Coral expert’s work ‘hijacked’ by developers

| 24/03/2021 | 35 Comments
  • Cayman News Service
  • Cayman News Service
  • Cayman News Service
  • Cayman News Service

(CNS): Coral conservation expert Aaron Hunt, who is the man behind Cayman Eco Divers and whose work is slowly but surely bearing fruit in the ocean off the coast of Sunset House, has said he feels “powerless” to address what he described as the “worst kind of green-washing” by a developer using his images without permission. The owners of the controversial luxury condo project, FIN Grand Cayman, in South Sound have effectively hijacked Hunt’s successful work to restore coral as part of the condo project’s conservation promotion, even though the developers have had nothing to do with the marine scientist’s work and contributed nothing to the project.

While Hunt was involved in a survey with a Florida university via Guy Harvey, who did work with the FIN team, Cayman Eco Divers has never worked on any coral project that the developers of the luxury development may claim is underway at their site. But the developers continue to use Hunt’s images and take credit for what he has done further down the coast, simply because he took the university team out several years ago and gave his support, in principle, to the use of the corals he is growing in his marine nursery at the reef near FIN.

However, no such partnership has ever materialised.

On its website FIN claims to be the first real estate development in the Cayman Islands to undertake the funding of a coral reef monitoring and restoration programme and has pictures of Hunt and his team working on their project along the coast. But Hunt said he has never partnered with FIN and has not received a single cent toward the coral restoration work that Cayman Eco Divers has been doing for several years.

And despite repeated requests, the developer will not take down the images, Hunt told CNS.

“It’s the worst kind of green-washing as the Cayman Eco Divers coral restoration project has nothing at all to do with FIN and we have never worked with these developers and never received a dime from them,” he recently told CNS, as he outlined how frustrating the situation is, given their hard work.

He noted that this hard work is paying off but is massively underfunded. “We are being associated with a controversial development that does not have the conservation credentials that they claim when we have nothing at all to do with it,” he added.

The Cayman Eco Divers team is also featured in a video that was taken during the survey work they conducted with the Nova Southeastern University team. But Hunt said that after that footage was taken and the promotional video posted on the site, no plan has ever been implemented, as suggested in the video, that corals would be taken from the nursery that he and his team have created to transfer to the waters off the coast of FIN.

And like many neighbours of this project, Hunt is also concerned about the damage it is doing to his work. However, despite the risks presented by the coastal works and the drift of silt and sediment and even building materials that are apparently being washed into the ocean from the construction site, Hunt’s work continues down the coast and is showing incredible results.

“Despite all the frustrating activity from FIN in recent months and years, our coral programme has been engaged in some truly groundbreaking work,” he said. “My greatest worry is that the good that we have done with a budget of three pennies and some pocket lint will be overshadowed by some developer falsely claiming affiliation for our work and the resulting fallout.”

Working largely with staghorn coral in an area running from Sunset House north, the restoration work has led to coral spawning in these newly grown colonies. After just two years of spawning, there are now 185 instances of staghorn across a 600 metre area. 

“Not only has this increased the abundance of the staghorn corals to an impressive level across an entire region, but this is the result of spawning and so these corals are all genetically unique,” Hunt said. “This means that these corals will all be able to spawn together in upcoming years, adding their genetics to the reef and kick-starting the gene-pool of staghorn corals in the region.”

He added, “Within another three years, we expect to have all three islands encircled by these spawning sites and within another 5-10 years, the reefs here should be an entirely different experience to visit as opposed to what they are right now.”

But Hunt said it wasn’t right that this developer is trying to take credit for his team’s hard work.

“What if they attempt to claim the victory we have worked so hard for as their own? What hurtful impact did they have on our work in reality? Did the runoff and pollution they created lower our real results in that area?” Hunt said. “I receive no support for this programme except my own personal money and from a tiny handful of local businesses. This leaves us working with the limited tools we can build ourselves with minimal cash on hand.”

He added, “I am extremely proud of what we have created and cherish the close working relationship with DoE and our resident volunteer community.  I think it is a good time to remind everyone that while our coral reefs are constantly under threat, there is hope and even victories happening right now.”

FIN however claimed that they did work with Eco Divers, in 2018 based on the one survey trip with the university team at that time and Hunt had provided FIN with the images.

Meanwhile, residents and those who dive, snorkel and swim in and around the FIN development continue to raise concerns about the work on the saltwater lagoons currently underway. The Department of Environment (DoE) recently checked the silt-screens that were in use, which they found were ripped and inadequate. There were also unverified concerns that the silt-screens used to try to mitigate the impact of the drilling were attached to critically endangered elkhorn corals.

With the public still baffled over why this project was given the green light by the Central Planning Authority and ongoing questions about how it was steered through the planning process without the need for a coastal works licence, conservationists and residents in the area still want to meet with the developers. Over 650 people have signed a petition calling for that meeting, where they hope to urge the developers to do more to mitigate the damage and pay back to the community what they believe will be a long-term detrimental impact on the marine environment. But so far the developers have not responded to the request.

Activists have asked concerned residents to contact the planning department and the relevant ministers, Joey Hew and Dwayne Seymour, as well as their current MPs and prospective candidates to ensure that everyone in government or likely to be in government realises the level of concern about this project.

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Category: development, Local News, Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (35)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Which sounds better?
    Grand Dart Island
    Dart’s Grand Island


  2. Anonymous says:

    Tell Mike Ryan’s customers.

    Have your say on the Fin Cayman review page on Google Maps.

    Just go to Google maps and then search Fin Grand Cayman. There is a review page for the development.

    Upload some photos of the mess.

    Tell Michael Ryan’s customers what you think.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Push it down and build it again correctly.
    No more error for mistakes for developers.
    Doctors pay for their mistakes when your under the knife.
    So why shouldn’t contractors pay when their over CIG and the Environment?

    See the irony?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Where is this guy getting/harvesting the coral that he is supposed to be cultivating? Just one year after stopping the CBF and claims that growing coral was greatly exxagerated we are hearing that it is being done successfully. Certainly the coral is a part of the “Queens Bottom” and as such can’t be sold or claimed by private individuals.

    • Anonymous says:

      He is collecting it via a permit issued by the National Conservation Council with strict conditions and heavy routine monitoring. There is a Coral Nursery Policy which you can request from the National Conservation Council which outlines the strict policies under which coral nurseries can operate.

      EcoDivers is doing amazing work however only a small number of corals can be grown successfully. They are growing two, maybe three types. Nothing compared to the biodiversity that would have been lost by the port.

      If you have any doubts or suspicions, I suggest you take the Coral Reef Restoration PADI course they run (I did).

  5. Anonymous says:

    Slight swell Sunday and the sea was like milk.
    So much for the booms.
    The construction is an absolute ecological mess

  6. Anonymous says:

    No, FIN can damn well fix it.

  7. d says:

    The definition of insanity: Do the same with the same and expect different results.
    FIN would be unable to do anything without stakeholders accomplice

  8. Anonymous says:

    Piracy is alive and well in the Cayman Islands, they’ve just swapped galleons for building plots

  9. Anonymous says:

    These large scale ugly developments are increasing and the local population need to speak up to your MLA and use your vote if you have one. These developments are getting the go ahead from CPA board who are all conflicted in self interests and need to be removed. With no thought of infrastructure and capacity for south church street to take more vehicles, pedestrians never mind how out of place and over sized the development is for plot size, limited cheap landscaping to finish it off as well. Granting set back variances that are ludicrous and dangerous in a marine park! This should tell you all need to know what this government think of the local environment and their lack of respect for it and the local community. It is likely our grandchildren will not get to swim with the current variety of species in the sea or coral, tourism and health tourism will dry up if we don’t better protect the best thing cayman has to offer ….the sea. Vote this government out.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Sammy Jackson’s campaign line – ‘Principles: Integrity: Experience’

    Being part of this team would say otherwise.

    • Anonymous says:

      Vote Progressives, the devils you know not those in sheep’s clothing.

      • Anonymous says:

        Wait, wasn’t it the Progressives Planning Board that approved this and gave Michael Ryan and Dale Crighton millions of dollars of our money in concessions.

        AL’T’s rubber stamp was all over this one with Alden’s blessing..

    • Anonymous says:

      Sammy: “Save the environment” then tears down and destroys everything insight for the dollar.

      • Anonymous says:

        He was the legal advisor for FIN, just as he was for clients who OPPOSED large-scale developments. But you all love to make him look as negative as possible.

    • Anonymous says:

      He didn’t design it, moron. Do you accuse a heart surgeon of being a criminal for saving the life of a criminal?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Huge sympathy for Eco Divers and respect for their valuable work. This story is very upsetting.

    700+ people are still asking for a public meeting with the developers at FIN to address questions and concerns.
    Such as…

    What are FIN doing to protect the marine park?
    How can they assure the public that the building and its 43 feet setbacks on excavated calcium carbonate is safe?
    Now, and during norwesters and hurricanes?
    When are they going to communicate with the community?

    Here is the petition link

  12. Anonymous says:

    Shocking. Okay not really shocked at all. LOL

    But the feeling I get from the video I saw where they took credit for this made me want to vomit.

    Do the folks involved with FIN really think people are this stupid/gullible?
    Well, yes. Yes they do.

  13. SSM345 says:

    Developers lying through their teeth to appease a disgruntled public.

    Hope they sleep well at night.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Sammy Jackson is part of the FIN team and running for government. Does this not prove he’s part of the problem?

    • Anonymous says:

      At least he has basic morals and wouldn’t form a government with McBeater.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sammy isn’t elected but David Wight and Alden are..Alden gave this two developers millions of dollars in concessions that the new leader Roy McTaggart said he had no idea how to account for it or if it was value for money..

      Isn’t this monstrosity smack dab in David Wight’s constituency and not one single word out of him..things that make you go hmmmmm..

      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t expect the propagandist to respond to your comment since that would actually require deeper knowledge and critical thinking, when they would rather paint Sammy as the evil “developer’s lawyer”.
        Guess they want Alden to win instead since he clearly cares so much about the environment.

    • Anonymous says:

      You misunderstand the role of a lawyer.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Seriously though, where is the line drawn? For me this development sums up the current state of affairs in Cayman perfectly.
    Between the developer dumping crap into the sea, the CPA approval and even permitting a deviation from the standard setbacks, not to mention the state of the main road now.

    Unfettered, unregulated and disgusting.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Well if the photos were taken by him then they are protected by copyright, and yes, there is now a copyright law in Cayman.

  17. Say it like it is says:

    I checked out the front of the Fin Development last weekend and it’s a horror story.Although there was only a slight swell, marl piled up at one end was being washed back into the sea via the “Lagoon” dug out of the ironshore. Partly completed concrete walls are all over the place, rebars sticking up out of sections of what little remains of the ironshore, it’s a complete mess.As for the “landscaping”,it’s a complete joke,a few anaemic palm trees jammed up against the walls,there’s literally nowhere to plant anything as the whole plot is a concrete jungle.Does the CPA ever inspect the end result of these monstrosities they approve?., in this case they really need to go down there and take a close look.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Can the N.R.A please fix the road in front on FIN’s entrance that has been destroyed by the developers , it may help people prevent trashing their cars suspensions, we thank you in advance.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Guy Harvey has leveraged his successful commercial artist reputation, and red state fisherman-merchandise brand, using a portion of sales to fund an “ocean foundation” which tags some sharks and count rays at a hobbyist level, mainly because it’s fun for him and his accompanying guests, and nobody else is doing it. He is a red-blooded fuel-burning fisherman first, with marine conservation a brand sales driven offshoot. He went on record early on in the pro-port side to pronounce George Town harbour’s Mission Blue Hope Spot reefs as barren and dead, which of course they aren’t/weren’t. Thanks to buttressing “expert” comments from Harvey, the GT Harbour has been rezoned by Unity regime, and is moving towards a destructive certainty. It only makes sense he would be aligned with Michael Ryan and FIN.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Hey PPM, you got into bed with these developers and it is fine for them to behave like this, or wha?

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