Public urged to follow laws to protect fish

| 15/01/2018 | 24 Comments

(CNS): The Department of Environment (DoE) has said that at this time of year a number of rules are in place designed to help protect the marine life around the Cayman Islands that remains under threat. The department is urging people who are going fishing to follow the laws, which apply to all individuals and businesses, and should be kept in mind when the public is planning fishing trips. “Our goal is to promote a sustainable recreational fishery that will serve the public for years into the future,” said DoE Senior Research Officer John Bothwell.

“Refraining from taking marine life when they are spawning is a major component of a sustainable fishery. It is one of the reasons why the Cayman Islands, and other fisheries jurisdictions around the world, have closed and open seasons, along with bag and size limits, for marine life that is at risk of being overfished.”

Fish and other marine life in local waters is at increasing risk from multiple global threats, from climate change such as coral bleaching to invasive species like the lionfish which pose significant challenges for conservationists. Protecting marine resources from over fishing, however, is possible with the support of the fishing community.

Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour’s comments about the environment have been less than supportive so far, having largely been about overturning the National Conservation Law, but he also called for people to respect the rules. “It is vital that we respect the fishery rules of the Cayman Islands to ensure that our children and future generations continue to enjoy and benefit from the fruits of the sea,” he said.

However, at this point, the ministry has shown no indication that it has plans to help in the battle for marine protection, as plans for the implementation of enhanced marine parks do not appear to be on its current agenda.

The rules that remain in place to protect fish include year round fishing bans on sharks and rays. Nassau groupers are also protected at this time of year, as the closed season began on 1 December and will last until 30 April. Anyone who takes, purchases, receives, offers for sale, exchange or donation, or possesses, or permits another person to take Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) from Cayman Islands waters during this time commits an offence.

Conservation experts advise fisher-people who accidentally catch sharks, rays, under-sized fish or groupers during the closed season to release them, even if they are injured during the catch. For sharks, simply cut the line as close to the hook as is safe. Using circle hooks when fishing makes releasing undersized fish or protected species like Nassau grouper, stingrays, or sharks easier. Having a release rig ready to use when fishing in water more than 75-feet deep also makes it easier to release protected species.

Meanwhile, it is currently open season on several shell fish, including spiny lobsters, which can be caught until the end of February. But lobster catchers are reminded that the minimum size take is a six-inch tail length. The bag limit is three per person or six per boat per day, whichever is less. Anyone who takes, purchases, receives, offers for sale, exchange or donation, or possesses, or permits another person to take more than three lobsters from Cayman Islands waters commits an offence.

Queen conch and whelks can also be taken until the end of April but people are limited to five conch each or 10 per boat, per day, and two-and-a-half gallons in the shell or two-and-a-half pounds of processed whelks per person per day. Anyone breaching these limits commits an offense.

Chitons, periwinkles and bleeding teeth as well as echinoderms, including starfish, sea eggs/urchins, sea cucumbers and sand dollars, may not be taken from Cayman Islands waters at any time.  The wearing of gloves while snorkelling is also banned and divers cannot take any marine life other than lionfish while scuba diving.

Anyone who suspects a marine offence may be happening can call 911 for immediate response, or DoE conservation officers directly:

  • Grand Cayman: 916-4271

  • Cayman Brac: 926-0136

  • Little Cayman: 925-0185.  

Information that is not time-sensitive, can be reported anonymously to Cayman Crime Stoppers, by calling 800-TIPS (800-8477). This is a free, local call in the Cayman Islands, but it is answered by the Crime Stoppers call centre in Miami, so you can stay anonymous. The person who answers your call will not be able to recognise your voice. 

National Conservation Law brochures and Marine Park maps and other rules can be downloaded from the DoE website.

For more information on all of the closed seasons and other conservation rules, contact the DoE on 949-8469 or email

Cayman News Service


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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (24)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    We should really have a comprehensive ban on all lobster tails under 6 inches – including the juvenile 2 inch tails “imported from Honduras” that line the freezer section at our supermarkets. Marine sustainability has to be a consistent message.

  2. Anonymous says:

    How many local residents would scrap all conservation laws immediately and harvest everything? How many politicians would support this scraping of conservation laws for votes?

  3. Anonymous says:


    “Please follow the laws”

  4. Anonymous says:

    That release rig set up for grouper made me chuckle. I don’t think a grouper has ever been released since Columbus stepped foot on these shores. Not by a Caymanian anyway.

    • Anonymous says:

      I believe we’re still waiting for Columbus to step foot here

    • Save Our Sea says:

      Born and raised Caymanian here and I have released EVERY SINGLE Grouper I have caught in Cayman waters. Why? Because I have done my research and that is simply what is best for my ocean. Doing otherwise is ignorant and is a straight up a…hole move. Despite Grouper being my favourite fish to eat, I don’t even order it in restaurants anymore….personal choice, no one else has to follow me on that one. That is a sacrifice I have chosen to make for love of the ocean (esp the ocean surrounding these islands) on a whole.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Different licensing requirements for long term residents based on nationality is illegal discrimination.

    • Anonymous says:

      How do you feel about the work permit system we have here? Do you also think it is discriminatory for non-caymanians to have a work permit?

      Or how about if I win the lottery in the US and as a non-US citizen I pay a higher tax rate on my winnings that a US citizen, do you think that is discrimination?

      • Anonymous says:

        One is an immigration issue with objective justification. The other is simple illegal discrimination. You obviously know nothing about the issues given your comment.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Lots of over taking in the waters these days…zero patrol. From GT to BT and EE to WB inside and out with 20-200+ conches and 8-20 lobsters weekly

    • Anonymous says:

      It is obvious that DOE management have neglected to purchase fit for purpose boats for many years. It is a disgrace that this vital service has been allowed to diminish because of poor leadership, a lack of meaningful funding and political will.
      These islands need more enforcement officers and a protection service worthy of their unique environment, marine parks and fisheries.
      Anyone going to the Sandbar can immediately identify what has gone wrong with one of our greatest natural attractions, absolutely no enforcement of the law. Why, because of a total lack of equipment, manpower and the willingness to sort out the illegal and often dangerous commercial operators who are ruining this place for profit. The same applies to all marine parks, no enforcement of the law because of chronic underfunding. This must change if we are serious about conserving our reefs and marine life stocks for future generations.

  7. Anonymous says:

    why not enforce current laws????

    • Anonymous says:

      Because some idiot at the doe thinks it more a priority to spend millions on killing iguanas than spending the money on more officers and equipment to actually inforce the laws we have.
      Someone’s head should roll at doe for this massive neglect.

  8. Anonymous says:

    There are people who openly fish in the marine parks during the day. As a repeat visitor, it is upsetting that the Cayman authorities care so little about their island that they allow such obvious poaching. From what I have seen, it appears DOE tries but the light court sentences and lack of political will to change anything scream ignorance (or outright stupidity) at the highest levels. History will judge the politicians harshly but as long as they can stuff their pockets with cash and build unnecessary projects,
    they don’t care.

  9. Anonymous says:

    What about the expats fishing openly without licenses, a plain breach of law?

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly! Some of them scrape up anything that moves. Remember when one could go fishing in the evenings for about half an hour and get all the fish you needed. Populations was then around ten thousand. More people came and less fish is the results. As a repeat visitor did you call the police when you saw persons fishing in marine parks? How many times a week do you eat fish on your repeat visits? You blaming the police, the courts and politicians but what have you done to help? Just asking?

      • Anonymous says:

        And there is one of your problems. Blaming a visitor for pointing out blatant poaching? You can’t make this stuff up. Maybe you are police/magistrate/MLA yourself.

    • Anonymous says:

      As they would be victims of the illegal discrimination the law is practically unenforceable.

    • Anonymous says:

      Deport ALL expats!

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