slot limits to protect the breeders, and finally, stop trying to blame spearguns for your lack of vision and a comprehensive strategy to protect “at risk” species.

    • Anonymous says:

      Report violators!

      • Anonymous says:

        Why? No one ever gets more than a telling off, even if they are prosecuted.

        • Anonymous says:

          There are lots of reasons to want to bother, not least of which, DoE enforcement officers do not have extrasensory perception and can’t be expected to be in several places at once. If poaching (or consequence of smaller catch limits or decreased biodiversity) bothers you, call on channel 16 or Mark Orr’s cell number, 916-4271. You can also take photos of offenders and their boats and they can be dealt with when they come ashore.

  14. Anonymous says:

    What’s wrong with just issuing licenses to hunt lionfish and impose heavy fines for those taking other species?

    Of course monitoring and enforcing that would actually DOE personnel to leave the comfy confines of their pick up trucks.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Why not make the same arguments against line fishing? Currently, a spearfisherman can legally keep 3 fish per day. A line fisherman however, can anchor over a Mutton or Lagoon snapper spawn site (they do it every year) and catch 200+ in a night, all perfectly legal. Please get over your bias against spearfishing and get off your backsides to enforce the current laws across the board. Florida has (and enforces) very strict conservation laws including slot limits, catch limits, possession limits, and restrictions on commercial sales. No differentiation is made as to how you catch the fish. NCC is a confused bunch of wannabe conservationists.

    • Anonymous says:

      Mutton snapper spawn is happening right now off East End. There were 5 boats anchored right next to each other yesterday. Unfortunately it’s completely legal and in any case, the enforcement guys can’t see the spot from their office windows so even if it was protected the harvest would go on. But then again, the only real problem we have is spearguns.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Could those who legally can get out to the reef just off Coral Reef Resort on SMB and get rid of the lionfish? Loads all of a sudden, right there by the shore..

  17. Anonymous says:

    What a load of rubbish!!! How many LICENSED spearfishermen have you seen in Court being prosecuted? Not too many I bet.

    Yes there are people who use ILLEGAL spearguns to their own means: They’re called POACHERS!!!

    Come on people, use your brains here: I can use a hook and line, and on a good day I can EASILY fill a boat at my discretion…this isn’t a problem; My traditional, licensed fishpot does exactly what its supposed to do…..this isn’t a problem; With my licensed speargun I can only take three (3) fish per day…and this is the problem that is going to devistate our reef system for all eternity???

    Need to get for facts together my friend: Scare tactics calling for knee-jerk reactions it sounds like to me?

    • Anonymous says:

      I know where the poachers are! In all the hotels, they poached my morning eggs. Go get ’em DOE…

  18. Anonymous says:

    Why are we shielding the name of the independent member of North side? He is consistent in his griping to enshrine obsolete actions by authority of “birthright”. That’s really his best spear, and it is a popular one with his fans. Let’s just call it what it is, he sold his vote on NCC for the right to import new spearguns, and PPM (and Speaker) allowed him to make the deal. This is the system we have in place in our LA and we should allow them to own their words and let the light shine in.

    • Anonymous says:

      Anon 11:54 you are so misinformed about what happen in the Legislative Assembly, I moved thirty plus amendments to the NCL all of which improved the law otherwise why did the Minister and his PPM Government vote to pass these amendments. I only have one vote not twelve the government had at the time.
      Yes I have been an advocate for responsible spearfishing all my life, but you or no one else can buy my vote.
      Ezzard Miller

      • Anonymous says:

        Seriously now ezzard – try a truth serum. I watched the proceedings intently and you had three amendments – the rest were Government amendments

        • Ezzard Miller says:

          Be brave send me your e-mail, mine is and I will gladly send you the list of amendments filed with the Clerk and approved by Madam Speaker.
          Ezzard Miller

        • Anonymous says:

          Try not sleeping next time you watch the proceedings of the LA. I am not an Ezzard voter, however, I listened to many more than three amendments proposed by Ezzard on the NCC law, perhaps as many as 30?

          You really need to mask your hatred for any MLA who dares to stand up for Caymanians. It is our parliament you know.

  19. Buoy says:

    Okay to use if you know what you’re doing and know the cause and effect of this method of fishing. This is not for amateurs; one should be able to free dive quite well.

    Why not have some type of training for the proposed spare gun owners by the present owners?

    • Anonymous says:

      Why kill at all. Just freedive. It’s a great sport.

      • Anonymous says:

        Because there is such a thing as a food chain. This is the reason we hunt. It’s the reason animals hunt. There isn’t anythiny wrong with hunting fish. If you never killed anything, how do you expect to eat?

        • Shorediver says:

          Personally, I get my food at the grocery market, and on occasion I will go to a restaurant or fast food joint or maybe order a pizza out. I have hunted and fished in the past but I guess I got soft-hearted when I got older……. I don’t enjoy killing other creatures anymore. I do enjoy diving and snorkeling, but the only thing I spear are lionfish.

          • Anonymous says:

            Soft hearted….and wise.

          • Anonymous says:

            Next time your shopping at the market and you want meat to eat.. use your soft heart and think of the poor animals. Don’t buy any meat, just buy some veggies and beans. That way your soft heart will stay downy soft.

          • Anonymous says:

            Soft hearted and dumb. Do you know that the seafood industry kills and discards over 250,000 sea turtles every year as a byproduct of putting seafood on supermarket shelves and restaurant tables?
            Google it, you will be unpleasantly surprised.

        • Anonymous says:

          So you are keeping the ocean from becoming over populated with fish? Take the day off, the Japanese are all over it.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Spear guns are not “weapons”, they are fishing gear.

    If you call a spear gun a weapon then a fishing rod is a weapon too. You could easily beat someone to death with a fishing rod so should these be classed as weapons too?

    Further more what about people who have no interest in spearing reef fish? I personally would like to obtain a spear gun and a license for offshore spearfishing of highly migratory species such as mahi, tuna and wahoo.

    • Anonymous says:

      See above replies about. Killing. Give it up. It went out with the Indians.

      • Anonymous says:

        You are totally ignorant to the fact that without killing of animals you wouldn’t be able eat and since eating keeps you alive, if you had no food you wouldn’t be able to type the foolishness 9:58 you typed. So no, we do need to kill in order to survive in this world. Unless your 100% vegan, which you still gotta end up killing or cooking w/e it is that floats your boat.

        • Anonymous says:

          YOU don’t need to kill. You like to kill.

          • Anonymous says:

            You don’t need to be ignorant. You just are. How do you think people in this world survive if not for the slaughter of animals.

            • Anonymous says:

              Sooooo…. You’re feeding the people of the world. Good boy! Slow clap.

            • Anonymous says:

              Producing animals for food is actually a very inefficient way of producing food. Worldwide, people could actually eat better if all resources went into producing vegetables

              • Anonymous says:

                I disagree. Farming is what got us here and that involves producing animals for food. Seems pretty effecient to me if we’re still here.

        • Anonymous says:

          You seem to be carrying a pretty big load of testosterone.

      • Anonymous says:

        As a human being I am at the top of the food chain by default. The exhilarating feeling of the hunt and the overwhelming feeling of success when I hunt, and catch my meal has little to no equals. You can stay with the bottom feeders, just stay out of the way of the apex predators when you see them coming.

        • Anonymous says:

          You sound like a real jerk. A Trump-ette perhaps? A human hard-on? I don’t know but please leave me alone.

        • Anonymous says:

          “Top of the food chain”? Only on this island, bobo. Love to see you up against a tiger

          • Anonymous says:

            You’d love to see me hunt tigers? 9:56. You do remember they are endangered? Oh I wonder why they are endangered… hmmm maybe because humans are at the top of the food chain after all.

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