Protect Cayman’s marine life

| 14/01/2020 | 30 Comments
Cayman News Service

Courtney Platt writes: Nassau Grouper recovery in the Sister Isles is going well, which is wonderful news for their tourism attraction. But, please notice the very brief mention of the less than 500 remaining island-wide in Grand Cayman. The other five species of large groupers are not much better off here either. We closed the spawning grounds too late for Grand Cayman and completely fished out the aggregation that once thronged at SW Point and now have what can only be described as our last chance “seed stock” for a recovery, gathering once per year at East End.

Who else thinks it’s past time to give total protection to all groupers (and parrotfish, which are a similar issue with even greater importance to our beaches and reef health) on Grand Cayman? How can we permit taking even one, let alone up to five Nassau Groupers per day here?

The other species of groupers should also have total protection as they are all also extremely depressed. Although the Department of Environment has no population data for our reef fish prior to 2010, the extreme decline over the past 40 years has been as visibly obvious to any avid fishermen or divers who have witnessed it as the rise in road traffic has been over the same period.

It is undeniable, disastrous, yet far more reversible than traffic, IF we act while some seed stock remains. Restoring our reef fish will not only help the corals rebound, it can potentially draw a similar increase in tourism income at FAR less expense than a cruise berth.

The recently approved marine park expansion is a great first step toward recovery but may well not be enough on its own for our most endangered species. We can ensure success and speed up the process by recognising the tremendous economic value in further protection for our most critical species.

Ultimately, I am suggesting that we encourage, enable and support the DoE’s efforts and any regulations they may recommend. They are our best hope and need our backing when they propose new legislation to the Cabinet. We all want more enforcement and population monitoring, but must enable that with more funding.

We got our first ever reef fish count in 2010 because of outside funding from the Darwin Initiative. The Grouper Moon Project is also an outside funded effort. Look at the international attention it is receiving for its success.

But the economic benefits may be felt for thousands of generations to come! Fishermen will still be able to easily catch fish that may otherwise soon become locally extinct.

We don’t (yet) need to completely stop fishing, but we certainly do need more regulation and enforcement. It’s way past time to stop undervaluing and unsustainably consuming this precious, renewable natural resource in Grand Cayman.

Let the CIG know that you care. Take personal responsibility in your own choice of food. If you manage a restaurant or market, please stop selling local reef fish.

If you’d like to learn more about the value of restoring our reef fish and possible options that I’d recommend to help restore them, please see my 18 minute 2015 TEDx talk on the subject below:

This comment was originally posted in response to Fisherfolk credited for grouper project success

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature, Viewpoint

Comments (30)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I am all for protecting our marine environment. It is truly our bread and butter in the long run.

    However, I can’t wait for the day to come, when people of responsibilty and power put the same enthusiasm, energy, desire, willingness in protecting the livelihood and well-being of the Caymanian people- young, old and those in between.

  2. Cayman stew pot says:

    Stop importing those who are living off our marine life now! And those who are destroying our environment.This is not rocket science it has to do with population control and that is why the sister islands is able to recover and Grand Cayman cannot.Those talking about Birthright Caymanians are talking pure rubbish you can count them on one hand now!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Whilst I completely agree with Mr. Platt one has to understand that the only way that a specie/s will survive is through strict management, funding, proper enforcement and public education.
    It would start by putting a complete ban (or minimum 10-15 year) on all grouper, parrot fish and other reef species and also stopping the slaughter of the Mutton and Mangrove snapper during the spawning season. Proper seasons, limits and slot sizes to protect the breeders must also be in place.
    Enforcement must also be on the water day and night or by the launch ramps and check those to ensure that laws are not being broken. I would even go as far as to say that fishing licenses must be issued for all. Locals and residents pay a certain fee and those on work permits or visiting pay another ( this would be called non resident permits). The funds from this will go back into an environmental fund for conservation purposes. Most of the modern world has this system implemented and it works even majority our neighbours in the Caribbean!
    Unfortunately here it usually takes something to happen before any action is done – hence what happened to the groupers years ago on the sister islands when hundreds were slaughtered. If nothing is done now then one day it WILL be too late. The protection and preservation of today would ensure the stability and sustainability of tomorrow.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nobody in political authority fully appreciates your perspective. The only person who could push this through is Wayne Panton. Hopefully he will get elected again and push this through politically.

  4. Anonymous says:

    We should all understand that rule followers aren’t our problem. There shouldn’t be any commercial sales of personal catch limits. Fine the restaurants that have hired local poachers (for an agreed “result”) half their monthly sales on first offense. Offer rewards to whistleblowing kitchen staff.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Expats should be banned from taking marine life in any form. Locals should be banned from taking marine life for anything other than immediate family consumption. Groceries and markets should be banned from selling local fish. Restaurants should be banned rom serving local fish. 10 year minimum on each ban, or until significant increases in local fish can be observed.

  6. Anonymous says:

    How about creating fish at the Turtle Center? Why don’t we put people like Courtney to work and produce Grouper and parrot fish.

    • Anonymous says:

      Grouper are not an easy species to farm and it takes allot of money and resources to make it work. The Turtle farm is already a drain on the economy. Trying to farm the fish is not practical in monetary terms.

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you kidding? Fish farmed in the Cayman Islands would be a danger not to just consumers but to marine environment as a whole.

    • Anonymous says:

      It would be very expensive to take all of the grouper back for their annual orgy.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Ban expats from harvesting marine life AND replant the damn mangroves destroyed by Developers and Hurricane Ivan!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Looking at the government ad on CNS.
    Can someone tell their expensive graphic designers how to spell “pollution”.

  9. Anonymous says:

    While we’re at it let’s also limit scuba diving and under water photography which is a major factor in our fish decline.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I guess we are going to wait until the mutton snapper are wiped out before we try to do anything to protect them also. How are 8 in. size limits going to help

  11. Anonymous says:

    There should be a full moratorium from taking anything within the reef or one mile of the islands for a period of five years save for lion fish.

    I understand this will be unpopular with many but it will allow populations to not go extinct and re-establish themselves. This will help ensure the longevity of our islands prosperity and save the islands for future generations.

  12. Anonymous says:

    “….which is wonderful news for their tourism attraction”

    has to be,
    for tourism??
    Why not for the sake of grouper itself?

    This view point starts from the wrong premise that everything that exists in nature is for the tourists to exploit.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because, sadly, exploitation is the only language that our politicians and many “birthright-school” Caymanians seem to understand. “How much money can I/we wring from XYZ idea”, is the eternal greedy question circling behind the sunglasses. That’s not Courtney’s fault, but he’s been around long enough to understand how the game works. He’s not wrong however. Trinidad welcomes thousands of new visitors that have flown down specifically to watch the annual Leatherback beach egg laying. Where there used to be egg-robbers and machete fights, there are now redlight headlamps and eager cooperative humans observing in reverence. Sometimes doing the right thing can also be commercialized in a sustainable way and create a new beneficial industry that wasn’t there in previous years. Our leaders have never understood that being ecologically cool is good for business. I’d love to respectfully dive near a school of spawning grouper.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am an avid diver and I can promise you that the grouper is not the reason I go diving. I have never heard it as a ‘tourist attraction’ either. I thought that was a bit weird when I read that…
      I mean I could defo be wrong!! But I’ve never heard divers talking after the dive about seeing one. Mostly a shark, turtle, eagle ray, octopus, even hatchet fish get the buzz…

      • Anonymous says:

        Obviously you have never dived off Little Cayman. Amazing seeing the huge groupers there. All the people we dived with were blown away by seeing them. Many people dive there just to see the big groupers.

      • Anonymous says:

        Groupers certainly are a “tourist attraction” off Little Cayman. You need to get off Grand Cayman more often.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Do it.

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