Minister paints false picture on coral relocation

| 16/09/2019 | 40 Comments
Cayman News Service
Coral reef within George Town Harbour (Photo by Courtney Platt)

(CNS): Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has said that CI$10 million has been earmarked for coral relocation from the $200 million budget for the proposed cruise and cargo facility in George Town, despite warnings from the Department of Environment and the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) that such a venture is doomed to fail. Kirkconnell has also said the coral impacted by dredging would be moved to a site near the George Town cemetery, painting a false picture about how easy it would be to undertake relocation, even when experts agree that it is all but impossible.

The minister outlined the earmarked cash and the proposed relocation site during a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce last month about the controversial project. It was largely based on information given to the media at a July press conference formally announcing the award of the biggest ever government contract to the Verdant Isle group.

However, in a slightly more detailed explanation of the project to the business community, Kirkconnell said that a “world-renowned expert will be contracted to manage the coral relocation”, though he did not reveal who that would be. Nor did the tourism minister point out the significant challenges presented by coral relocation, its high mortality rate and the lack of any real success anywhere in the world.

He said the coral was going to be removed from the affected area and relocated to a site adjacent to the George Town cemetery, but made no mention that it is almost certainly doomed to failure.

Just this week the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, a science research centre based on Little Cayman, warned that the idea that relocating coral from George Town harbour would mitigate the loss of the unique reefs was misleading. The scientists pointed out that even its own nursery-reared coral had an 80% mortality rate after two years of coral restoration, and the reason why corals are some of the most endangered species on the planet is because relocation is not effective.

Nevertheless, Kirkconnell was selling the business community on the idea that $10 million would pay for 12 acres of pristine coral reef in the proposed dredging area to be picked up and moved a little way down the coast with no trouble at all.

He said that there would be no dredging in Hog Sty Bay, that a clamshell dredge would be used, and that silt screens would be erected around the affected area. But according to most experts, that would only marginally mitigate the impact and many more acres of coral would die as a result of the silt and sediment stirred up during construction and by the cruise ships once the facility is operational.

Kirkconnell also told Cayman’s business community that an environmental scoping report would be started this month. He said that after finalising “reserve matters” with the winning bidders, the environmental process would begin before the finalising of an early works agreement, developing a caucus presentation on the contract award and submitting the contract award for Cabinet consideration.

The minister said that construction is estimated to take some two and a half years, subject to the weather, and that contingencies would be incorporated into the final agreement, though he did not detail what they might be. He did state, however, that during the construction period the tenders servicing the cruise lines would unload at the cargo dock. Also in the budget was an estimated CI$20 million for the upgrade of the cargo port, which includes a third berth for cargo vessels, he said. 

Among the other revelations in his presentation to the Chamber, Kirkconnell said that some of the $20 million of public cash budgeted for road development across the islands would be used to upgrade connector roads in George Town from the port to improved traffic flows and access to the cargo distribution centre and West Bay Road.

One of the many concerns of those opposing the project is that if, as claimed, the berthing facilities resulted in an increase in cruise passenger numbers, the concentration of passengers would still be during the high season and only mid-week.

But Kirkconnell told the Chamber that this would not be the case. He said the ministry has had initial negotiations with the cruise lines to spread the arrival of ships throughout the week. But how this would happen has not been explained, as cruise ship schedules are dependent on itineraries worked out on the basis of locations and distances, as well as when and where cruises begin.

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Category: development, Local News, Politics

Comments (40)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Not going to matter when a KX Max 8 or two crashes in to it….

  2. BAT says:

    In other news, relocation consultants hired by government were paid $9.75 million of the $10 million dollar relocation budget in return for little to no work completed. Government officials admit that the consultant’s fees were higher than anticipated, but disagreed that they were unwarranted. Minister McKaka stated that they too have eat, and cited astronomical lobster, caviar and champagne costs on the island as part of the reason for the huge fees. As a result, government is seeking an additional $45 million dollars for said relocation, despite warnings from preeminent scientists who state that they may as well relocate the coral on the moon. The $200 million dollar cruise port budget has recently ballooned to over 1.5 billion dollars, with additional increases possible. The increase was due to unrealistic estimates, unanticipated costs, delays in construction, and the usual KaKa that exponentially increases costs. Government and government officials including Minister McKaka assure all stakeholders that the Caymanian people will pay for the project even if it takes them the next 500 years to do so: “As proud Caymanians, we will always overpay the consultants, underpay the workers, and manage to siphon off more than half of the project’s cost into Bermudian offshore accounts. Accountability to our people is priority number one, right behind our right to ummhh, make things disappear. We are proud of our standards, and the world can look upon us with utmost respect.”

  3. Denver says:

    After 60 plus years of anchors being dropped in the harbour it is hard for me to believe there is any coral left there.

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe you should go for a dive and see for yourself instead of being an armchair expert. The harbor is full of life!

    • Anonymous says:

      There is a specific area for anchors to drop

    • SSM345 says:

      Hey Denver, there is a tour you can go on (Sea Explorer); give it a whirl, its $25 for locals.

      If that’s too much for you then you can go to the top level of the car park at Harbor Place and get a birds eye view.

      Of course your last option is to go for a snorkel.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Damn you guys are mean! Stop thinking about yourselves for a change or some stupid coral and think of all those Rolexes that need to be sold!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Brackas, come get your man

  6. Anonymous says:

    This sort of reminds me of government’s ‘brilliant’ plan to reduce/eliminate the mosquitos here and wasted so much money from the public purse in pursuit of that. It’s like these people have $*** for brains; they believe that throwing money at any problem will make it go away.

    • Anonymous says:

      4.34 I guess you came here after MRCU did a lot of work otherwise you would not be mocking their efforts.Ask any Cayman Oldtimer about mosquitoes back in the day and ask them if mosquito control was or is a waste of money.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Cayman – lets use our voices next year during election and VOTE MOSES OUT!!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    To Minister Kirkconnell, I say this quote

    “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Stephen Hawking.

    • Anonymous says:

      well said

    • Anonymous says:

      “Minister” Kirkconnell does not give a tinker’s toss about Steven Hawking, nor the people of the Cayman Islands for that matter. Spare the eloquent words for someone with a soul.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Why won’t he retire and enjoy life?

  10. Anonymous says:

    “Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has said that CI$10 million has been earmarked for coral relocation from the $200 million budget for the proposed cruise and cargo facility in George Town…”

    Who in their right mind believes this ill fated project will cost $200 million??? How do the leaders of the country listen to this drivel with a straight face. The people’s referendum voting this mess down is the only hope.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Moses Kirkonnell a man up to his neck in familial conflicts of interests (and likely one of the key reasons why the SIPL law has still not been put into force)

    There is no reason this man should be a sitting minister much less an MLA

    Honestly what are the people on the sister islands smoking

  12. Anonymous says:

    The only thing consistent over the past 20 years of PPM or CDP administrations (that has now culminated into this hellish PPM/CDP coalition unicorn government) is the practice of ministers and the Central government simply lying to get its way and counting on the voters to be too apathetic or too uninformed (combination of both) to pick up on it

    The CIG has been touting 91% success on coral relocation at 1 year in ( citing some relocation project in the Bahamas) Yet the foremost experts on Coral relocation and growth in the Cayman Islands who have been doing this for the better part of 10 years contradict the idea that anywhere near those numbers is possible

    Here is the link to the misleading information on the official “SupPORT our Tourism” page:

    Anyone who knows even the slightest bit of information about Coral knows despite looking like rocks Coral reefs are some of the most delicate environments on the planet
    Even slight changes in water temperature, or sediment suspension can drastically affect their health and growth and moving them successfully is no easy feat
    Even one overlooked variable will mean the coral that are moved will slowly die, not to mention coral take decades if not hundreds of years to grow into full thriving environments
    and relocation made even if successful at the level claimed by the CIG would take decades to replace the coral lost

  13. Anonymous says:

    On what basis is Moses earmarking how the budget is spent? Is he part of Verdant Isle?!?

  14. Anonymous says:

    With due respect, Moses hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about here. Whoever gets that $10million handout for the coral relocation work will be taking us all for a ride.

    The harsh reality is that everything in the area of the dock will be trashed. They might as well simply tear it all up and drop it in the deep water off the wall.

    Why doesn’t he just tell us the truth and not to try to hide it?

    • Anonymous says:

      You will only get to the truth when the Auditor General opens up this can of worms.

    • SSM345 says:

      Because the truth nah going set him (or others) free this time round Bobo.

    • Anonymous says:

      These weasels will just add it to the football fields of construction fill that will be generated thru their unsupervised dredge campaign. Guess who’s going to need that for their 50-story edifice? Same guy that will be taking down 100% of the USD$153mln 15yr at 8%+ this November. Rhymes with Fart.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I will only comment on the misleading statement in the last paragraph. Is he trying to tell us that we will have ships coming here that will not be going to other ports on the trip? Just to the Cayman Islands and turn around and go back from where they came?. What about the other ports of call? Does he believe they will want to change things up in their countries so he can save face. That will be the only way his plan will work. You know what happens when one chooses to lie they have to keep on lying and ultimately making a fool of themselves. They need to just apologize to us for lying and giving us misleading fake news and get back to the drawing board with the whole truth then perhaps they might gain a little bit of credibility they can eventually be proud of.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Moses Kirkconnell continues to live in the dreamworld bordered by his ego and his personal wealth.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why he don’t build that dock he wants so badly in Cayman Brac.

      • Anonymous says:

        4:39 That’s not as crazy as it sounds. If CIG got together with one of the cruise companies to built a small resort on the Brac, like the one on Grand Turk, it would provide much needed work and income for the population. Might not go down too well with all the outsiders who own property there but so what?


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