Spear-gun licences still challenging NCC

| 11/10/2016 | 28 Comments

(CNS): The environment minister said he is expecting the National Conservation Council to present their recommendations to Cabinet regarding the problem over spear-gun licensing. Wayne Panton said that as a result of the “poorly drafted amendment” made to the National Conservation Law when it was passed, a conflict has been created that the council is struggling to resolve. Pressed by Ezzard Miller in the LA Monday to reveal when the licensing regime will come into effect to provide new as well as existing users with permission to use spear-guns, Panton spelt out the problems.

The NCL is now in force, including this part, and Department of Environment has been tasked with dealing with the renewals of all licences relating to fishing until the NCC arrives at a solution.

The amendment made to the law in the committee stage, which Panton accepted as a compromise at the time to get the much-needed legislation through the LA after years of dispute, provided for more spear-gun licences on the basis that it was a traditional Caymanian method of fishing. However, that flies in the face of the goals of the law.

Panton explained that the amended clause provides permission for Caymanians to now have new guns as well as replacement parts but the council has pointed out that it creates a major conflict for conservation as the numbers of licensed guns will be an important part of assessing the impact they will have on fish stocks.

The minister told the LA that the challenge for the NCC was how they satisfy the conditions of the law to protect species on the reefs in the face of expanding spear-gun licence numbers as that poses an increased threat to fish stocks. He said the NCC is trying to implement this amendment and balance the rest of law and the need for conservation.

With a conflict in the law, the NCC had to find a way to balance the legal obligations and there have been conflicts among the council members on how best to strike that balance. Panton stated that he had been assured that they will resolve the problem soon but it was a genuine issue presented by the amendment that was not made by government and was not drafted in context “or joined up” with the other provisions in the law. He said the council was trying to find a way to accommodate this amendment within a law designed to conserve.

The main problem the council has to consider is the wider licensing picture and what the numbers of licences issued to facilitate the use of pots and traps and spear-guns, all of which have an accumulative impact on the take. This means that licences cannot be issued “ad infinitum to any number of people”, the minister stated, adding that the council has to consider the wider threat to the marine environment and the competing interest this amendment created to allow new guns.

He said the council may take the view that new regulations are required and it will make those recommendations, as their main goal is to ensure the environment is not imperilled.

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Comments (28)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    For the few that feel they have a birthright to define their own limits on what they extract from these islands – all that will matter is a visible deterrent to keep them in the law-abiding lane. During the population influx of the last 30-odd years, we don’t always know our fellow Caymanian neighbour like in bygone times. Sadly, it’s time for marine and community policing to keep everyone in line. I’m all for defending these islands from those harbouring selfish and grotesque ambitions, so we can preserve these islands for the unborn generations to come.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Too little too late. Just like real guns its all about the people who are using them. Not many fish left already and nothing of any substance done about it or will be done about it in the future. Everyone can see that rules and laws and making new ones are all about looking like you give a sh!t when in reality no one thinks a Caymanian will ever follow them. There is very little law enforcment here. Never was and never will be. Not in a country that grew up rich by being the money laundry of the world. Like all the other third world places in the world it would be better to take pictures of what is to show your children what was.

    • steve says:

      Idiotic comment…who do you think you are? You are insulting us. We don’t appreciate it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Just stating facts. You are insulting yourselves. As usual. Get used to it.

        • Anonymous says:

          Your statement regarding us insulating ourselves is very forward, as well as blatantly ignorant. I, as well with the majority of Caymanians who would agree, also do not appreciate you referring to Cayman as a third world country, who grew up rich as the money laundering capital. If you find such a problem with our island, feel free to buy a one way ticket to your place of origin. Your unintelligent comment only leads me to believe that you are one of the people who come here from their country to live a better life, however you do nothing but complain about how awful it is here. Not one person is forcing you to stay, and there are outgoing flights every day. As I previously stated, feel free to leave.

  3. Anonymous says:

    spear guns were a Caymanian tradition for those of us growing up in the 80’s.we did not have guns which are today killing our young people yet we continue to allow licensed firearms into the country for no other reason than ‘farmers and hunting reasons or sport shooting at the gun club. why then not allow us keep up a Cayman tradition within the law of course. I can’t even passed this down to my own son because of this law. all he hear about is what I did as a young man pre 1985.

    • Desmond Scott says:

      So you want spear guns “passed on” and new guns allowed so the fish can continue to be removed from our reefs? Do you really believe that spear guns make no difference in our fish population? If so, you are lying to yourself.

      • Anonymous says:

        Look people, development will annihilate our beaches, reefs and change our way of living but they still pass development projects to the contrary in order to help out their friends/supporters. Fishing with a line off-shore is prohibited so no go there. Mr. Minister, how about registration fees on boats 21ft and longer and while you are it, limit the type and number of fish you can kill per day.
        Say NO to #cronycapitalism

      • Anonymous says:

        Spearfishing (free diving) is a very selective method of fishing.
        As an avid spearfisher I can personally tell you it’s not easy to hold your breath and persue your game. Sometimes you’re lucky sometimes you’re not. Now compare that to the guys that go out and really do damage by filling the boat several nights a week with one hundred plus snappers a each time that come in during the spawning season. I wonder how many breeders are “wiped out ” then.
        The problem isn’t spearfishing. The problem is overfishing and lack of enforcement.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Minister Panton you are going to lose your seat for opposing or not doing what is right for Caymanians. We will remember…..

    • Anonymous says:

      Shortsighted threats like these are indicative of the amount of respect many hold for our stressed fisheries and ecosystems. The NCL was designed “to do right” for the Caymanian generations not yet born. Some people will understand (and clearly shouldn’t be allowed the privilege).

    • fed up says:

      Panton will have my support and won’t lose his seat.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Surprised the LA would even consider spear guns….I guess its harpoons they would be more worried about…would need one of those to do damage to some of the members 🙂

  6. Anonymous says:

    Without the means to enforce any NCL legislation, any amendment is pointless. For far too long the DOE has been starved of the resources to properly implement ANY conservation law due to a serious lack of manpower and the political will to employ the best, from wherever they may come.
    Government have been quite happy to throw millions at a failed Marine Police Unit which hardly ever get their numerous boats wet, (incompetence keeping many of them in and out of repair yards) let alone actually conducting any form of routine maritime enforcement. Sundays at Rum Point and Kaibo testify to that units total failure to police drunkenness, drug abuse and anti social behaviour that is blighting our island and local peace. One wave runner with a competent officer on permanent station on a Sunday, is that too much to ask of our so called police service?
    If, on the rare occasion you see a police boat of any kind at RP or Kaibo, they spent more time enforcing the law instead of chatting to friends, family or any female in a bathing suit, perhaps the drunks, druggies, incompetent and just plain stupid wouldn’t be able to cause the chaos and damage to our marine environment that they currently do. Speeding too close to the shore, through Marine Parks, ignoring dive flags or snorkellers, taking conch and lobster from MP areas, dumping bottles, cans and cigarette butts in the water, disturbing marine life at Starfish Point for photos and many other illegal activities CAN be enforced and damn well should be by the police and the DOE.

    It appears that the DOE have been forced to employ minimal numbers for many years, it appears to me that they have been forced to employ those with insufficient enforcement knowledge, skills and experience or the fortitude to confront even the most obvious law breakers, especially out on the water. Everyone knows that familial and community links or relationships can play their part in the reluctance of some to get involved, or to even be tacitly approving of wrongdoing, why do we tolerate such corrupt and unprofessional mindsets?
    The piles of empty conch shells on the Sandbar testify to that, or the obscenity of turtle and lobster poaching going largely unchallenged, especially against local restaurants and street vendors. And don’t even get me started on the weekend trips to the Sister Islands by local boats to rape the lobster fisheries.
    These are not state secrets, the police and DOE know full well what the problems are, they probably even know who the main players are, but will not or more likely, cannot act to stop them.

    Part, if not most of the DOE’s failure, is its appalling supervisory management, far too many chiefs and far too few Indians. Most of us have seen the ‘uniformed’, (if that’s what you can call an off the peg fishing shirt) supervisors barrelling about, dripping with defensive equipment, but what do they actually do apart from hang around tv cameras and lion fish culls or bark their orders around? They are an embarrassment to the DOE and I no doubt to the officers who struggle to maintain order in such small numbers. I was told recently that there are two uniformed managers for just four operational officers on GC. They laughingly call one of them a ‘Chief’, a chief of what you may justifiably ask? (I would be interested to hear exactly what formal law enforcement/management experience and qualifications they hold, apart from time served or nationality).

    REALLY, is that true, four officers for the entire island? Presumably, rest days, sickness, injury and holiday entitlement also need to be factored into these ridiculous numbers. No wonder they need tasers!
    Furthermore, there has to be a professional not financial mindset when pursuing a law enforcement career, helping people and public service should never make you rich, it should come from the head and heart, not from greed or lust for power. If that doesn’t suit, don’t join up.

    It’s a very small island people and not much gets past us simple folks, despite what the elite believe.

    And it doesn’t stop there. The question must be asked of DOE senior managers why they feel impotent to really fight for their noble cause, instead of being brow beaten by self interested MLA’s whose credentials are definitely not in the national conservation interest. It appears from these pages that the DOE is more concerned with piling money into endless surveys, public consultations and research than actually defending the very fisheries they are charged with preserving. No marine life, no research, what part of that is difficult to grasp?

    Spear guns by their very nature are abhorrent weapons. Simply put, if you can’t catch fish by hook and line methods, then there aren’t enough fish to take already. Why would anyone think it is a smart idea to let some unemployable bozo take charge of a potentially lethal weapon to clear out the few remaining fisheries that now exist in these waters. It isn’t good enough to use the pathetic excuse of ‘tradition’, many abhorrent ‘traditions’ in the name of food production have gone before us, slavery for one, whaling another, one day maybe, turtle farms.

    No, forget speargun licenses Mr Panton, with the notable and vital exception of slings for the extermination of Lion Fish. If people want more fish to eat, try the invasive and destructive Lion Fish, it’s delicious and you would be doing our own fisheries a huge favor by keeping indigenous fish stocks buoyant.

    • SSM345 says:

      The fact you need a clear police record to obtain a spear gun means that unless you have one, you can’t get it. Law abiding citizens should not be held hostage by a few crack heads who poach. I was born here almost 40yrs ago and I should have every right as a law abiding citizen to obtain a spear gun. Once obtained, if you break the law, you lose the gun, simple really.

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh really, which gun does the criminal surrender? The new one just brought in from Tampa, or the four older refurbished ones stashed under the spare bed? Not a single speargun has gone to the dump in the last 40 years and I’d be surprised if any of these “birthright” items have ever been surrendered. Fact.

      • Anonymous says:

        A clear police record accounts for s###, it either means that a crook has yet to be caught, or hasn’t been caught in this country, which has no access to foreign criminal records.
        Oh yes, what if you are just plain stupid, irresponsible, incompetent, high on drugs or booze, or even mentally ill, who stops a lethal weapon getting into your hands, a $10 police check won’t help no more it does for immigration purposes.
        Breaking the law isn’t a good enough reason to remove a speargun, because by that time someone could be dead.
        As law abiding citizens we should be entitled to a lot of things, but the law says otherwise in the interests of public safety or wildlife conservation, live with it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Any Caymanian with a clean police record should be able to obtain a spear gun license. If any license holder is caught breaking the catch limit or taking protected species revoke the license indefinitely and destroy the spear gun. It’s as simple as that.

    • Ex Spearer says:

      Anonymous 11:14, your solution to the problem has one big drawback…. It won’t work! They rarely catch the speargun users, and if they do there is no meaningful penalty.

  8. diver says:

    Banned them as they destroy fish stock too fast…….20 years ago plenty of fish and now almost nothing.

    • Anonymous says:

      That is not the reason for the low numbers of our fish stock!

      • diver says:

        They hunt fully grown adult fish which they can’t make more fish.

        • SSM345 says:

          9:06, I doubt you have ever been spearfishing in your life with your comment, the big fish you claim are being wiped out are near impossible to spear, they see you before you see them, and are gone in the blink of an eye. They don’t get big being dumb.

          Now line fishing on the other hand…..

      • Mark Hunt says:

        It may not be THE reason for the low numbers of our fish stock, but it is the MAIN reason the large breeders are disappearing. Spearfishing has reduced the fish population worldwide! Sure it’s a big deal to bring back those big groupers, but it’s slow death to our fish population. Why are our hogfish almost gone? Spearfishing! Stop spearfishing! Help bring back our fish.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, I feel spearguns should be banned.

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