(CNS): With a number of changes at this time of year over what people can and cannot take from the sea, the Department of Environment (DoE) is urging everyone not to poach and help protect the country’s dwindling fish stocks. Restrictions on take have been put in place as a means of ensuring the long-term and sustainable use of our marine resources, officials said this week as the conch season opened and the Nassau grouper season closed.
“While we still have one of the largest Nassau grouper populations among the known spawning aggregations remaining in the Caribbean, we have effectively lost over half of our traditional spawning aggregations in the Cayman Islands,” said DoE Research Officer Bradley Johnson. “Fishing on a spawning aggregation is not and never has been sustainable for any level of take, as shown by DoE’s research, as well as the decline of spawning aggregations across the region.”
The rules for Nassau grouper have undergone significant changes and no one is allowed to take them anywhere in Cayman waters from 1 December to 30 April. As the weather cools, Nassau grouper begin to aggregate in preparation for spawning early in the New Year. These annual aggregations have made the species susceptible to overfishing.
“The current regulations are meant to ensure that we have Nassau grouper on our reefs into the future,” said Johnson. He explained that this is the same strategy applied to other marine species like conch and lobster. During the open season people may take up to five Nassau grouper from Cayman waters per boat per day.
In August of this year, improvements were also made to the regulations affecting other fish species, which make both take and possession illegal outside of the open seasons. This means that the person poaching marine life and whoever buys or uses it is also committing an offence.
“This is a loophole that our officers, and the public who support conservation, have struggled with for a while and we are happy it has been resolved,” said DoE Chief Conservation Officer Mark Orr observed.
Everyone is encouraged to make themselves aware of the full provisions of the regulations. The DoE is distributing free Conservation Rules Brochures at a variety of places around all three islands and these brochures may also be downloaded from the website.
Another tool developed to help the public stay informed is an app for iPhones and Android smartphones. While this is still a Beta version of the app, some of the features include interactive maps that allow the public to know where they are located in relation to the marine park zones, what the rules are in the area in which they are located, and the ability to send feedback to DoE on anything they deem to be important or of concern. The app can be downloaded by searching the smartphone store for ‘Cayman DoE’ and people are encouraged to report any technological glitches so that they can be rectified.
“We know that enforcement will always be an issue with any law and that our efforts will always be constrained by the number of officers we are able to employ,” said DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie. “So we have to work smarter, both through the use of technology and by trying to ensure that our regulations are structured to optimise conservation objectives and enforcement capability.”
The public is reminded that the app is still a form of electronic communication and, as such, if there is an urgent situation they should either report the matter to 911 or directly to DoE at the following numbers:
- Grand Cayman: 916-4271
- Cayman Brac: 926-013
- Little Cayman: 916-7021
See more details of catch limits and seasons in the CNS Library