NCC battles conflict over spearfishing

| 19/10/2017 | 73 Comments

(CNS): The controversial change in government policy from historic efforts to limit and eventually phase out spearfishing to once again allowing the importation of the spearguns and expanding their use has presented a real conflict for the National Conservation Council, which is tasked with allocating the licences while at the same time conserving and protecting Cayman’s marine habitat. At an NCC meeting Tuesday its members voted to send recommendations to Cabinet limiting licences to current numbers until the issue of the proposed marine park enhancement is addressed to try to balance the conflict that has emerged.

Without any additional marine protection, allowing more people to own and use spearguns would pose another significant threat to the reefs and the biodiversity in the water. The Department of Environment continues to have concerns about spearfishing because of its ability to target large, reproductively important individual fish and is far more detrimental than other forms of recreational fishing to marine resources.

What appeared to be a change in policy from goals to reduce and phase out spearfishing to allowing Caymanians to import the spearguns and parts happened during a committee stage amendment to the National Conservation Law when it was steered through the house in 2013.

Wayne Panton, the environment minister at the time, reluctantly accepted the compromise over spearguns when his own party backbench colleagues looked set to try to block the law over the issue. In order to steer the much-needed legislation through the House with full support, an amendment was made to retain local rights to speargun fishing.

The issue was further compounded in the summer when government accepted a private member’s motion from Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush that called for the customs ban on speargun importation to be overturned.

In order to implement section 22 of the law and allow the continued practice of spearfishing while preventing any detrimental impact to the natural marine resources, which the NCC is legally obligated to protect, the members have drawn up recommendations to address the conflict.

The NCC has recommended that the current level of spearfishing be capped at the existing 170 licences until the proposals for enhanced marine parks is implemented. Because this would provide greater protection for marine resources and prevent spearfishing inside any marine protected area, the number of licensed speargun users could then be slowly increased without posing an additional threat.

But the NCC warned that if the enhanced marine parks were not politically acceptable, then the council would need to pursue alternative – less environmentally effective, more expensive and more socially intrusive — methods of reducing fishing pressure, such as instituting more rigorous, licence-based, catch restrictions for other fishing methods.

In an ideal world the only fish that should be targeted with spearguns is the lionfish, which is an invasive species that is posing an ever-increasing threat to the local reefs. But there are fears that this reversal of government policy from trying to phase out spearfishing to having more people fishing with more modern and sophisticated spearguns, especially in the absence of any marine enhancement legislation, will have an irreversible negative impact on local fish stocks.

This issue also comes at a time when other threats that are far more difficult to tackle, such as climate change, invasive species and coral bleaching, are converging to make the conservation battle tougher than ever.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (73)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    so what about local commercial fishermen? they destroy everthimg that swims?




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    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman in the fifties had so many fish, you could go any where from the shore and catch all the fish you wanted by hand line. Out along the reef there were huge grouper sub species, huge hog snapper, mutton snapper angel fish parrot fish, lobster so plentiful we used them for bait. Then came the spear guns, and slowly but surely they were the demise of plentiful anything. Florida suffered the same ill fate. Go talk to the Florida Department of Wild life Conservation. Put size limits, bag limits, and closed season where it will be most effective.The summer slaughter of snapper in the big channel is crying for regulation. Ban spear fishing once and for ever. Cayman cannot sustain what is being done to the fishery.




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  2. Anonymous says:

    The problem is not with the limited licensed spearfishers, it is governmental. Cabinet are not allocating sufficient Environmental Protection Funds for Environmental Protection and Enforcement. Stonewalling the NCC is just one of many issues at hand. There are politicians that clearly don’t want boat patrols of any kind…ask yourself why that might be…




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  3. Anonymous says:

    fishermen…..pillagers of the sea who do nothing but take,take,take…
    don’t worry the sea will soon again take its revenge on cayman….




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    • Anonymous says:

      The marine life benefits from selective hunting. A perfect example is the recent culling of the invasive lion fish. People who practice this art are as much a pillager as sharks are. It has been proven it to be the most eco friendly method for catching fish.




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  4. Anonymous says:

    Once we caymanians have our spear fishing rights restored we will lobby our government to have the cayman parrot which has always been a pest and hated by all caymanians removed as our national bird a replaced by one of our many more deserving birds, which would allow the control of this nuisance by culling.




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  5. Anonymous says:

    You foreigners must accept that we caymanians have the say and the tradition of spear fishing is here to stay.




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    • Dunz says:

      You can’t read, where does it mention they are the problem you parrot.




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    • Anonymous says:

      no.
      south africans said the same thing about their traditions 30 years ago….




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    • Anonymous says:

      Spare guns are dangerous weapons in the wrong hands and as a Caymanian, unless you are too young to know, you should remember that a tourist was brutally murdered here with a spare gun some years ago and her body dumped in the dykes




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      • Anonymous says:

        What the hell is a spare gun? Is that when you have more than one spear gun?




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      • who says it was a speargun ?????
        that would only be privileged to someone who was involved in the crime ????
        it could have been a screwdriver or metal rod of any type !!!!!

        and the victim was not a tourist please get your facts straight !!!!!

        ……………………………………….. rest in peace miss Forde




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    • West bay Premier says:

      4:30pm , what do Caymanians have the SAY in ? Trying to get your spear gun license.




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  6. Mokes-for-all says:

    How about a logical approach:
    1) Marine parks – no spearfishing zones.
    2) Other areas of concern – limit spearfishing to pelagic fish only; keep reef fish off limits.
    3) Closed seasons; certain species totally off limits; size limits; catch limits; species-based, as deemed appropriate by informed decision-makers.
    4) Enforce these laws strictly, and allow licenced spearfishers to provide information against those who transgress them – give authorities the power to confiscate everything – the catch, equipment, boats, cars, etc.
    5) Spearfishing by breath-holding only; no scuba.
    6) Severe fines; big enough (and enforced) to be a suitable deterrent.
    Spearfishing is a far more selective method than trolling or almost any other form of fishing. True, those in the early stages of the sport will target large specimens, but as you get into it, if you love the sea you will naturally progress to limiting your catch (rather than catching your limit), and you will only take what is suitable for the pan/bbq, and leave the larger breeding specimens alone.
    I have lived in Cayman for almost 20 years, and dearly wish that I could get a speargun licence, but so far to no avail.




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    • West bay Premier says:

      Mokes -for-all , I agree that your comment could make sense, but you are talking about too much Enforcement and we see how well Enforcement works in the Cayman Islands . So the cure is prevention and tough enforcement and Judges .




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    • Anonymous says:

      Great idea Mokes, however you haven’t been here very long have you? Enforcement? In Cayman? Hahahahahahaha….oh that’s good…best laugh I had all day.




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    • Anonymous says:

      That’s very hopeful and whilst the majority will abide to the laws put in place it only takes a small minority with spearguns at hand to wipe out entirely populations.




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  7. Anonymous says:

    Nothing is wrong with spear fishing if they ENFORCE THE LAWS. Majority of spearing happens in 40+ feet of water. Its not as easy as it looks. One has to be able to hold their breath for minute at a time. Line fishing does more harm as it it nondiscriminatory and ends up catching juvenile fish, most of which do not make back into the ocean.

    I don’t see why other people should suffer the consequences of some because the Marine Police are incapable of doing their job to up hold and enforce the laws in place.




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  8. Anonymous says:

    Our marine life species such as fish, conch and lobsters are being depleted rapidly because too many people have access and can take what they want.

    Imagine, conch season begins next month and every person coming off a plane or cruise ship can go and collect the limit of conch each day.

    Is that sustainable?

    Some people, attorneys and judges say it is a human right for work-permit holders to be able to fish and get conch and lobsters in order to feed themselves and their family. My argument is, you are not being denied food, you can go to the supermarket and buy food. And if you cant afford to buy food to sustain yourself or family in Cayman, or you are not living/visiting with family or friends that can support you while here, you should not be here on a work permit or visitor permit.

    Spearfishing does target the bigger fish more often than not, lets not fool ourselves. But lets also acknowledge that another huge detriment to our marine life are the work permit holders and visitors who take thousands and thousands of fish, conch and lobsters each year, a large portion of which are young/juvenile specimens.

    Let us find a “holistic” solution to our problem with depleting marine species.




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    • West bay Premier says:

      I am very pleased to see everyone joining in on this very important topic and are understanding the issue. we are all faced with the DEPLETION OF MARINE RESOURCES IN THE FUTURE.
      I see enough good and educational comments on this subject to help everyone to better understand what the Islands and the people are faced with..

      Like I said in my other comment , we really need to understand the situation to educate the Politicians who have overturned the new Marine Conservation Law that was banning the importation of spear guns and parts.
      I think this is why they overturned the Law is because the politicians just did it to please their constituency. None of these politicians know anything about the marine resources except what they have been told .




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    • Anonymous says:

      I wondered how long it would be before the expats got blamed. Expected, but disappointing nonetheless. If I go fishing I pay a lot of money for a Caymanian crewed boat to go out for half a day, and rarely do we catch much…the odd tuna, a barracuda, occasionally a legal Grouper. Most in Financial services do not have the time or cash to do this, so I think your remark is way off and just looking for something else to hate expats for. Unless of course you are pointing at the Honduran or Jamaican expats in which case you are still the same hateful person. Where are the facts/photos to back up your argument? Kind of difficult without them..”everyone knows” doesn’t work-prove it.




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      • West bay Premier says:

        10:42am , Who the hell are you talking to ? If I knew i could better answer. This issue has nothing to do with expats , except if they are breaking the law.




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        • Anonymous says:

          Back up your allegations then you nitwit, you have no proof whatsoever, just playing to an audience…your handle suggests you have ambitions well above your talent or ability, but that hasn’t stopped anyone here so far becoming a politician…




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      • Anonymous says:

        Bro, you just need to drive the coast of the island between 6-8 pm and see all the Jamaican and Filipino fishermen taking juvenile fish home to cook. It is not a hateful comment it is just the plain truth. Lots of low income work permit holders depend on fishing to eat while they send all of their money back home. The law has been put in place a LONG time regarding work permit holders not being able to fish from shore without a license, it has just not been enforced. That is another revenue stream for the CIG which can go towards resources to help enforce the laws already in place.




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        • Anonymous says:

          12.54, you may be right, and if you are then it’s another demonstration that immigration is failing to enforce laws on earning enough to live and DOE are failing at enforcement full stop.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Just because the post says work permit holders and visitors are taking fish, lobsters and conch, doesnt mean the poster is anti-expat – it just means the post is factual.




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        • Anonymous says:

          In Little Cayman expats with houses are taking Conch and lobsters all year around. Only in Cayman Is. can an expat fish without a License.




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    • Dunz says:

      Take 1000’s where, on a cruise ship or plane? Stay out of the sun.




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  9. satirony says:

    Cayman’s population has quadrupled since 1980. The fish population has halved? Do the math. Why do humans always walk to the cliff edge, then lean over it, before taking action?




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  10. Anonymous says:

    Fish migrate with the water temperature and current and with the bait, their food source




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    • Anonymous says:

      Reef fish (what we are talking about) pretty much live in a small area, and there is a vast dessert of deep water between Cayman and other reefs, so when the fish on our reefs are killed, they are gone for good.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Useful info. Great contribution 👏😂




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    • West bay Premier says:

      Please read my other comment on this subject .




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      • Anonymous says:

        Nobody reads your comments. You are the the new Who, completely nonsensical. Straight thumbs down, no questions asked.




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    • Fred the Piemaker says:

      Apart from territorial reef fish which are not migratory.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Ahh, I see, you are saying that with climate change occurring (and nothing practical we can do to cool the sea) we have to control other effects on fish, such as spear fishing, in order to save something for all of us for later. Quite astute.




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  11. Anonymous says:

    Spearfishing is not a crime it is a primitive way of fishing that has been done for years.When you want to complain about spearfishing just think about the thousands of pounds of fish commercial fisherman catch every day or week. That has a lot bigger impact that a few people spearfishing




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  12. Anonymous says:

    Spearfishing is an art and tradition and should be preserved. I support it, I don’t support foreigners telling me what I should do in my country or foreign divers releasing fish from my fishpots, because they think it is cruel.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Even when the “foreigners” are actually university educated born Caymanians who are trying to tell you that your approach is doomed without adequate controls? In the end, there will essentially be no spearfishing, not because it is banned, but because the fish are gone due to your greed and shortsightedness.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Slavery was an economy driven tradition that went on for hundreds of years and I don’t support that. I do support educated minds that tell us spearfishing by self entitled bigots is damaging our fish stocks.
      If you want to spear something, try Lion Fish, then you might have a healthy stock of reef fish to supply the rest, and they are delicious.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Try using ‘bigot’ in the correct context. Try creating an argument that is cogent and does not consist of ‘whataboutery’. Educated minds also once said the earth was flat. There are always two sides and I’m on the spearfishing side, Im not asking you to like it, I’m expressing an opinion.




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      • Anonymous says:

        No educated person would use the phrase ‘self entitled bigots’. An educated person would contain his emotions and anger. He/She would produce constructive arguments and accept disagreement with respect.




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  13. Walter Bodden says:

    Each person in the water with a speargun is another nail in the coffin for many species of our fish. Spearfishing is man’s best way to take the large breeders of most of our edible species, and that is what will happen when persons are using their spearguns out there, usually unobserved by anyone, and there will be no bag limit when there are no game wardens around. I was born and spent a large part of my life on Cayman Brac and I know.




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    • West bay Premier says:

      I personally think that this issue is pure political, and the people who understands what spearfishing can and has done to the underwater resources in Cayman Islands. Should educate them Politicians who has overturned the new Marine conservation Law that was banning the importation of spear guns and parts .

      I don’t think that there’s many people who knows more about what spearfishing has done in the Cayman Islands than me .
      I have seen where there was an abundance lobsters , conch , and fish to where the depletion of all species started back in the 80’s . You know when you could get 20 lobsters from under one rock ledge 20ft from shore they were plentiful. When you could dive without a mask a bring up 5 conch at a time they were plentiful

      If we don’t educate ourselves and others of the importance of CONSERVATION and start now it won’t be too much longer before everything is completely gone , and when it’s all gone . What are YOU and YOUR CHILDREN and THEIR CHILDREN going to do then ? Buy imported seafood from other countries if you can .

      Remember that one can do only so much , but if everyone do the right thing it would be a much bigger impact.




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      • Anonymous says:

        What programs are there to replenish the species? Why are there not fish farms for all types of species here, that is where our government should focus their efforts.




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        • Anonymous says:

          Because it is cheaper to preserve than to replace. – Look at other countries (America) where they stock fish (salmon) for recreational and commercial take and there are still regulations up the wazoo. Because reduction in take works better than trying to replace what is taken.




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  14. Truth says:

    Ban the use of all guns. spearguns are silent killers.




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  15. Anonymous says:

    What about people who don’t want to target reef fish at all? I would like to obtain a license for a “blue water” gun for hunting highly migratory/big game fish such as mahi, wahoo and tuna.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds great to me, but have you actually seen these fish in Cayman waters in snorkelling depths often enough to make this a realistic option?

      Curious




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      • Anonymous says:

        Are you implying that it is not possible to snorkel in water deep enough for pelagics? I have shot wahoo, tuna and mahi after swimming out from shore to and beyond the drop off – not that far at Northwest point/turtle farm area. Throw a boat into the mix and its easy to get deep enough – 12 mile bank is a popular spot! There is no such thing as water too deep…




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  16. Anonymous says:

    With a speargun there is less collateral damage. The user should only be shooting the type(s) that he is seeking. There needs to be limits and enforcement of the quantity and size but apart from that there should be a lot fewer unintended kills.




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  17. Anonymous says:

    If licensed spearfishermen stuck to the 3 fish limit per gun per day then it wouldn’t be a problem to issue a license every Caymanian with a clean record. The only problem is the people who already have licenses always shoot more than is permitted. How do I know this? They regularly post their illegal over the limit catches on social media.

    DoE doesn’t even need to get off the couch to catch these guys and revoke their licenses. All you need is a smart phone and a thumb to scroll through social medial.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Since you’re on their feeds are you sending the information to the DoE? I’m pretty sure the poachers aren’t accepting ‘MarinePolice1’ as their social media follower/friend.




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  18. Anonymous says:

    It is already illegal for foreign nationals to fish. Is it enforced? Of course not!




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    • Anonymous says:

      And nor should it be as it is illegal discrimination on the basis of national origin.




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      • Anonymous says:

        Yay. Using your logic I can go seal clubbing with Eskimos claiming is is racist to not let me do it too.!




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      • Anonymous says:

        Bollocks to that mate!!

        The fish in our waters are a limited resource which should be reserved for Caymanians. Sadly, there isn’t enough shallow water around the islands to sustain a poplulation of 70k, which is blatantly obvious going by the dwindelling fish, conch and lobsters stocks. If work permit holders want to go fishing then they should have to book a charter with a local captain. That should be the only acception to the rule!




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    • Anonymous says:

      It is not illegal for foreigners to fish as long as they buy a license. That may be the case with spear guns, I don’t know




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    • Anonymous says:

      It is not illegal for foreign nationals to fish.
      They can not get spear gun licenses however.




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  19. Anonymous says:

    cayman is a third world nation when it comes to animal welfare and the environment….
    but what do you expect when the best and brightest in society cannot vote or run for office…
    welcome to wonderland.




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    • Anonymous says:

      I think you should go back to wherever it is you came from and work on your sentence forming skills and use of capital letters. Seriously, how did you even pass the English exam to obtain a work permit?




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      • Anonymous says:

        pretty sure he passed the english exam…. what about you?




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      • Anonymous says:

        Again, who cares. People who constantly just correct spelling and grammar do so because you have nothing intelligent to contribute. It’s your loser way of trying to insult someone. No one cares.




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    • annonymous says:

      whwn did Cayman become a nation?!




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  20. Anonymous says:

    Great pic CNS… I hope that’s not in Cayman as wearing gloves is illegal!




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