(CNS): The marine environment in the George Town Harbour, which is currently at risk of being destroyed by the development of cruise berthing facilities in the capital, has been nominated and listed as a world ‘Hope Spot’ by Mission Blue after being vetted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The designation puts the harbour on the global stage and joins just 75 specific spots on the planet that are of such significance that conservationists are calling for their direct protection.
Mission Blue’s goal is to encourage ordinary citizens around the world to elect their own Hope Spots to ignite broad public support for a global network of marine protected areas large enough to protect and restore the ocean’s health. George Town Harbour is on the list of 14 new Hope Spots that were evaluated and accepted this month.
Local environmental activists Save Cayman said the nomination was a victory for thousands of people who are fighting to protect the reef system in the harbour from the cruise project.
“Their voices have not just been heard locally but have now been strongly backed by the international community. We now hope government can see how important our environment is to our people and those who visit our shores,” the activists said.
The members of the local conservation group were not the only ones to nominate the area. Laura Jackson Ebanks also submitted a nomination after hearing her 79-year-old parents’ views on the proposed cruise piers.
“I knew I had to do something, which is why I nominated it as a Hope Spot. They are convinced this will be the destruction of Grand Cayman if it is allowed to proceed,” she said.
As a global movement that is being spread via social media and has the backing of Google, National Geographic and generous sponsors such as Rolex, the nomination has no legal power to protect but it does have influence. It will ensure that if the Cayman Islands Government continues to press ahead with the cruise project, it will be doing so on the world conservation stage.
Dr Sylvia Earle, the founder of Mission Blue, said the nomination programme was to “encourage people to take responsibility and ownership of their environment”.
“The ocean is in trouble, but you can do something about it,” the expert environmentalist said. “We want people to own their ocean and for Hope Spots to become a shared vision.”
The Hope Spots are places deemed critical to the health of the ocean and the scientists explained that while around 12% of the earth’s terrestrial regions are currently under some form of protection, less than 4% of the ocean is protected in any way, leaving it vulnerable to overfishing, pollution and over-exploitation.