Marine research to shape future of parks

| 29/06/2011

(CNS): Following the assessment of sixty sites in Cayman waters by a team of researchers the Department of Environment will soon be releasing the results of this comprehensive scientific review of the Islands’ marine parks order to inform their future management. “Halfway through the three-year project, we are well on track and progress has been great. Researchers have conducted dozens of reef surveys looking at fish numbers and sizes, coral cover and species composition,” saidDoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie. “The next step will be to analyse the data and present our findings, which we hope to do early next year.” 

The environment boss explained that it would be important to have public feedback on the research as the community’s input will form a critical part of the process. “It is vital that people feel a sense of ownership in the future of local marine parks and the resources they protect,” she added.
DOE and Bangor University staff assessed 60 sites across all three islands looking for stressors such as coral bleaching, disease and overfishing. “The survey included different habitats in deep and shallow waters. We also purposefully selected sites in and, outside of the marine parks system to see if there is a difference,” said Project Leader and Senior Lecturer in Marine Sciences at the Bangor School of Ocean Sciences Dr. John Turner.

The team has also been looking at the DoE’s longer-term data set to take into account changes in reef health over time.

All this information will now be fed into a decision support software programme developed specifically for marine-protected areas. The software will map and produce options for enhancement to the marine parks system to provide optimum protection for Cayman’s marine life.

“This project allows us to gather scientifically robust data that will help us understand how effective our marine park system  has been over the last 25 years, what risks it faces at present and what we need to do to ensure viability of our marine resources in the long-term,” Ebanks-Petrie said. “When the marine parks were established, we had a different set of risks to consider. At this time, the threats to our reefs have changed. This initiative will ensure that our marine protected areas keep pace with local and global threats,” she said.

The Darwin study is a collaborative effort between the DOE, the Bangor School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University in Wales, and US-based The Nature Conservancy. DOE Senior Researcher Croy McCoy leads the fieldwork. The project is partly funded through a Darwin Initiative international research grant of CI$344,000 through the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and ultimately supports an improved marine parks system.


Category: Science and Nature

Comments (7)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Red Flag says:

    DOE is the last bastion of good sense left in the Cayman Islands. There is no other department that takes the constant battering from the developers and the pollies that this one receives.  MsEbanks-Petrie and her crew have been given an impossible job of trying to protect the LIMITED environmental resources that exist in the Cayman Islands.  There is no support for this department from the rest of government.  Just look at the depletion of the mangroves in north sound, the ridiculous proposal to dredge the North Sound for a few mega yachts, the even more ridiculous proposal of the East End port and, god have mercy, a petroleum refinery in Georgetown and the list goes on and on.  They must drink a different brand of coffee over at DOE just to show up in the morning.  Who knows WHAT they can expect to find on their desks for approval???  And WHERE is the National Conservation Law amongst all this?  Thank God that those guys still do a good job and deserve all the help the public and the POLITICIANS can give them.  Caymanians, all, should be thanking these guys for trying and doing their best to protect the islands.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Grand Cayman as a premier dive destination is long gone over, Cheseburger reef is dying almost dead, next destintion please!

    Greed over development and cruise ships. It is already messed up EE Sea Port, Oil Refinery, Dart projects, China Harbour are the only hope for these islands now, better take it or die.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Lets hope they continue to impress us by keeping the legislation in place to protect the grouper aggregation sites which after the last article seem to be our last defence against the lionfish. 

    • Anonymouse says:

      Remember, the DoE don't make the laws, just suggest them. So, if you think the groupers should be protected call your MLA, call the Minister of Environment, and let them know what you think. Or ask them what they think.

      • Anonymous says:

        …and then wait in vain for something to happen – or in other words – they'll do nothing just as with the Envrionment Law

      • Anonymous says:

        They would be thinking " what the #@!% is this guy doing calling me?

  4. oneworld says:

    The DoE continues to impress us all with their well-reasoned, scientifically-based work.