Archive for October 29th, 2009

Cayman becomes focus for ocean scientists

Cayman becomes focus for ocean scientists

| 29/10/2009 | 15 Comments

(CNS): A group of shark hunters and a group of scientists seeking to explore the earliest life forms on the planet are converging in Cayman this week as the islands’ ocean becomes the focus of important marine explorations. The shark hunters will be working with the Department of Environment (DoE) to carry out surveys of the local shark, whale and dolphin populations. Meanwhile, WHOI and NASA scientists will be plunging a submarine into the depths of the Mid-Cayman Rise to explore the earliest of the ocean’s life forms.

The shark team consists of Dr Mauvis Gore and Oliver Dubock from Marine Conservation International; Dr Rupert Ormond, chief scientist of the Save Our Seas Foundation; and Edd Brooks, a shark researcher based at Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas. The team will be assisting the DoE with surveys around all three islands and will also build on the DoE efforts to establish a public sightings scheme for recording observations of sharks, whales and dolphins seen in Caymanian waters. The team will be collaborating with marine scientists from the Department of Environment.

“We’re really excited to be working with this group of experts on these important issues. Sharks, as top-level predators in our marine environment are key components and we have very little reliable data or information on local species, populations and the pressures they face,” said DoE Deputy Director for Research and Assessment Tim Austin. 

“Additionally through this project we hope to expand on local efforts to better understand what species of whales and dolphins use Caymans’ waters as part of their home ranges or a seasonal migratory routes, as currently very little is known.”

The project is being jointly funded by the UK’s Overseas Territory Environment Programme OTEP, the Save Our Seas Foundation and the Cayman Islands Department of Environment.

The project leader, Dr. Mauvis Gore, said she was thrilled to be back in Cayman.

“The coral reefs here are impressive, but I’m excited that this time we to have the chance to focus on the area’s sharks. Well over 90% of the worlds shark populations have been lost over the past twenty years, largely through illegal fishing simply for making soup in distant restaurants. Here the marine environment is better managed and so there is a chance to ensure that endangered species are not lost.”

Dr Gore became well known for her work on basking sharks on the west coast of Scotland when one of these plankton-feeding giants (which grow to up to 10 metres long) crossed the Atlantic to appear on the coast of Newfoundland. The electronic tag fitted to the shark indicated that as well as travelling over 4,000km, the shark had dived to a depth of over 1200m.

Dr Gore said, “As well as checking on the numbers of sharks still present in Cayman, we need to find out how much they move about and how far they travel. Some of the bigger sharks here, like the tiger sharks, have also been recorded as travelling thousands of kilometres.”

Dr Rupert Ormond, a past director of the University of London’s Marine Biological Station in Millport, Scotland, said that the Save Our Seas has focused on highlighting the plight of sharks.

“In particular our ‘Rethink the Shark’ campaign has emphasised the fact that shark attacks are extremely rare, often the result of provocation, and that many more people are killed by toasters and chairs each year, let alone by bees or cars. In addition the research that we have funded worldwide has shown that the large charismatic sharks play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem,” he added.

The project will emphasise collaboration with local fishermen, dive operators and boat owners, who will be invited to share their knowledge and report sightings of sharks, whales and dolphins to the Department of Environment.

Meanwhile, deep down in the Cayman trench, NASA scientists and oceanographers will be seeking to answer questions about how life got started on earth by exploring the deepest parts of the ocean where life cannot depend on sunlight.

The Cape Hatteras, which crewed by Chris German of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and his colleagues and is the base for the exploration, was spotted in George Town Harbour this week, and according to reports in The Economist, the crew will launch Nereus, an unmanned submarine (left), to explore theunderwater mountain range that lies under almost 4 miles of water near Grand Cayman. The team has picked the Mid-Cayman Rise, part of the 60,000km-long system of mid-ocean ridges that zigzags around the planet, for their exploration because it is a particularly unusual part of that network, which they believe could reveal what the earliest life on Earth looked like.

The life forms these scientists expect to see might be similar to those that lived before photosynthesis. The vents of most mid-ocean ridges rarely produce hydrogen but there is reason to believe that hydrogen will be abundant in the vents of a particular type of ridge which could be present deep down under the oceans around Grand Cayman.

Scientists say that the ocean floor is the least understood part of the Earth’s surface, so any new data this team uncovers will be welcome. If the probe does come up with hydrogen-eating bacteria, it will give a boost to those who hope to find life on other celestial bodies, particularly ones that are far from the nurturing light of the sun. Today, the Cayman Trench but tomorrow, scientists may be looking on Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

Follow the WHOI exploration.

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Accountants say tax policies behind financial crisis

Accountants say tax policies behind financial crisis

| 29/10/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Tax policies around the world have inadvertently fuelled the global financial crisis by encouraging companies to use debt rather than equity, ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) has claimed in a policy paper called Competition or Co-ordination: Reassessing Tax in a Global Environment. The industry body says that the inconsistencies in tax systems need to be ironed out, that G20 nations should be focusing on addressing their own tax problems before those of tax havens, and national sovereignty in tax policy should be respected.

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, ACCA’s global spokesperson on taxation issues, said that while G20 leaders have proposed improving co-ordination between national authorities as a key aspect of restoring confidence in global financial regulation, there is a need for similar action in the field of taxation.  “Our paper examines the most topical international tax issues, from tax havens to tax competition. Distortions and inconsistencies in tax systems need to be ironed out. Global co-ordination is vital to make sure that tax is fair and transparent,” he said.

The policy paper offers seven clear recommendations to tackle global tax issues and states that governments should address national tax rules which distort behaviour and reward one financing route over another. “Care should be taken to avoid sudden changes, as thiscould require significant wholesale restructuring that could have unintended consequences,” the report notes.

The industry body states that while tax havens should provide information to governments about nationals who use those jurisdictions, the large nations should not focus attention on tax havens as a distraction from the need to sort out their own finances. ACCA also points to the need for the EU and other leading nations to remove the remaining barriers to free trade, and continue to refrain from pressuring ‘flat-tax’ countries to raise their tax rates in the name of ‘harmonisation’.

Governments should address substantive issues of tax law that cause distortions, rather than relying on headline corporate tax rates and ‘holidays’ to attract FDI, the body advises. “By keeping the system as simple and homogeneous as possible, the certainty which business needs will be provided,” the report said.

“We believe the recommendations made in this report would go a long way to addressing some of the challenging current issues in the field of international tax,” added Chowdhury. “Tax policy is and must remain in the hands of sovereign national governments, which should be able to run regimes suited to their stages of economic development, such as the flat-tax systems in post-communist countries in Eastern Europe.”

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Booze burgled from North Side home

Booze burgled from North Side home

| 29/10/2009 | 7 Comments

(CNS): Alcohol appears to be the only items stolen from a residence on Old Robin Road, North Side. The burglary was discovered yesterday morning (28 October) around 7:00am by the caretaker of the premises, who found a rear glass door slightly open and a screw driver lying nearby. An officer from Bodden Town Police Station attended the scene and recovered the screw driver for evidence. Once inside the home is was discovered that a bottle of spirits and some beer had been taken. The matter is under investigation.

Anyone with information of crime taking place can pass it on to police in a number of ways; people can speak with an officer they know and trust, they can reach George Town detectives on 949-4222, they can leave information on an anonymous voicemail service by calling 949-7777 or they can call Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS). All persons calling Crime Stoppers remain anonymous, and are eligible for a reward of up to $1000, should their information lead to an arrest or recovery of property/drugs.

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NCVO Radio/Telethon

NCVO Radio/Telethon

| 29/10/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The National Council of Voluntary Organisations will host its 30th annual fundraiser on Cayman 27 (Cable Channel 12) on Saturday, 7 November, which will take place at the Prospect Playhouse and will be simulcast on Radio Cayman from 7pm to midnight. This is the largest fundraiser held by the Organisation each year, and money raised helps to maintain and operate one of Cayman’s longest running charities – the NCVO.

Every year, with the support of Cayman 27 and Radio Cayman, the NCVO is lucky to attract an amazing level of talent for the evening. According to GIS, the list of entertainers lined up for this year includes Barefoot Man, Sea N’ B’, Earl Lapierre, Hi Tide, Ratskin and many others all of whom are donating their time and talent for this worthy cause. There will also be an opportunity to win one or more of over 50 prizes donated by more than 40 different companies for those who phone in and pledge on the night to 946-6136, the number sponsored by LIME. Prizes this year include jewelry, art work, a Blackberry phone from LIME, numerous gift certificates from popular stores and restaurants around the Island including the Lighthouse, Foster’s, Hobbies & Books and many, many more, too numerous to mention. There is also a grand prize of 2 round trip tickets to any Cayman Airways destination.

“The success of our Radio/Telethon is vital to the survival of the NCVO and its projects” explains Janice Wilson – CEO for the NCVO. “The community has always been very generous in their donations to our programmes and this year, given the difficult economic times, we are more in need of their support than ever. The need for our community programmes, particularly those that help local children, continues to increase and general donations are considerably down from previous years. We encourage as many people as possible to support the event, and to join us for a wonderful night of fun and entertainment.”

The NCVO is an independent, non-profit, charitable organisation that engages in projects to meet the ever-increasing social needs of the community. As one ofthe oldest charities in Cayman, having been in operation for over 30 years, they have grown substantially. Among the projects run by the NCVO are: the Nadine Andreas Residential Foster Home which houses ten children in need of care and protection; “Miss Nadine’s” Pre-School which provides pre-school education for seventy 2-5 year olds; Jack & Jill Nursery which cares for 16 babies, the Caring Cousins Welfare Fund and several others. The demand for the NCVO’s programmes increases every year and the organiser’s are hoping that this year’s event will receive the support necessary to continue its much needed projects.

This year marks the 30th NCVO annual fundraiser, and the NCVO hopes that CI $125,000 will be raised. Corporate donations are encouraged and the public is invited to come out and present their donations at the Prospect Playhouse or to phone in throughout the night of the 7th November on 946-3136 to make a pledge.

For more information or to make a donation to the NCVO prior to the Radio/Telethon, contact the NCVO at 949-2124 or, or log onto

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CIG criticised over economy

CIG criticised over economy

| 29/10/2009 | 29 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands and the UK’s other overseas territories, as well as the crown dependencies, are being told to widen their tax base in the long awaited report by Sir Michael Foot. But the UK financial expert also takes the Cayman Islands to task for undertaking capital projects during the economic crisis and says the islands’ government must improve its economic management. In his review, which was commissioned by the Treasury, Foot says the territories must take greater responsibility for their economies and raise new taxes if they are to survive the economic crisis.

“Past economic decisions taken by the local governments in the jurisdictions have inevitably had an impact on their resilience during the downturn,” he said. “Decisions taken by some of the Overseas Territories to use increased revenues to raise current and capital public spending, sometimes combined with insufficient attention to data quality and the absence of robust medium-term planning, has left local governments facing difficult short-term choices to restore the public finances. This is clearly illustrated by recent events in the Cayman Islands.”

The report also reveals how badly Cayman did in comparison to the crown dependencies and other overseas territories in predicting revenue earnings for the last budget year, with only Anguilla and TCI making larger overestimations than Cayman.

In the report Foot states that governments need to demonstrate a clear commitment to improving economic management. “This is their primary responsibility,” Foot writes. “However, the UK’s interest in the good governance of the jurisdictions means that the UK should satisfy itself that each jurisdiction indeed has a framework capable of identifying and responding to external shocks and encourage local governments to undertake responsible adjustment programmes.”

Foot set the crown dependencies up as the standard which all territories should be trying to attain.

Although Foot acknowledges the different levels of vulnerability, he says that none of the territories can afford to be complacent. However, throughout the report Foot recognizes that Cayman has met international standards and is of key importance in the global financial market.

Cayman is also acknowledged as one of the UK’s major creditors and that UK fund managers earn significant fee income from the Cayman Islands. He describes Cayman as the world’s leading centre for hedge funds and also a significant wholesale banking centre, with high volumes of overnight banking business from the United States, which Foot does not seem to regard as particularly important in the grand scheme of global banking. Foot also notes the impact of the decline in the hedge fund sector on Cayman, especially as the downturn coincided with a downturn in tourism.

In a brief statement released this morning, Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush said that Cayman has supported several third-party reviews of the financial sector over the years and their outcomes have consistently provided valuable insights for all involved. “This most recent review is no different and we welcome the constructive observations and recommendations put forth by the review team,” he said.

The Foot Review was commissioned by Alistair Darling in December 2008 to identity the opportunities and challenges generated for British offshore financial centres by turmoil in the financial markets and the subsequent impact on the world economy.

Check back to CNS later today for more details on the Foot Report.

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Mini-masterpiece theatre heads to the Brac

Mini-masterpiece theatre heads to the Brac

| 29/10/2009 | 3 Comments

(CNS): For the first time in 30 years, the Cayman Drama Society will be performing a show on Cayman Brac this weekend when they re-create the magic of a bygone genre written by the Queen of Crime. A stage production of three radio plays by Agatha Christie will be presented at the Ashton Rutty Centre, Cayman Brac, at 8.00 pm on Saturday, 31 October, to raise funds for the Rotary Club of Cayman Brac. Agatha Christie, the creator of such characters as Mss Marple and Hercule Poirot, is the best-selling author of all time, having sold over two billion books worldwide, translated into over 45 languages.

She wrote eighty novels and short story collections, as well as over a dozen plays, including The Mousetrap, which was the longest running play in theatrical history.

Less well known are Christie’s radio plays, which were mostly adaptations of her short stories. Recreating the old days of radio studio broadcasts, the Cayman Drama Society originally performed the Agatha Christie Radio Plays in late January 2009 in Grand Cayman, where they were extremely well received and played to almost full houses for the three week run of the show.

Chairman of the Society, Penny Phillips, said, “Although this is not the first time the Cayman Drama Society has presented a show in the Brac, we have not been over there in almost thirty years. Following the devastation of hurricane Paloma, and bearing in mind that we are the ‘Cayman’ Drama Society – not the Grand Cayman Drama Society – we felt it was time to step up to the mark and do our part for the sister islands.”

Tickets for the one performance are $10 and can be obtained from any Cayman Brac Rotarian, or at the door on the night. Each member of the cast and crew is paying their own passage and accommodation and all proceeds will go towards the Brac Rotary Club.

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