Future marine parks unveiled

| 19/10/2012

westbay5e3001_0.jpg(CNS):  Proposals for the way Cayman could protect its precious and precarious marine resources for the next twenty-five years have been unveiled by the Department of Environment. The proposed marine parks are based on the recent survey conducted by the department, local research gathered over the last 25 years since the original parks were established and the growing body of international work on marine conservation. With far greater pressures today on the reefs then there were back in the 1980s, DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said it was essential that Cayman extended the protected areas to try and protect its delicate marine habitat for the future.

At present only 15% of the reef area is properly protected as ‘no take’ zones but the DoE hopes to expand that with its new plans to more than 30% ‘no take’. By retaining the boundaries of most of the existing parks and zones, the director said the department is advising government to ban all types of fishing for everyone in these areas with some limit specifically designated line fishing areas.

With so much information to take in with the revised plans, the DoE has scheduled a series of comprehensive public meetings and presentations that start on Tuesday and run until 6 November in the districts, with a permanent display in the DoE’s library at the offices on North Sound Road.

Preparing for some objections, since the new boundaries would further restrict fishing and diving and impact everyone living here, Ebanks-Petrie said she hoped people would not see the new proposals as taking something away but protecting the resources so there was still something to keep in the future.

“While it may be one way to look at it, we don’t see the new proposals as taking something away but as the only way to keep the environment so that there will be fish in the future,” the director said.

Pointing to the extensive research that now shows that protected areas have a positive impact on fish stocks even outside the restricted zones, she said that if the areas that are designated as reserves are better and more stringently protected there will be more fish to catch in the areas that are not in the new parks.

She noted that, with the introduction of ‘no-take’ across the zones, enforcement would not be any more challenging for the DoE, despite having a greater area to protect and preserve, because there would be no dispute as to the type of fishing someone was doing or who was fishing for what since the areas would be completely restricted from any kind of fishing.

Ebanks-Petrie pointed to the rise in ocean temperatures and sea levels, ocean acidification and coral bleaching, all direct results of climate change that we in Cayman can do little to control. What can be done locally, however, is to limit what we take from the oceans around the three islands and maintain, and even improve, the quality of the local reefs.

As a result of Cayman taking what was at the time the controversial step of protecting some of its marine environment and limiting fishing, it is considered a “beacon of hope” in terms of regional reef cover. Despite having seen the reef cover decline from some 80% to around 15% because of climate change since the 1970s, Cayman’s cover is far better than almostanywhere in the region because of the albeit limited protection it has had. “The marine parks have worked, but now with the increasing pressures we need more protection,” Ebanks-Petrie added.

Hoping that people will come and see the history, the justification for change and offer their support for the plans, the director said that, in the end, she can only recommend changes to the marine conservation law but the amendment to the law itself would be down to government and public support.

She pointed out that the new proposals were not just “made-up” by the DoE for the sake of it but were well researched and well-founded proposals that would protect the islands’ critically important reefs for the next 25 years so that in 2037 there would still be fish in the local oceans and reefs for the next generation to protect.

Public support for the new proposals and the future success is very important and the director said the DoE has planned a detailed schedule to show the people the reasoning behind the proposals.

The first public presentation opens at George Town library at 11am and everyone is free to come along and look at the proposals which will be presented in a poster display and discuss them with DoE staff throughout the day. Then at 7pm there will be a full presentation and explanation about the new marine parks where people will be free to comment and make suggestions about them.

See public meeting schedule below.

Category: Science and Nature

Comments (13)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I've got a house facing the national park  at Rum Point. Bank fishing is allowed and there are plenty of fish. I would just as soon not have locals out there fishing in front of my house but they are not really hurting the environment. If you want to run them off who am I to argue.

  2. Anonymous says:

    DOE is not doing a good job of protecting the Marine Parks we have on this island, just ask all of the poachers that have not been caught in South Sound so what is the point of enlarging the parks?  Absolutely nothing.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I expect to number of contributions to this issue to be lower than the political stories where the people can vent their anger at their politician of choice.

    Gina Ebanks-Petrie has done great work given the political climate within the LA over the years. The protection of the grouper spawning sites continues to be threatened by a number of thoughtless individuals and politicians desiring their support.

    The biggest threat to the environment in the Cayman Islands remains the George Town landfill and it is a ticking time bomb that the government and the bulk of the voters refuse to face. The finger pointing and not in my district mentality is so selfish and short sighted I can only pray that I am wrong as I would take no pleasure in saying, "I told you so." because I love Cayman.

    The people who use the landfill issue and people's fears to prime their political ambitions will have many to answer to if and when the landfill prediction comes to pass.

    I support the strengthening of the marine park laws.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Good morning , Did I read correctly? Is the sea level around the Cayman Islands rising? 

    Then what should we do abot it ?

    • Anonymous says:

      Eh, pump out the sea, so it is lower again.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ignore the issue. It is a left wing hoax. The photos of diminished ice in the artic are all faked, just like the Apollo missions to the moon.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Why on earth, in this day and age, can we not see the plans and proposals online?  Or can we?  If so, would somebody in the know please direct me because I can't see anything but the flyer advertising the meetings on the DoE website.  The public should be able to participate in this consultation electronically, as well as by attending at the proposed meetings.

  6. Anonymous says:

    As lifetime diver, I don't dispute that Grand Cayman's reefs are showing more particulate choking, the effects of bleaching, and deterioration from the biodiversity levels found 15-20 years ago, but I believe it's more attributable to local pollution inputs than DoE cares to admit.  It is easy to blame something else bigger than ourselves.  The truth is that we all know we need to enact a local environmental law (with teeth) if we want to preserve our natural bounty for future generations.  That means rules and consequences on dumping and flushing the chemicals that currently go into holes in theground and leach into the surrounding waters.  Let's do it.  If DoE wants to rehash the "nothing we can do about it, the world is warming and sea levels are rising" thesis, then please present the decades of supporting data charts that should clearly show how wrong I am.  Surely the NOAA and CCMI bouys should have decades of public water temperature logs to support the global armegeddon philosophy…please post some irrefutable science for us.  Until then, I will blame the flushing of gallons of paints, thinners, and other unchecked and unpunished local pollutants that have been going directly into the ground for decades.

    • Anonymous says:

      An excellent response. The movers and shakers from the UN will continue to craft their laws to take away our rights yet maintaining that we are responsible. This is so childish.

      If they really cared about us, they would have leaned on the government to fix the dump.

      Trust me, the dump will be used against the Caymanian residents soon and along with it, many more civil liberties will be lost.

      Something is not quite right. It is almost as though it serves a (hidden) purpose.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not to mention all of the car wash soap, gallons and gallons of it.

    • 20-year Cayman Vet says:

      Simple rule – you build a development with retaining walls that front right onto a sand beach and the sea will hit them then wash that beach right back out all over the reefs.

      Simple solution – set back. Stop the developers building right up to the tide line.

      Go snorkeling anywhere off the big constructions on Seven-Mile Beach (and this is why many of those beaches are closed off) and you will see acres of dead coral. Been there, seen it, don'tlike it. 


    • Anony says:

      I don't think I've ever heard the DoE say that pollution wasn't part of the problem. (I think I've heard Ms Petrie say the reverse on the radio, actually, something about 'it doesn't take a scientist to see there's a big pile of pollution there', but can't quote the morning.) What I have heard them say, when asking the same question, is that they don't do grbage. Another arm of Government does. DoE do things like marine Parks. So they are focusing on what they do. I would guess that mentioning global warming is their way of pointing to threats without stepping on people's toes. Like would happen if they said "because the dump keeps getting bigger and we/they can't seem to do anything about it we have to make our Parks bigger to compensate." Imagine the dirty looks she would get from her colleagues then.

      None of this disproves the real issue, however. Our seas aren't as good as they once were. Us lifetime divers now this. More marine parks will help fix that. Again, something divers around the world have seen. Its not going to fix everything but its the best tool the DoE seems to have right now. So, all those people who said "I don't want the NCL – use the MCL instead." Well, you got your wish. Time to expand the Parks.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As we can all attest to the north sound and stingrays in particular need protection from Dolphin Discovery.