Report delivers stark warning for region

| 17/05/2017 | 24 Comments
Cayman News Service

Bleached Elkhorn coral, photo courtesy CCMI

(CNS): Much more needs to be done to reduce human pressures on island systems in the Caribbean to make states more resilient to climate change, a new report by a Commonwealth institution has found. The cost of doing nothing about the issues and adapting to the change will rise quickly. It is estimated that the Cayman Islands will be spending almost 9% of its GDP by 2025 because of the impact of severe weather and over 20% in 2050. The authors stated that the effects of climate change in this region are already serious and things are only going to get worse.

The Caribbean Marine Climate Change Report Card 2017, which was conducted by scientists and researchers commissioned by the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme and funded by the UK, raises the alarm and offers a stark warning that regional governments must do more because this region is in the front line.

The Caribbean is at greater risk from more severe impacts than many other parts of the world because of its geographic location and because most regional states are smaller islands where people live close to and depend on the sea. More intense storms, floods, droughts, rising sea levels, higher temperatures, and ocean acidification are major threats to all regional economies and pose a danger to lives as well, both directly and indirectly. 

As the seas, reefs and coasts on which all Caribbean people depend are under threat, much more needs to be done to protect these resources and the authors recommend building more resilient environments to prepare for, and protect against, climate change.

The report recommends developing a regional network of marine protected areas designed to future-proof marine biodiversity against climate change and stabilise shorelines to preserve natural barriers such as mangroves, salt marshes, and coral reefs. These are some of the pointers in the report that are particularly relevant to Cayman.

However, we have not yet dealt with the much-needed expansion of the marine parks and despite having more laws in place to protect natural barriers, enforcement has been lax. Both government and developers are still involved in development that negatively impacts these important eco-systems and natural protectors when experts are saying that society should be trying to increase their prevalence rather than reduce them.

The scientists in the report warn that while the overall frequency of Atlantic storms may decrease, the strongest hurricanes are likely to increase. Global average sea level is projected to rise by a further 10-32 inches over the coming century — a devastating amount for a country as low-lying as Cayman, where it could be even worse.

In the northern Caribbean, sea level rise could be 25% higher than the global average due to other physical factors affecting land elevation,” the report states. “This projected rise in sea level and severe storms is likely to increase the risk of storm surge events for Caribbean states, which will further exacerbate risks to biodiversity, settlements and infrastructure.”

In addition to worrying about the impending coastal erosion and more storms, the reefs, which are critical to our tourism product, are also at increasing risk. Elevated temperatures are already leading to coral bleaching and disease outbreaks.

“Combined with local human impacts, such as degraded water quality and overfishing, habitat destruction for tourism and port development, thermal stress could be undermining significant investments in coral reef protection,” the report warns. But again the authors state things are only going to get worse.

Corals are already at or near their thermal tolerances. More warming will mean more coral bleaching that persists well beyond the summer months.

“Studies conclude that the majority of the Caribbean will experience coral bleaching annually or bi-annually within the next 30 to 50 years and this will likely become the key driver of reef decline,” the scientists said, adding a stark warning: “If extreme sea surface temperatures were to continue, some projections indicate that the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System could collapse by mid-century.”

The report also looks at the role of mangroves, which over the last quarter-century have declined by a quarter across the region because of coastal development.

“The removal or weakening of these natural sea defences by changing land-use is making our coastline more susceptible to climate change impacts. The most immediate and well-understood climate-related threat to mangroves in Caribbean SIDS is sea level rise — which causes saltwater to seep into fresh water reserves (saline intrusion), erodes our coasts and destroys wildlife habitats.”

The report said that sea level rise also threatens the sustainability of mangrove ecosystems and increases in surface temperature will also affect the geographic range of mangrove species.

The report warns too that Caribbean tourism is particularly vulnerable to climate change and even modest future declines in the abundance of reef fish, and particularly large fish observed on recreational dives, will result in significant reductions in dive and snorkel tourism spend.

“Coastal tourist resorts could potentially be two-to-three times more exposed to climate change impacts such as extreme events and saltwater intrusion than inland tourist resorts,” the report stated, which will clearly have a serious impact on investment decisions about the type of tourism development that the local government is keen to attract.

“During this century, it is expected that the dry season will be longer in some areas, as rainfall will decrease in the early part of the wet season. This would put more pressure on water supplies for people, given the high level of water consumption of visitors and demands from cruise ships for water,” the report stated.

Although the researchers offer these very stark warnings, they also point to action that can help mitigate the impact of climate change. The report stresses the importance of better data and assessments of the marine and coastal environment’s economic value.

Cayman has already begun this work and the environment minister recently stated that the local marine environment has been estimated as being worth as much as CI$200 million a year to the local economy. As well as improvements in the statistical data and the development of biodiversity plans, the authors advise regional law-makers to push coastal development setbacks much further and that climate change adaptation should be integrated into development plans and tourism plans.

See the full report here.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (24)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    “Climate Change” (Rebranded global warming hysteria) is a global tax defraudment scheme worth Trillions in punitive charges.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Climate change has long been thought to be the main culprit in coral degradation. While it does pose a serious threat by making oceans more acidic and causing coral bleaching, the report shows that the loss of parrotfish and sea urchin – the area’s two main grazers – has, in fact, been the key driver of coral decline in the region.
    “Barbuda is about to ban all catches of parrotfish and grazing sea urchins, and set aside one-third of its coastal waters as marine reserves,” said Ayana Johnson of the Waitt Institute’s Blue Halo Initiative which is collaborating with Barbuda in the development of its new management plan. “This is the kind of aggressive management that needs to be replicated regionally if we are going to increase the resilience of Caribbean reefs.”

    Reefs where parrotfish are not protected have suffered tragic declines, including Jamaica, the entire Florida Reef Tract from Miami to Key West, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    Loss of the two main grazers, parrotfish and sea urchin, has been a key driver of coral decline in the region as it breaks the delicate balance of coral ecosystems and allows algae to smother reefs

    The massive outbreak of coral diseases and mass die-off of sea urchin close to the Panama Canal suggest that the order-of-magnitude increase in bulk shipping in the 1960s and 1970s has introduced pathogens and invasive species that have since spread in the Caribbean.
    Sounds like the ballast water that 3:24 describes in his post.

  3. David Smith says:

    We are not cruise fans but work in Miami and you are wrong.
    All sewage and waste water is discharged here in holding tanks. It is treated properly before being discharged properly. Paper is burned and food products ground up. Food is discharged in oceans so this might be harmful.
    China, Mexico and other countries are really the polluters so don’t start to try and dump on little Caribbean Islands and Dart.
    Dart provides jobs and has added beautiful things to GC? Why are people so down on Dart when they have improved things. Do you guys want mosquitoes and swamps instead of progress? Pick your poison. You can’t have it both ways.
    Josh Davis

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s funny because I’ve actually seen evidence and they have been caught on video. There have been staff that have been whistle blowers and the cruise ships themselves have paid heavy fines for illegal dumping.
      So…. Who’s butt is your head up?
      One of the little lambs that believe what the big cruise conglomerates tell you. That they are environmental ambassadors, eh!! LMAO
      You are delusional Josh Davis David Smith if you believe all of their PR guff.
      And it don’t matter where you live bub! It’s out there.
      On another note, do you know how much those huge cruise lines pay in US taxes? NONE!! Because they are registered in Panama and Liberia etc.

    • Anonymous says:

      Josh Davis, just in case that you are not aware of the fact that Mr. Dart is the person who wants to remove the natural iron shore, which is home to small fish on the West Bay beach. So, do you think that that should be allowed?p

    • Anonymous says:

      Josh – Dart’s problem is that they are too big. That’s not Dart’s fault, per se, but it is a problem. If you want to avoid the ‘company town’ problem of people working, shopping, playing all dependent with one corporate entity. They made songs about that. Where you worked hard for your pay, but then spent it all at the company store, leaving you indebted to your employer at the end of the day.

      The other problem is that we were doing pretty good about the mosquitoes and swamp before Dart even found Cayman. But shallow-thinkers with no grasp of history think that Cayman started when Dart set foot on the island. Again, not Dart’s fault, but doesn’t win him / the entity any friends.

      • Anonymous says:

        Anonymous 1:54 You are spot on here. I wish I could have expressed it as well as you have.

  4. David Smith says:

    Another blah blah article saying nothing. There is nothing anyone can do to change the patterns of weather or change any thing. This is just silly. Notice that this scaremongering says nothing about what we can do to change things?
    More liberals with the know it all attitude. Yawn.

    • People Against Stupidity says:

      “Liberals” is not synonymous with “scientists”. “Scientists” are the people who know stuff because they spend many many years studying and trying to understand things. “Idiots” are people who ignore “scientists” because they read an article somewhere. They get bored easily and “yawn”.

      Because they are idiots and too lazy and/or stupid to study and understand stuff, they say that people who actually study and know things have “know it all attitudes”.

      • David Smith says:

        Climate change is a hoax!!!!!
        Whatever is going to happen will. You cannot control mother nature. Relax. Have a beer and recycle your bottle. Bet you will toss that bottle. Big hypocrite. Climate change is just a new religion.

        • Anonymous says:

          So you’re saying if we cut down every single tree on the planet and burn every last bit of fossil fuel it will have zero effect on the climate? Do you actually think before you type?

          Of course humans are accelerating climate change!!

      • Anonymous says:

        P.A.S. 4:40pm – I LOVE this comment. Where’s the <3 button!

    • John Lin says:

      Interesting David.
      If a scientist tells you that the sun will rise at 6:01 tomorrow I assume you will believe him.
      If another says there will be a comet in the sky 2 weeks from now I assume you will accept that will happen. You will, I hope, accept that they have done calculations of the movement of these heavenly bodies and when the orbit of the earth will cross it.

      But when a scientist says that carbon dioxide has been increasing in the atmosphere for the last 100 years (many daily measurements in many places) and that carbon dioxide absorbs reflected infra red radiation from the earth you think he’s an idiot.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hmmmm…. Wonder if the amount of refuse, offal, grey water, black water, hazardous waste and oily bilge water that is freely and carelessly dumped into the sea by the cruise industry has anything to do with it???
    If you are a cruise fan, you may not like this… But you should open your eyes and be aware.
    If you’d like to do your own research, here’s are some interesting links;

    Report from

    Cruising — Out of Control: The Cruise Industry, The Environment, Workers, and the Maritimes, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, March 2003

    Grey water – One cruise ship produces 90 gallons of grey water per person per day.
    Grey water is the wastewater that goes down the sink and showers, the wastewater from the galley, and from the spa and beauty parlour.
    The typical ship visiting a port produces more than 360,000 gallons of grey water per day.
    There are no national or international regulations that control the discharge of grey water.
    They can discharge it at any time, anywhere.

    Black water – One cruise ship produces 10 gallons of sewage per passenger per day. Black water is the waste that goes down toilets.
    The typical ship visiting a port produces more than 40,000 gallons of sewage every day.
    In Canada there are no laws that explicitly control discharge of black water. In the U.S. it is legally discharged three miles from shore. International regulations that would set a 12 mile limit are not yet in effect.

    Hazardous waste – One typical cruise ship produces 15 gallons of toxic waste every day. These include dry cleaning sludge, photofinishing chemicals, paint waste and solvents, print shop waste, fluorescent lamps and batteries.

    Oily bilge – One cruise ship produces 7000 gallons of oily bilge water every day. Oily bilge is a combination of the water that collects in the hull of the ship from condensation, water-lubricated shaft seals, propulsion system cooling, and other engine sources. It contains fuel, oil, wastewater from engines, and may include rags, metal shavings, paint, glass and cleaning agents.

    Ballast water is used by a ship for stability. It will take on ballast to offset the weight of fuel that has been consumed, and for stability during voyages.
    A cruise ship releases ballast water when it enters ports. Each release can be up to 1000 metric tons of ballast water, literally millions of gallons. Ballast water is a concern because it introduces non-native species – bio-invaders as they are called – to areas of discharge.
    California legislated a prohibition of release of ballast water into its waters. Since this legislation came into force in 2001, two-thirds of cruise ships have ignored and violated the law.

    This one is amazing;
    Watch the video. They have video evidence of bags of trash being thrown overboard at night. Cruise execs think this is okay?
    ‘..what cruise ships and other ships have been doing is dumping material that… is not natural. This is not just fresh seawater going back into seawater. This is human waste going into seawater. This is garbage and plastics and metal and soap going into seawater, into the ocean. This is oil and grease and other kinds of things going into the ocean,” says Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), who on four separate occasions tried to get the U.S. Congress to approve a tough environmental legislation called the Clean Cruise Ship Act. He tried in 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2013, but failed to get enough support for the measure.’ This is due to the cruise industry lobbyists.

    Some of these are dated from 10 years ago but no less relevant today. And who’s to say that all of the cruise pollution isn’t causing our seas to heat up? I don’t know, I’m just throwing it out there to think about….
    Or, just bury your head and get behind the cruise dock! Yay

    • Anonymous says:

      excellent information. Thank you.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with you about ships . But you left out cargo ships every military ship around the world . Also propane gas, oil tankers. So if we believe that 30-40 years that climate change will somehow change because of cruise ship piers you need to put down the pipe. Shipping will continue they will be no regulation or laws or enforcement . Thats just the way the world works.
      But understanding that people will need to bring in products and services whether by ship or air, nothing is going to ever change.

      • Anonymous says:

        Um.. Piers? Did you read ANY of the links? Maybe you should put down YOUR pipe. You shouldn’t jump to make mean comments against others unless you’re going to actually read it and see what it’s saying. There is a lot of good info there.
        There is a link on one of the sites listed that addresses cargo, tanker and military ships. But I do not see how you can compare those to cruise ships. Besides, ALL seagoing ships should be worried about the refuse they spew into our seas and oceans. And all should be bound by better laws about dumping at sea. ANYWHERE!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Regardless of fluctuating sea levels, and anyone’s thoughts on the origin of those impact factors, we are facing a more immediate and undeniable human-made global fisheries crisis in the next 20 years. We simply aren’t managing the finite resources available and humanity’s grocery options will never again be as good as they seem to be now. Ironically, it was the DART family’s invention of styrofoam that revolutionized the international modern sushi industry and permitted large quantities of seafood to travel safely these great distances. It’s also the source of poisonous leachate from the degradation of these plastics and polystyrene that is draining into the North Sound and from landfills globally. The fingers will inevitably point at Cayman in the years ahead, and we’ll need sophisticated leaders that can head off the coming accusations. Unfortunately, it seems we are still about 10-15 years from full-blown global panic on the subject.

  7. Anonymous says:

    mankind is slowly destroying the Earth and himself along with it! ?

    • Anonymous says:

      The Earth will recover and continue to circle the Sun for millennia after the extinction of humans. It has recovered from far worse impacts and mass extinction level events throughout geological time. We’re dumb and selected ourselves for extinction and didn’t even realize it. Unfortunate that we are taking so many other creatures with us. If you need any proof of our dog-headed stupidity, look at smoking: we’ve known it causes Cancer for over 60 years, yet people still actively choose to smoke thinking Cancer won’t happen to them.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I feel sorry for future generations. The marine environment will be a desolate wasteland in the very near future. Even in my short life time it’s been severely damaged… Just imagine another 100 years from now. They’ll have to experience what it was like through virtual reality.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Divers are such a problem here as there are way too many divers being crammed into the same spots. Over diving puts such a strain on our environment and should not be tolerated. We need to put limits on the number of divers allowed to each spot per year and not just try to shove as much people for profits as possible.

    • Anonymous says:

      Interesting. Can you elaborate?
      I always advocate for this country to become a boutique destination, not a “mass destination”. Many would gladly pay more for the exclusivity, serenity and tranquility of an eco destination this country could become if their leaders had vision and wisdom.
      Meantime they mostly focused on employing a handful unemployables and all other promises is just a bluff.

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