DoE to grow marine parks

| 28/10/2010

(CNS): A new research project has been launched by the Department of Environment with the goal of increasing the amount of Cayman’s marine habitat under official protection. With only 17% of the islands’ shelf currently designated as marine parks and given the increasing global as well as local pressure on the delicate reef systems, the department says it would like to set aside 30% of the surrounding marine environment for protection. It is more than twenty-five years since Cayman led the way by setting aside marine habitat in specially zoned parks, which have proved invaluable. However, with climate change and a growing population there is now a pressing need to enhance those parks.

The three year project to assess the condition and challenges faced by the Cayman Islands’ marine environment is being partially funded by the UK’s Darwin Initiative and supported in kind with resources, manpower and expertise from the US Nature Conservancy and the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University in Wales, as well as the DoE. The goal is to gather further scientific data about the local marine environment, beaches and mangrove areas to see what impact coral bleaching, rising acidity, fishing levels and other factors have had on the islands’ oceans.

Speaking at a special launch of the project on Wednesday morning, the director of the Department of Environment, Gina Ebanks-Petrie, explained that the project would help the DoE make the case for enhancing the parks and protecting a greater percentage of marine habitats.

She said that when the marine parks were first designated, many of the modern threats facing reefs and other marine habitats that exist today were not even a consideration. When the parks were designated they were done mostly to protect the reefs from divers and anchor damage, as well as some over fishing, but today there are far more pressing and aggressive threats to the wider marine environment.

“We hope to increase the total protected area to 30% and we believe we can get the message out to demonstrate that this is the very least we will need in order to protect the marine environment in future,” the DoE Director said.

Joined by Dr John Turner from the School of Ocean Sciences and James Byrne from Nature Conservancy at the launch of the campaign, Ebanks-Petrie said that the data they would collect during the project added to the knowledge, information and experience of managing the existing parks that the DOE already had, would be used to make the a proper scientific case for enhancing the parks and she hoped it would be broadly supported by the public. She also added that the findings would be presented during the project period at public consultation meetings.

Dr Turner explained that designating protected areas was not just about immediate conservation but about making reef systems resilient enough to recover from damaging impacts and environmental hazards such as bleaching events or storms.

“We must ensure that marine ecosystems such as coral reefs maintain their capacity to recover from major impacts,” he said. “If these systems lack resilience, then economic losses incur as property and critical infrastructure become insecure, fish catches reduce, other species and habitats such as turtles, seabirds, sea grasses and mangroves decline, and tourism revenue is lost.”

Byrne emphasised the point that the reefs here still had considerable diversity and there were small pockets of recovery of some species of coral and fish which had virtually disappeared in other parts of the Caribbean. The aim of protection was to give the reefs a better chance at future recovery and sustainability. He also noted that as protected areas grew in diversity and species, those fishes and other corals would spread to a wider area, enhancing the marine system outside of protected areas as well. “This is about a wider more sustained recovery and not just about preserving the last remaining reef or marine habitat,”he said.

Ebanks-Petrie pointed out that the goal was be to have the enhanced marine parks protected under the new National Conservation Law, which she said she now believed would be going before the Legislative Assembly early next year. “We need the law passed so that we will be able to manage and protect the enhanced areas and make the marine parks effective,” she added.

Cayman had once led the way in marine conservation, the experts pointed out, and said that it could do so again with this project.

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Comments (11)

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  1. Green Hornet says:

    Strange though it may seem to many of the dimmer witted members of this planet, the land and the ocean are connected. We can save all the marine area we want, but if we don’t save and protect land habitats, it’s a waste of time, energy and money.

    Want an example? Look at South Sound. The mangroves on the south side of the road will never survive because we have destroyed their nutrient supply base on the North Side. But, well, those sub-divisions are real pretty…aren’t they now…

    Ultimately, this has impacted the reef surrounding the South Sound as species that spend their juvenile years in the mangroves then migrate to the reef no longer have a home. But, hey, it’s OK as long as the land speculators and developers make money…for sure, and those subdivisions are real pretty, aren’t they now…

    Take a look at the Central Mangroves and their interconnectedness with North Sound – providing the food chain base for fish and shellfish alike and that great tourist attraction, Sting Ray City. But hey, it’s OK, we can make model sting rays out of latex and put little motors in them – they’ll look just like the real thing…won’t they…?

  2. Anonymous says:

    All this is well and good and likely to get everyone’s support, until the Premier’s decides “we are going to have to lift some piece of coral out of the way”  in order to facilitate one of his hairbrain schemes.  In any event, looking at the Conservation Bill that never seems to make law, will any of this come to fruition in the reality that is Mac’s World?

  3. Anonymous says:

    FINALLY! It’s about time Cayman does something to help protect its surrounding waters. This might actually help save the hundreds appon thousands of fish & crustaceans that are pulled from our islands waters everyday from over fishing. Reguardless of how many mouths they feed there has to me a limit!

    It’s no wonder when you go diving or snorkeling you dont see much of anything anymore.

    Yes this is a global problem but we as Caymanians can help benefit our area by making more of these replenish zones.

     

     

  4. peter milburn says:

    I have long said that our present Marine Parks are small in comparison with other areas and I have ALWAYS said that the whole of Little Cayman should be protected so as to keep this wonderful GEM of the Cayman Islands intact for many generations to come.We are continually burying our heads in the sand when it comes to protecting this vital resource as can be seen by all the destruction of our mangroves and other vital areas.Look at what is now being proposed for East End.When are the members of this Govt going to learn?Again I will say this "that this has to be the worst govt when it comes to protecting our environment" and until we make some serious changes in the way that we think it will only get worse.It is time to get out to more of our young people who have the most to gain by preservation and get them involved NOW not when it is too late to do anything.

            All these great plans for tourism and cruise ships will not work if we have NOTHING to offer our visitors for them to enjoy.Talk about cutting off ones nose to spite your face.

    • A Concerned Young Caymanian Father says:

      This is a VERY good thing for these islands! We’ve always relied heavily, in one form or the other, on our oceans so it’s extremely important to not only protect what we have there, but to sustain positive growth.

    • noname says:

       

      I would like to now how tell you Mr. Peter or the DOE that the marine parks are too small and that the problem are not with the marine officer not doing what they are being paid for by prosecuting all these work permits holder that are broking the law by fishing along the shore line this would help to replenish some of the marine life, I my self report to the DOE officer that I saw some ex-patstaking little baby whelks from the iron shore and that officer told me that there are no law about the size whelks you take, but at the same time them ex-pats was broking the law by not having a fishing license so making the marine zone larger will not help if the marine officer are not doing there jobs.

       

      @

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think we should introduce seasons for fishing certain fish.  Hardly any snapper left these days they’ve all been fished out.  If we could afford dwindling fish populations the chance to be left alone during breeding season perhaps this would in turn enable us to expand the fish population again.

  6. Twyla Vargas says:

    Increasing Cayman’s Marine Habitat is something I really support.   There is far to much agressive human threat to the Marine invironment.  I remember not too many years ago, when going in the sea to swim or dive conchs and lobster the ocean was a beauty, and if we could hold our breath long enough, would have spent hours on an adventure.

    Cayman marine parks are not only beautiful, but interesting too.  Divers and fishermen backyard will tell you stories of fish, lobster,and conch hiding out there, becuse they know they are protected.  You will hear stories from Mr Ocean Levy, that many times he would chase a conch and he would run to the Marine park, sit on the bench with his lobster friend and wave.

    Let us all protect the marine environmentwhat ever country we are in because in years to come we will wish that we had done just that.  Blessed.

  7. Sir Henry Morgan says:

    DOE should start by making the area in East End that Mr Imperato intends to destroy for quarry rock an environmental zone!!

    • Bobby Anonymous says:

      If only they had that power.

      They can’t even get the laws passed as it is.  The problem is that the MLA’s are making the desisions and not the people that voted them in.

      All Civil Servants including MLA’s to the Premier seem to have forgot that they are employed by the public and should be held accountable to the public.

      Civil Servant=Public Servant=You work for US!

  8. Anonymus says:

    Good.