Marine protection plan gets nod ten years on

| 01/04/2019 | 46 Comments
Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands coral reef (Photo courtesy DoE)

(CNS): More than ten years after the Department of Environment began a scientific survey that helped outline what expansion to the existing marine parks would be needed to protect Cayman’s resources into the future, Cabinet has finally given the green light for the necessary regulations to make it a reality. The DoE submitted its final recommendations to the inner government circle for the marine parks enhancement plan three years ago, after five years of consultations, discussions and revisions to ensure all stakeholders could get behind the new plan. It has been waiting for it to be approved ever since.

But now, with Cabinet approval, the work needed to implement the desperately needed protections can begin.

The announcement that Cabinet had approved the proposals and that regulations would be drafted was made by Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour during the royal visit last week when Prince Charles was at the Botanic Park to open the Children’s Garden. It is the first significant policy decision Seymour has made in regard to the environment since taking responsibility for it almost two years ago.

DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said she was really pleased about the announcement as she and her team have been working on the project for a decade, from when the DoE received a Darwin grant and partnered with Bangor University to start the local survey of the reefs.

The results underscored the pressing need for the expansion plan, given the growing threats to Cayman’s marine habitat and the limitations on the original marine protections implemented in 1986, when the population was just 25,000 people and the tourism industry was much smaller.

The most obvious change that the new marine park protections will bring is the expansion of no-take zones from around 14% to 48% of the marine habitat around all three islands. The new rules will significantly enhance the protection afforded to marine life between the shore and the drop off, with no-take areas for marine life now called ‘marine reserves’.

“We have increased no-take protections significantly on all three islands,” Ebanks-Petrie told the press Monday. She explained that, based on scientific research, the department has done its best to mitigate the threats that it can control, such as over-fishing and diving, especially as threats they cannot control, such as climate change and coastal development, are increasing.

Ebanks-Petrie also noted that expanding the no-take zones will make enforcement easier for the departments as the catalog of different ‘can’s and cannot’s’ relating to seasonal size, species and other specific controls have been removed.

This means DoE that officers will know immediately if someone is breaking the law if they are fishing in a zone without having to see their catch. But the DoE plans to increase the monitoring and enforcement, as it has recently hired four new officers across all the islands.

The announcement by the minister that the regulations would be drawn up to support the enhancement of the parks came just before the Prince of Wales himself spoke about the importance of protecting the marine environment, which he said was absolutely vital for our shared survival.

Ebanks-Petrie explained that this plan, which was lauded by Prince Charles, came about after years of research by the Department of Environment and its Darwin Initiative partners, Bangor University. It included discussions between successive governments, the DoE, the National Conservation Council (NCC), non-governmental organisations, other local stakeholders – including fishermen – and the general public.

“We’ve been working toward these changes for going on ten years. I’m so happy the government was able to make this a reality for our people,” she added.

DoE Marine Research Officer Dr Croy McCoy, who has conducted much of the work, said it was a modern science-based marine conservation plan developed by Caymanians, for Caymanians, local residents and visitors.

“Should these proposals for enhanced marine reserves not have been implemented, we ran the risk of further coral reef degradation and, eventually, ecosystem collapse,” he said. “With the increasing demands of our rising population on coral reefs, the quality of local marine resource management is pivotal to our economic success. This new network of marine reserves puts our country in a position to continue the high living standards we all enjoy.”

The marine parks expansion will also increase ‘no diving’ areas, particularly on Little Cayman and
Cayman Brac. “It was agreed that some increase in the no-dive zones was needed to continue to safeguard our dive tourism and the marine life that tourism product depends on,” said DoE Deputy Director Tim Austin.

The specific areas governed under the enhanced marine parks system, once legally established, will
be clearly marked with signs and range markers on land, as well as marker buoys in the water and
displayed on the DoE phone app, SiREN. This technology allows boaters with a mobile device to check their location to see if they are within a marine reserve, line fishing only zone or other zone.

Once the DoE has made its recommendations for the regulations, which is expected to happen shortly as much of the work has been done, it will then be passed to the government’s legal drafters. When the regulations are finished, they will be made public in the Government Gazette, turning Cabinet’s approved plans into legally enforceable regulations.

See maps of Enhanced Marine Parks in the CNS Library

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (46)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    We need more officers. How is it they can spend millions on dead iguanas but not more on our oceans? They both deserve proper funding and serious enforcement.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Anything protecting our reefs from coral bleaching? We can’t protect it from everything (global warming and hurricanes for example) but there ARE things we can protect them from right here on the surface! Can we at least get an emissions law for road vehicles here? Heck, even without the black smoke belching out, there are some vehicles that shouldn’t be on the road at all because they are a danger to everyone nearby!

  3. Anonymous says:

    World Class

  4. Anonymous says:

    What really needs to happen is expats need to be banned from harvesting any marine life. Let them fish, but catch and release only!

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Ok, but a little late. In the past two years about 90% of the conch in the Rum Point national park have been poached. Calling DOE has been useless. even when I am sitting here watching the poaching, no one comes when we call.

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  6. anon says:

    Rules need to change on catch limits on the charter boats. If you are commercially lisenced then you cant take 10 conch every trip everyday. Plus the area around the sandbar is where conchs are poached all the time by these boats with their customers snorkelling and guides grabbing what they want.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    You can have marine parks stemming from here to Cuba! If they aren’t properly patrolled and laws enforced then it’s absolutely worthless.
    Our laws concerning the marine environment barely have any teeth and most of the repeat offenders simply get off with either a little warning or a slap on the wrist. Expanding the marine parks will barely help as that’s where most of the poachers tend to hunt.
    To see results from expansion of the parks then proper management MUST be put in place first- such as seasons, public education on marine life, protection of certain species, fishing licenses, take limits, size limit on certain species,and most importantly 24hr enforcement with stronger penalties and Jail time. Once these have been implemented then you will start to see the difference.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I say we start cutting off the right hand of repeat offenders. It would be pretty tricky to pop a conch shell with one hand.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    When does this come into effect?

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  9. Anonymous says:

    I hope the new zones will be clearly marked!

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  10. Anonymous says:

    All they have done is hurt the people who stick to the rules. By expanding the parks with no added enforcement they have simply reserved a greater area for poachers who don’t give a shit about marine parks anyway! INCREASE ENFORCEMENT NOW!!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Four new DOE officers for three islands, are they joking? They have no boats and apparently no money and now more responsibility DOE enforcement is a joke, especially the management. When you call, nobody comes and when you give information it appears to be ignored they need far more new staff than four on this island, when will they wake up?

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Weird how the marine parks and protected zones were expanded everywhere except for Mr Seymour’s district!!!

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    • Anonymous says:

      His mama got to get them conchs & lobsters for Sunday dinner.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Actually the plans when proposed showed a protected area in Bodden Town for the first time. (Both this and the last Min. of Env.’s district.)

    • Anonymous says:

      No to be fair here the maps showing the proposed zones have been changed very little since I first took this forward with the DOE through the many and sometimes multiple public consultations in every District a few years ago. I do not see that there have been any changes to the Bodden Town coastal area from the original proposal so it is not fair to suggest that the current Minister made any changes for his constituency. The original proposals emanated from the DOE and the great research work and empirical data analysis they have done for years so if this does go through as shown it represents a validation of their work and efforts and the Government and Minister should be credited with having finally implemented it. Is it perfect? No but political actions are often a series of commitments and compromises with at least incremental benefits. I know this represents substantial benefit to our environment, our tourism product and a great achievement from the efforts of many.

      Wayne Panton

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      • Anonymous says:

        Did they ever catch the guy who lived in Mauds apartments in Bodden Town and used to roll a suitcase with wheels to the beach and then fill it with hundreds of conch and whatever else he could find? The yard used to be littered with empty conch shells. Maybe still is.

        • Anonymous says:

          5:05pm, he didn’t just take the suitcase to the beach to fill with his catch, he sold his catch from it throughout the district. Never heard that he was taken to court. You can depend on the RCIP to do a bad job, when it comes to dealing with criminals and drug houses.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Something fishy going on here.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    Pointless unless enforcement is increased. 4 enforcement officers is a complete joke for these 3 islands. It’s a total free for all out there.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Are you saying DoE should just do nothing? And if you know so much about the free-for-all, why aren’t you letting DoE know who’s violating the law? Moron.

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      • Cess Pita says:

        8.40am Mostly West Bayers is your answer. More insult hurling, so I can guess where you are from.

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        • Anonymous says:

          East Enders are just as bad! They don’t believe that closed seasons and catch limits apply to them in that district.

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      • Anonymous says:

        No moron, I am saying they have gone about this in the wrong and lazy way. They need to get about 10 more enforcement officers to be on patrol day and night if they are serious about saving the marine environment!

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      • Anonymous says:

        No use giving information to any of the law enforcement Departments/Sections. They take too long to act, especially if it is one of their countryman. Read my lips.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Well done, and overdue. I look forward to reading/seeing the new zones. Not a moment too late; if we don’t protect our marine resources now, there will be naught left to protect.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    I hope they took our only working port out of a marine park designation, that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of before

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Well at lest Gina finally admitted it was done to make it easy to enforce. Might as well make it easier and ban fishing completely.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think it will make a difference in my fishing career. I need to be able to make a living! No law is going to change that.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Thank God and finally.

    Well done Mr Seymour but particularly DoE for their tireless efforts and abundance of patience and perseverance over such a long time.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I just hope this isn’t a red herring to get our minds off the cruise dock!!! Now, there’s environment disaster coming our way.

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