RSSScience and Nature

Dive gong promotes Little Cayman and marine expert

| 07/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Dr Carrie Manfrino, founder and director of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) which is located on Little Cayman has received an industry related gong helping to promote both her work and the smallest of Cayman’s three islands. Manfrino was named a Sea Hero in the Sept/Oct issue of Scuba Diving Magazine. The award recognizes people who have made exceptional contributions to marine conservation on the front lines of ocean and marine life preservation. “My serious concern about modern reefs began in 1998 after a heartbreaking field season on Grand Cayman when all of the corals in my study area were dead,” Manfrino said.

The expert has spent nearly two decades undertaking coral reef research after here disturbing field dive inspired  her to establish CCMI in 1998 with the dedicated mission of protecting coral reefs for the future. Since its inception, CCMI has published and facilitated critical coral reef research at the forefront of coral fluorescence, lionfish culling, ocean acidification, and reef resilience.

Manfrino urges divers to continue to, “bear witness to the marvels of a healthy living ocean.”

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute aims to understand what contributes to reef resilience to help restore the balance of healthy coral reefs. “The great news is that corals are surviving at Little Cayman which offers enormous hope for the future,” Manfrino added.

Scuba divers interesting in getting involved with the science can also join CCMI on a number of their citizen science initiatives, including a marine census to photo-document the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) coral species on Little Cayman.

Speaking about the awards Mary Frances Emmons, deputy editor of Scuba Diving, Sport Diving, and The Undersea Journal said they are given to “ordinary divers who make an extraordinary difference, and inspire the rest of us with their compassion and dedication. Dr Manfrino’s work has shown that coral reefs in the Caribbean can not only survive the changes that threaten the future of our oceans, but actually remain healthy and even expand.”

Continue Reading

Expert to host free classes on Cayman’s geology

| 07/10/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): There is much more to Cayman’s natural beauty than meets the eye and the geological forces that have shaped these islands and in turn its flora and fauna will be the subject of classes and lectures next week. The world renowned, multi-award geologist Dr Brian Jones will be in the Cayman Islands next week, holding geology classes for high school teachers and students as well as free public lecture about the geological history of Cayman. His trip and time is being sponsored by the Water Authority after his successful visit last year to celebrate the public owned company’s 30th anniversary.

“Last year’s geology education was a success, Dr. Jones’ expertise on the geology of the Cayman Islands, developed over a period of 30 years, is phenomenal and it is a unique chance for students, teachers and the general public to be exposed to a top level scientist” said Dr. Gelia Frederick-van Genderen, Director of the Water Authority.

“Dr. Jones readily agreed to come back this year and he donates a week of his time. Due to the busy schedule last year it was not possible to extend this education to Cayman Brac, but we are glad that we can do so this year, providing teachers, students and the general public in Cayman Brac with the same level of geology education” 

His visit this year will include a professional one-day geology course for high school teachers with over fifteen teachers having already signed up for the one-day professional course. It is expected that some 500 high school students will be involved in the lessons at the schools.

The public lectures are being sponsored by the National Trust. “A Journey through Time – A Geological History of the Cayman Islands” will be held in the conference room of the Brac Reef Resort on Tuesday 14 October, starting at 7:30 pm, then at the George Town Public Library 3rd floor lecture room on Thursday 16 October, at 5:30pm. Admission to the lectures is free to the general public and refreshments will be provided.

Dr. Brian Jones, Ph.D., P. Geol. is a Professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta, Canada and has been an educator for close to four decades. His fieldwork has taken him all over the world. Throughout his career he has received many awards in recognition of his work as an educator and as a scientist. Recently the University of Alberta awarded him as a Distinguished University Professor in recognition of his outstanding qualities as a scientist and educator. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

“Since the early 1980’s Dr. Jones, his colleagues and students of the university have conducted scientific geological research in the Cayman Islands,” said Hendrik-Jan van Genderen, Water Resources Engineer at the Water Authority. “The Cayman Islands has benefitted from this work and advice as Dr. Jones shares his work with the Water Authority, the Department of the Environment, the National Trust and any other Government agency that needs specific information on the geology of the Cayman Islands and he willingly advises on geological issues.”

For more information on the public lectures on Tuesday and Thursday, please contact the National Trust or the Water Authority.
 

Continue Reading

Local divers begin work on crushed reef

| 30/09/2014 | 35 Comments

(CNS): Although it will take decades, if it works at all, local divers have begun the daunting task of attempting to repair almost 12,000 square feet of severely damaged coral reef in George Town harbour. The reef was crushed by some 450 feet of chain, weighing as much as 100lbs, when the Carnival Magic cruise ship dropped its anchor on the dive site in August. Around 50 volunteers have teamed up with the Department of Environment (DoE) and have begun carefully removing the rubble, dead coral and sediment, crate by crate. Divers say the damage is extensive and described as “just terrible”, with thousands of years of coral growth demolished by an error of judgment. (Photo by Len de Vries and Nina Baxa).

“Right now it’s basic triage, and any live corals are being put aside for reattachment once the rubble is removed,” Ocean Frontiers’ Lois Hatcher told dive news reporter, Adela Gonzales White. “Every day that goes by, more coral that is buried or heavily covered in sediment is suffocating. They need sunlight and a stable substrate to survive, so the longer they are unstable, the survival rate decreases.”

She explained that a lot of man-hours will be needed to restore the reef, starting with the triage stage to clean things up before efforts at reattachment and then maintenance, which could take more than a year to complete.

“We are also hoping to start a couple of nursery trees for the long-term keeping of live coral fragments, as they grow faster this way andcan then be used to embellish what coral was replanted.”

While an investigation into the Carnival Magic incident is conducted, the repair work at the site continues non-stop. To date more than a 20 dives have been made and volunteers have put in 150 man-hours. Communication and coordination are done through a Facebook page that now has 265 followers. Boat trips are scheduled and volunteers, both locals and visitors, can sign up to help.

Hatcher said it was important work and if nobody is going to be held accountable for the damage, then they must be accountable.

In 1996 a coral restoration project began to try and repair the damage caused by the Maasdam cruise ship when it dropped anchor on a shallow dive site in George Town damaging 7,500 square feet of reef. That project took over 9,000 hours of underwater work over three months. DoE experts have said that site could still take sixty years to grow back. The most recent cruise ship damage was over a considerably larger area and in deeper water, presenting divers with a near impossible task.

Along with the experienced divers who worked on that project joining the current team, Keith Sahm from Sunset Divers, who organised the volunteers, said the Marine Conservation Board has also eased the guidelines and laws about touching or picking up coral to allow the work to go ahead.

The restoration work is difficult and the dive site won’t be what it was originally but the divers hope to make the reef stable enough to sustain life again.

Following a meeting Monday the DoE said the results were encouraging and progress has been made but the project needs more volunteers. Anyone interesting in helping is asked to visit the Facebook page Cayman Magic Reef Recovery where volunteer dives and updates are continually posted.

Continue Reading

UN: Rapid mangrove loss costing $ billions

| 30/09/2014 | 13 Comments

(CNS): The world is losing its mangroves at a faster rate than global deforestation, the United Nations has revealed in a new report pointing to billions of dollars in economic damage impacting millions of lives. The destruction of the coastal habitats is said to be three to five times faster than global forest loss resulting in $42billion losses annually and exposing ecosystems and coastal habitats to an increased risk of devastation from climate change. The report was launched Monday at the 16th Global Meeting of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans, held in Greece, where the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned of the far reaching implications of the habitat loss. Although a global phenomenon the Cayman Islands has seen miles of its costal mangrove sacrificed in the name of development in recent years

“The escalating destruction and degradation of mangroves – driven by land conversion for aquaculture and agriculture, coastal development, and pollution – is occurring at an alarming rate,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner who added that over a quarter of the earth’s original mangrove cover has gone.

“This has potentially devastating effects on biodiversity, food security and the livelihoods of some of the most marginalized coastal communities in developing countries, where more than 90 per cent of the world’s mangroves are found,” he added.

Steiner said mangroves – which are found in 123 countries around the world – provide ecosystem services worth up to $57,000 per hectare per year, storing carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and providing the over 100 million people who live in their vicinity with a variety of goods and services such as fisheries and forest products, clean water and protection against erosion and extreme weather events. He stressed that their continued destruction “makes neither ecological nor economic sense.”

As well as the economic problems posed by mangrove deforestation, the report, entitled The Importance of Mangroves: A Call to Action, also cautions that a continued reduction in the surface area of mangrove forests would inevitably expose coastal environments to the harmful effects of climate change.

In the Caribbean, mangrove-lined “hurricane holes” have functioned for centuries as safe-havens for boaters needing to ride out storms. The complex network of mangrove roots can also help reduce wave energy, limit erosion and form a critical barrier to the dangers posed by the strengthening tropical storms, cyclones and tsunamis which have been assailing coastal communities in recent years due to climate change.

In order to safeguard what UNEP calls “one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet,” the report outlines a number of financial mechanisms and incentives designed to stimulate conservation, including the creation of a Global Mangrove Fund, encouraging mangrove conservation and restoration through carbon credit markets, and promoting economic incentives as a source of local income from mangrove protection, sustainable use, and restoration activities.

Steiner said it was important to spell out the need to preserve mangroves in real terms, underlining the economic impact their destruction has on the local and global communities.
“By quantifying in economic terms the value of the ecosystem services provided by mangroves as well as the critical role they play in global climate regulation, the report aims to encourage policymakers to use the tools and guidelines outlined to better ensure the conservation and sustainable management of mangroves.”

 

Continue Reading

UN: Rapid mangrove loss costing $ billions

| 30/09/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The world is losing its mangroves at a faster rate than global deforestation, the United Nations has revealed in a new report pointing to billions of dollars in economic damage impacting millions of lives. The destruction of the coastal habitats is said to be three to five times faster than global forest loss resulting in $42billion losses annually and exposing ecosystems and coastal habitats to increased risk of devastation from climate change. The report launched Monday at the 16th Global Meeting of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans, in Greece, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned of the far reaching implications of the habitat loss. Although a global phenomenon, the Cayman Islands has seen miles of its costal mangrove sacrificed in the name of development in recent years.

“The escalating destruction and degradation of mangroves – driven by land conversion for aquaculture and agriculture, coastal development, and pollution – is occurring at an alarming rate,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner who added that over a quarter of the earth’s original mangrove cover hasgone.

“This has potentially devastating effects on biodiversity, food security and the livelihoods of some of the most marginalized coastal communities in developing countries, where more than 90 per cent of the world’s mangroves are found,” he added.

Steiner said mangroves – which are found in 123 countries around the world – provide ecosystem services worth up to $57,000 per hectare per year, storing carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and providing the over 100 million people who live in their vicinity with a variety of goods and services such as fisheries and forest products, clean water and protection against erosion and extreme weather events. He stressed that their continued destruction “makes neither ecological nor economic sense.”

As well as the economic problems posed by mangrove deforestation, the report, entitled The Importance of Mangroves: A Call to Action, also cautions that a continued reduction in the surface area of mangrove forests would inevitably expose coastal environments to the harmful effects of climate change.

Here, in the Caribbean, mangrove-lined “hurricane holes” have functioned for centuries as safe-havens for boaters needing to ride out storms. The complex network of mangrove roots can also help reduce wave energy, limit erosion and form a critical barrier to the dangers posed by the strengthening tropical storms, cyclones and tsunamis which have been assailing coastal communities in recent years due to climate change.

In order to safeguard what UNEP calls “one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet,” the report outlines a number of financial mechanisms and incentives designed to stimulate conservation, including the creation of a Global Mangrove Fund, encouraging mangrove conservation and restoration through carbon credit markets, and promoting economic incentives as a source of local income from mangrove protection, sustainable use, and restoration activities.

Steiner said it was important to spell out the needto preserve mangroves in real terms, underlining the economic impact their destruction has on the local and global communities.

“By quantifying in economic terms the value of the ecosystem services provided by mangroves as well as the critical role they play in global climate regulation, the report aims to encourage policymakers to use the tools and guidelines outlined to better ensure the conservation and sustainable management of mangroves.”

See report below

Continue Reading

Black-tie fundraiser for marine research

| 26/09/2014 | 10 Comments

(CNS): The Festival of Seas, the annual gala event and fundraiser held by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, will be lighting up Camana Bay on 18 October. This year’s event, the Blue Gala, celebrates our ocean and its many treasures – the coral reefs, fish, and beaches that contribute so much to Cayman’s happiness and economy. The money raised from the fundraiser will benefit CCMI’s research and education programmes dedicated to protecting our coral reefs for the future.

“This year’s blue theme celebrates the natural beauty of the ocean,” explained Jade Arch, CCMI’s event organizer for the Festival of Seas.  “Our goal is to honor everything the ocean provides us each day living here in the Cayman Islands, as well as educating our guests about what must be done to ensure its health for future generations. Everything about the Blue Gala will bring the ocean to life – even the dance floor is inspired by the ocean’s bioluminescence.”

The event will feature a live auction, a silent auction, and a raffle. Many local businesses have donated exceptional auction items that include resort stays, original prints by nationally recognized artists and photographers, and prize packages. The event will commence with a cocktail hour, a time for guests to view items for the live auction, bid on items in the silent auction, and enjoy chatting with CCMI staff and guests. 

The gala dinner will feature the local cuisine of several Camana Bay restaurants.  The celebration will continue as guests move to the dance floor, with lighting inspired by the ocean’s natural bioluminescence. 

Black-tie is required, but guests are encouraged to wear blue to the gala to celebrate their love for the ocean. Tables at the Blue Gala are limited, but are still available.  For more information and ticket sales contact Jade Arch at jarch@reefresearch.org

Read more about Central Caribbean Marine Institute

Continue Reading

CIG plans oil depot move

| 23/09/2014 | 27 Comments

(CNS): The minister for planning has said that government has entered into an agreement with a consultant to help it find an appropriate partner to not only move the diesel storage facility at Jackson Point but develop a much larger facility, sealing the island's dependency on oil far into the future. Kurt Tibbetts told his legislative colleagues recently that the current facility in South Sound is dangerous as it is now in a congested residential area and in the flight path for the airport. Although Tibbetts did not say where the new bulk facility will go, he said it had to be located in a remote part of the island.

As well as concerns over the dangers posed by the location of the current bulk storage facility as a result of the development in South Sound, Tibbetts told members of the Legislative Assembly during the recent meeting that it was also impossible to expand the current terminal, which was impacting the cost of fuel.

“The government is aware of the growth restriction at the fuel terminal site, which has a direct effect on the premium price we pay for fuel,” Tibbetts stated. “It is inevitable that we expand our fuel capacity to meet the islands’ demand and to do so we must make plans to move the terminal from Jackson Point to a less developed location on these islands.”

Answering a parliamentary question posed by the member for North Side, Ezzard Miller, about how much government was paying the consultants, Navasota, Tibbetts said that no cash had or would change hands between government and the consultant according to an agreement which he laid on the table of the House making it a public document.

He said Navasota, an oil and gas expert, is working as some form of agent or broker and will help CIG find a fuel supply partner to finance and build the facility and it will then take a commission from that company. The firm was one of the bidders on the original ERA tender to supply an extra 36 MW of power to meet CUC’s future generating needs, but the bid collapsed owing to allegations of irregularities surrounding the tender.

Tibbetts explained that Navasota would not be directly involved in the development of any new facility, but would do the research to find out what was possible, practical and sustainable for Cayman.

“The oil companies need a storage hub to hold fuel in a location that is close to their buyers, along with the ability to allow timely transshipment of product to buyers,” Tibbetts said, implying that the project may be much more than a holding facility for CUC and the airport ‘s fuel needs.

Tibbetts said discussions were ongoing but nothing would happen until there has been a full discussion with legislators. “We met with them very recently … and have an outline proposal,” he said.

According to the agreement, which is posted below, the new terminal would be developed in a duty free enterprise zone in East End.

While the movement of the terminal as a result of safety concerns is unavoidable, replacing it with a major facility that could include transshipment facilities may not receive support from the wider community.

The announcement also comes as Cayman is beginning to explore alternative fuel options from its costly dependence on imported diesel. CUC is in talks with companies to supply wind and solar generated power and a firm pioneering the development of ocean thermal energy is hosting an open house meeting in North Side Tuesday about a proposed project off the coast of that district. OTEC International (OTI) is currently asking input on a planned EIA for the floating platform which could see the first power plant of its kind in the world established in Cayman.

While there has been some cautious optimism and wide community support for alternative energy initiatives, a proposal by developer Joe Imparato, which was considered by McKeeva Bush when he led the former UDP administration, to develop a terminal and transshipment port in East End in the area close to the Shetty hospital received considerable opposition. A plan for an oil refinery in Grand Cayman also proved unpopular.

Continue Reading

CIG has failed to address turtle welfare, says charity

| 22/09/2014 | 33 Comments

(CNS): A UK-based international charity has said the Cayman government has failed to address the on-going animal welfare issues at the Cayman Turtle Farm despite earlier promising talks with the current administration. World Animal Protection said its year-long closed door discussions with the government about the controversial Farm and the conditions there have broken down as the charity has received no response for more than two months in connection with issues discussed during talks in July. Although some progress had been made on the myriad problems with the facility, the charity says government has failed to act on the serious welfare issues but they can no longer be ignored.

It said overcrowding, cannibalism, injuries and disease among the almost 10,000 endangered green sea turtles at the Farm remain a significant concern.

Discussions with the PPM administration started over a year ago and World Animal Protection’s CEO Mike Baker said early discussions highlighted key areas of mutual concern over animal welfare conditions related to the Farm, such as overcrowding, the possible introduction of infectious diseases into the wild through the Farm’s turtle release program, and the illegal poaching of wild sea turtles.

In November last year the farm suspended the turtle release programme as it finally acknowledged that releasing the farmed turtles could put the wild population at risk of infectious disease. Alongside the cancelation of that programme the Department of the Environment received funding from the UK to investigate the true scale of Caymanian demand for sea turtle meat.

But the conditions in which turtles are being kept at the farm remain little changed and although there is now a full time vet at the facility the husbandry issues have not been addressed.

“Despite highly positive discussion nearly two months ago, we are disappointed that the CIG has failed to provide World Animal Protection with any updated formal response on the Farm’s conditions,” said World Animal Protection’s CEO, Mike Baker. “It is impossibleto see how progress can be made without communication and participation from both sides,” he added as he stated that talks between the charity and government had broken down.

“After more than a year of patient engagement and talks behind closed doors, it is now time for the CIG to act. The root causes of acute animal suffering at the Farm, such as the severe overcrowding of turtles there, simply cannot be ignored any longer,” Baker added.

The charity which published a damning report just under two years ago about conditions at the farm is advocating to that the Farm transition from a butcher’s shop into a rehabilitation and conservation facility that fully protects sea turtles.

Following the statement on Friday from WAP, Cayman News Service contacted the Farm as well as the ministers and their officials from tourism and the environment but we are still awaiting a response.

Watch video interviews with Neil D’Cruse, WAP Head of Wildlife Policy and Research

Continue Reading

Moses supports development plan for Sister Islands

| 19/09/2014 | 0 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS Business): Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell, who has responsibility for the Sister Islands, says the Cayman Islands’ new National Conservation Law adds significant protection from unsuitable or inappropriate developments. Kirkconnell told CNS Business that he considers that the current planning laws are robust enough to prevent unsuitable development in the Sister Islands. However, the DP also said he supports the establishment of a strategic development plan for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman to ensure that future developments on the two smaller Cayman Islands continue to align with the overarching economic, social, environmental and heritage objectives for the islands. Read more and comment on CNS Business

 

Continue Reading

Ocean energy project on cards for North Side

| 18/09/2014 | 33 Comments

(CNS): A US-based company wants to develop a floating platform off the coast of North Side to supply renewable energy to the Cayman Islands via Ocean Thermal Energy. What would be the first power plant of its kind in the world, if it goes ahead, is proposing to generate 6.25 megawatts of wholesale electric power to CUC via a buried cable under the ocean. OTEC International (OTI) is now seeking input from the public for an environmental impact assessment for the floating ocean power station. Having already met with North Siders, the company said it will be hosting an open house meeting next Tuesday in the district to present its proposal to a wider audience.

Although Cayman has been slow off the mark in exploring alternative energy, under CUC’s licensing agreement the firm is now obligated to supply at least a small part of its power via renewable energy.

In 2013 the firm stated that it had identified two companies it was working with to provide two 5-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plants and one 3MW small scale wind turbine project: New Generation Power (NGP), which proposed to provide 3 megawatts of wind power and 5 megawatts solar, and Electric Power LLC, which plans to provide an additional 5megawatts of solar energy.

A spokesperson for OTI stated this week that CUC has been in discussions with OTEC about energy alternatives since the 90’s. On this latest proposal CUC has provided some guidance and assistance with the firm’s efforts to obtain the permissions from the relevant authorities and has agreed to purchase the energy output from the plant.

“As CUC gets closer to bringing new technologies to the business that may reduce the cost of electricity, International Electric Power, one the two companies chosen to provide solar photovoltaic power plants, is at the permitting stage and recently applied for planning permission for their 5 MW photovoltaic plant in the Bodden Town district,” the firm added.

The ocean thermal project is a longer term proposal, however, and OTI said that in 2011 they and CUC entered into “a term sheet for the development of OTEC as a renewable resource” within the local power provider’s generation portfolio.

“The companies have an agreement in principle on OTI eventually supplying 25 megawatts of wholesale renewable power, starting with this first proposed phase of a 6.25 megawatt floating power platform (FPP). OTI is now beginning the EIA phase as it seeks various government and regulatory licenses and permits,” a spokesperson for the project stated.

An environmental impact assessment has now been initiated for the floating plant, which proposes to use Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, a technology that coverts solar energy stored in tropical oceans to utility-scale power through a process that exploits the large temperature gradient between the water on the surface and that found at depth.

“This is a demonstrated technology that’s been around for more than 30 years,” said OTEC International President Eileen O’Rourke. “OTEC provides consistent, renewable power delivered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

She described the power plant as “a low-profile platform moored off the north coast of Grand Cayman and connected to the power grid through a buried cable running to a substation on shore".

Before the EIA begins the public can review and comment on the draft Terms of Reference document, which is published on the Department of Environment’s website.

There will also be an Open House session for the public to review and comment on the EIA process on Tuesday 23 September at the North Side Civic Centre at 7:00pm followed by a 7:30pm presentation and question-and-answer period.

Public Comments on the Terms of Reference may be provided through submissions during the open house session, via email to doe@gov.ky, posted to Department of Environment, PO Box 10202, Grand Cayman, KY1-1002, or hand delivered to Department of Environment, Environmental Centre, 580 North Sound Road, George Town, Grand Cayman.

Continue Reading