Councillor accuses NCC of overriding MLAs

| 06/11/2017 | 27 Comments
Cayman News Service

Captain Eugene Ebanks in the LA, 3 November 2017

(CNS): The representative for West Bay Central, Capt Eugene Ebanks, has accused the National Conservation Council of not following the wishes of Members of the Legislative Assembly over the spearfishing dispute, despite the fact that the decision by politicians placed the council in a conundrum over the law. Speaking during the budget debate late Friday evening, Ebanks, who was appointed as a part-time councillor to the health minister and given responsibility for the environment, made it clear that he was also fully behind the review of the historic conservation legislation, fueling concerns that there is no one in the current administration going to bat for the environment.

Ebanks said that all the MLAs had wanted the amendment in the conservation law to allow the importation of spearguns and parts and to license locals to use the fishing guns, but it had not been implemented. He said the NCC had not acted because they claimed a difficulty in expanding spear fishing licensing when the law also requires the council to protect the marine environment.

The CDP member of the Unity government argued that if the NCC is satisfied that a person is responsible to be licensed to fish in accordance with the law and agreed areas, it should follow the law and issue the licence and not put “its will before lawmakers”. He accused the NCC of  of using the issue as “some kind of quid pro quo” to force the hand of parliament to pass the enhanced marine parks and said that this was wrong. 

The challenge for the NCC has been that in accordance with the law it has a legal obligation to protect the environment and cannot act in a way that would threaten marine species, which is the problem with the conflicting position on spear guns.

The decision by MLAs to reverse the policy of phasing out that fishing method because of its direct threat to endangered reef fish conflicts directly with the NCC’s legal obligations of conservation. The council has pointed out that in the absence of  enhanced marine parks where no one can fish using any kind of method, the increased use of spearguns posed a serious conservation threat. If the marine parks were expanded, however, the threat posed by the guns would be decreased, thereby balancing the legal obligations of the council.

Echoing comments from other MLAs, Ebanks appeared not to understand this dilemma for the council and was insistent that the NCC begin issuing licences despite the absence of the necessary protections, placing it in contravention of the law.

But Ebanks also said he was happy that other elements of the law had not yet been enacted, as he accused the council of having too much power and that he was supporting the complete review of the legislation to “ensure it is working as intended”. He added that the review committee would include a representative from the Department of Environment and the NCC.

The MLA’s comments come on the heels of clear statements from Premier Alden McLaughlin and Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour that this Unity government is intent on gutting the conservation law despite its unanimous support when the former environmental minister, Wayne Panton, steered the legislation through the LA.

While the backbench MLA acknowledged the success of the council in securing a selection of sites this year for conservation, he did not speak about the future of the ongoing project, which CNS understands has not been allocated any more cash in the budget for the next two years.

During his comments Ebanks pointed to the more than $1 million allocated for the eradication of the green iguana and took aim at the DoE management for not taking care of this a few years earlier.

However, the well-documented history of this issue shows that initially the law prevented any headway. Before a change to the local legislation in 2010, the greens could not be legally killed because they were inadvertently included in the law protecting Grand Cayman’s endemic and truly endangered blue iguana and the rock iguana on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

There was also confusion in government about which department (environment or agriculture) was responsible as well as  a lack of funding from lawmakers to deal with the issue until 2015 (see ‘Green’ invasion project gets funding)

Ebanks claimed the current allocation “should make a dent in the population of these pests”, even though the DoE has already indicated that yet again the budget allocation is not sufficient for the scale of the problem.

According to the latest figures, there are now more than a million green iguanas on Grand Cayman and recent cull attempts have not made a significant impact on the numbers, as only 16,500 animals were killed in the recent pilot programmes. 

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (27)

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  1. Kenneth Mass, CPA says:

    I am a diver and licensed to cull lion fish. I thinkbit is absolutely necessary to kill as many as possible to orotect your reefs and environment. By making it extremely difficult and expensive for tourist divers like myself, you risk having tour tourist divers going elsewhere to dive.

    By allowing us to s use spears to kill lion fish accomplished multiple things:

    1) It enhances the the dive experience.

    2) It helps th protect the reef and the native marine life of the Cayman Islands.

    3) The activity helps to bring divers to the Cayman Islands, because spear fishing lion fish is a real challenge.

    4) By briging the divers here for the enhanced diving experience, we spend a tremendous amount of money which directly impcats your economy.

    5) tourist divers utilizing spears is a plus because most of us have no way to cook or prepare the fish, so they go to the restaurants. I have personally given seven to Vivo for no charge because I do not want to kill an animal and waste it.

    6) lion fish has become a very popular item on local menu’s. The more that can be provided locally, the less is imported from other areas.


    Kenneth Mass
    CT, USA

  2. anonymous says:

    Captain who? Never heard of him until single member constituencies introduced.

  3. restrict all methods with limis says:

    it is not spearguns that kill out fish it is the other methods which do not have limits such as line fishing. All methods should have limits.

  4. Anonymous says:


  5. Is it possible that MLA Ebanks is not fully behind CONSERVATION which supports our huge tourism product which in turn might affect MLA’s salaries in the long run???

    • West bay Premier says:

      I agree Peter , he has always been in support of the fishermen an not in favor of conservation . I think that must be his nitch to keep getting re-elected .

      • Anonymous says:

        If he and Mac were really concerned about the fishermen they would insure proper action are taken to insure a health fishery far into the future. They are trying to do the opposite.

  6. Anonymous says:

    In at least 5 terms as an MLA (20 years) Capt. Eugene has made perhaps less than 5 presentations in the House. What, has the Hollow Man awakened??!!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am reaching 64 yo and have never taken more than 3-4 fish per weekend by spear gun. Yeah maybe there is a few greedy ones who have no conscious but of course maybe they are doing it as a livelihood. This is of course how Caymanians survived for 500 years. How dare you try to change another part of our history and culture. I for one will be happy to go back spearfishing. I hate throwing a line over the side and see what I get per chance. I believe one day we will see divers holding their breath and going deeper and deeper for longer times then we can imagine. Stop making more and more laws that change our history and culture.

    • Anonymous says:

      You clown, Cayman has only been settled and populated since the early 1700’s.

    • Anonymous says:

      The first human known to have lived on Cayman was 362 years ago. First permanent settlement was in 1730’s, about 280 years ago. The population first broke 10000 sometime in the 50’s, maybe, no one really knows, but just because you had enough fish then doesn’t mean there is enough for 30,000 Caymanians to take all they can now. Spearfishermen will absolutely kill the last big mama grouper, parrotfish and lobster if you let them.

      • Anonymous says:

        Expats should NOT be allowed to fish period, fishing should be only for Caymanians. If a expat wants to fish for sport then he should have to hire a Caymanian to guide them.

  8. Anonymous says:

    They need to be overridden, most politicians don’t have a clue about the environment let alone how to preserve it for future generations. Damn idiots!

  9. Veritas says:

    At leasr WhoGene finally stood up!.

  10. Jotnar says:

    For Capt Eugene to actually say anything at all in the LA is in itself quite astonishing, even if it is complete guff.

  11. Anonymous says:

    He speaks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Did anyone out there besides me watched his debate or should I say his essay?. Surely he was reading what someone else wrote for him. They should really get it to him before he gets up to the mike so he can understand what it is he is reading. Time to drain the swamp!!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Eugene – it is called the rule of law! Get used to it, because we will not accept it any other way. The law is in charge, not you.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I’m all for issuing a speargun license to every Caymanian with a clean record, but only if the DoE enforcement budget is increased by about 1000%. This shouldn’t even be open for debate until DoE enforcement gets the tools and manpower to do the job!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Which is more inane? The “Captain for life” title for mere merchant seamen or the “Honourable for life” title for wastes of space in the LA?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Eugene just woke up!

  17. Anonymous says:

    The people who would create the most problems in the marine parks are from Capt. Ebanks district. They reek havoc during the night and evade capture. It that what he desires? Who will be the 24/7 watchmen?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Never trust any civilian that refers to themselves in their past context. They are normally full of their own importance and use past rank to exploit there position in society.

    Mr Ebanks is clearly a clown who hasn’t read the NCL or any other detailed correspondence or authority on the subject of which he speaks.
    Spearguns are already misused by licensed owners and they post many examples on social media to prove the point.
    They have destroyed the grouper population now they are intent on wiping out the reefs to satisfy their insatiable greed.

    No more spearguns or idiots poaching our resources.


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