Illegal fishing still threatens grouper’s survival

| 29/01/2010

(CNS): Despite the fact that the Department of the Environment is working closely with the RCIPS Marine Unit to enforce the grouper fishing ban in the spawning areas around the Cayman Islands, there are still a number of people illegally catching the endangered fish. DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie warned that the more illegal fishing that takes place, the greater the impact on the aggregation. Ebanks-Petrie said that, at the moment, the ban on fishing grouper in designated spawning areas remains in place until 1 January 2012.

The Marine Conservation Board (MCB) recently issued a reminder that no one can catch Nassau Grouper in Spawning Areas from November through March. The areas include around Grand Cayman — Coxswain Bank of East End, Sand Cay Bank of South West Point, as well as North East and South West ends of the Twelve Mile Bank. In Little Cayman — the West End and Eastern End Banks and around Cayman Brac – The West End and the Eastern End Banks.

Although the ban has been in effect since 2001, Ebanks-Petrie said people persist in fishing in those areas during spawning time, which has a very serious impact on the wider population. The DoE director explained that, by their very nature, groupers are susceptible to over fishing and therefore care has to be taken with their management.

Ebanks-Petrie said that the DoE has been working very hardwith REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) and NOAA regarding the study of the Nassau grouper and has collected a lot of data about the species in Little Cayman, where the grouper had been so over fished it led to the introduction of the ban in the first place. Last year the Grouper Moon Project, a collaborative conservation program between REEF and the DOE, moved on to Cayman Brac and this year the focus is on Grand Cayman. Following a generous donation of a vessel for the DoE to use for the aggregate work, Ebanks-Petrie says her team now has a considerable amount of information about the management of the fish.

“We now have sufficient data to make a presentation to Cabinet regarding the current situation,” Ebanks-Petrie said, adding that there were signs of recovery in the Little Cayman area. “However, that has to be understood in the wider context of the region. We are still in a very fragile situation.”

She emphasised that the illegal fishing must stop in order to protect the future of the fish, and she said her department was working in tandem with the police Marine Unit, which had the boats and resources necessary to patrol the areas such as Coxswain Banks, where people have been ignoring the ban.

The MCB issued a warning that any person who by any means takes or receives or has in his possession any Nassau grouper from these areas is in contravention of the law. Violators may be liable on summary conviction to a penalty of CI$500,000.00 and one year in jail, with any equipment used in such contravention being subject to forfeiture by the Crown.

Please report any illegal fishing in Grand Cayman to the DOE Marine Enforcement Officers Mark Orr at 916-4271, and Ronnie Dougall at 916-5849, or to the RCIP Marine Unit at 926-0631.  For Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, reports may be made to DOE Officers Erbin Tibbetts at 926-0136, Robert Walton at 926-2342, or Keith Neale at 916-7021

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Lurking Sunday 9:11. You have missed the point. Irregardless of whether or not it is discriminatory (no more so than Canada, Australia and I think New Zealand and many other countries which have similar laws – called fishing permits), the fact is that’s the way it is. So in the context of this story, it’s pointless of you arguing whether or not the law is just. 

    Hopefully you’re not one to break the law just because you think it’s wrong.

    • Tim Dim says:

      "Canada, Australia and I think New Zealand" none of them are ECHR contracting states, and the ECHR is now the highest legal norm in Cayman.  So I will happily carry on fishing without a licence because I know that I am doing nothing illegal.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is well known that poachers were fishing the grouper hole and took many fish this week. it is time to stop arguing, debating, and blaming and realize that they are stealing your children’s heritage.Anyone related to the poachers should speak up to them for the sake of your own children and grandchildren.

  2. Peter Milburn says:

    I guess I should throw in my 2 cents worth on this one.Many years ago when the latetom jefferson was minister of the environment I tried to get him to ban lobsters,conch grouper for a period of 5 years.Back then the population was somewhat smaller than todays.My thought behind this was to then allow folks to bring in conch and lobster etc.without having to pay duty and across the dock fees so as to give these species the chance to bounce back.I was basically told that this would be too much to burden the Caymanians with as the new marine parks had just been set up(and you know what a big stink that started with some folks)As time went by even the local fishermen saw the wisdom of the marine park system but no ban was put on the above.Now that we have seen a surge in numbers on island it is even more IMPERATIVE that our new conservation law be IMPLEMENTED ASAP so as to help save and keep these under pressure creatures around for future generations.

            It has always been a idea of mine to make Little Cayman a complete round the island marine park.I know that a lot of people will say "rubbish’ but think of the possibilities of using this for a REPLENISHMENT area for conchs.lobsters etc.My kids,your kids and their kids on down the line would thank us for saving such an important part of their heritage.I am a land owner over there as are many others and would be willing to do whatever it takes to keep L/C the way it is according to the developement plan of the early 70’s which said something to the effect of COTTAGE STYLE housing ONLY so as to keep the ambiance intact.I am sure that many of you will not agree with me on this aspect of L/C but I do believe that I am right and will continue to fight to keep it as is for future generations.

  3. Fishing Expat says:

    As a Dad and certified fishing "nut" I think exploiting the Grouper at a time when they are essentially building their numbers and are at their most vulnerable is not really fishing, more so – pathetic greed. At the end of the day – any reason given no matter "where you are from" dosn’t justify the act. If I catch a lobster that is carrying eggs, I can’t justify the taking of it. To that end I am suprised they are not protected given this importance!?

     A similar situation to the Grouper takes place back in Western Australia where Pink Snapper (kind of similar to say a Mutton Snapper) would show up on a particular shoal in a similar area to say North Sound in September to spawn – very close to the states capital of Perth. The aggragation was common knowledge to the fishing community – and yes, it copped a complete hammering and was like shooting ducks in a barrel. Needless to say we/they almost blew them away – if it wasn’t for the fisheries management stepping in.

    Get caught fishing there now at those times and it’s bye bye boat, car and hello bubba!

    Get with the times.

    Why shoot yourselves (especially of all – your children) in the foot? The islands are a unique fisherie, where you do not have the luxuary of an expansive spawning habitat the likes of say Cuba.

    To say it’s part of your heritage / culture means nothing in reality but will fill a bucket in complete ignorance.

    Regarding the fisheries enforcement:

    I reguarly take lobster with-in the rules allowed. In the four years of doing so and standing by the law I have yet to be approached by an officer to see that I’m doing the right thing.

    Where are you guys?

    Yet I have seen/heard with my own eyes the taking of some 40 Lobster in a day in North Sound by locals at the commencement of one particular season!

    Ultimately – there will be only one loser.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, this is not intended to be a Caymanian/Ex-pat issue which is choking so much of our life and dialogue now but it’s true.

    This issue is a classic example of culture vs common sense, really. How can you approach changing the almost genetic (yes, our dna contain lots of seafood) rights and rites of a Caymanian who likes to fish (most of us) by restrictions, even though he knows better?

    I’m not talking breaking marine park laws yet because the average Caymanian respects marine parks. I’m talking about ‘overfishing’. The average Caymanian fisherman will fish until the fish stop biting, he’s not stopping after a few. We don’t do too much catch and release either, except tournaments. So yes, it has a decimating effect on the grouper (and other fish – marine laws generally protect shellfish). Now, the minority of Caymanian fisherman who break the marine laws certainly don’t help!

    Consider the Ex-pat, some legally and illegally overfishing – mostly no permits – from shore and boats (and stealing conch and lobster same way), by and large he is also a fisherman  by culture. 

    Culture should never be able to dissolved by any means, so laws will never achieve the perfect abstinence expected of banning the fishing of any sea life, no matter how good or poorly they are enforced – case in point, turtle (the odd wild turtle still ends up in a pot but there is not a ‘plague’ of breaking turtle bans). So, live and let live.

    But Caymanians had limits on sizes and types of fish and shellfish, so at least young fish could grow into bigger fish, more to catch.But some of us are fishing without conscience and some of us are consuming anything. So it really comes down to common sense – respect for the future,  selfishness and change. 

    Ex-pat, leave the fries and young fish, young conch and lobster and stop eating the periwinkle and young whelk and Caymanians, learn to adjust and practice more restraint. Unless you’re a commercial fisherman, 35-40 yellow tail, 20-25 snappers, etc, etc. sometimes couple times a week is NOT necessary. Come on!  Fish all you want, the sea’ll make more??!!. Not like this!  





    • Lurking says:

      You turned this into more of a Caymanian/ex-pat issue by this very post.

      "Consider the Ex-pat, some legally and illegally overfishing – mostly no permits"

      As pointed out below requiring some residents to have permits and some not to have permits on the basis of nationality alone is illegal discrimination.  Any ex-pat threatened with being charged with a licence offence get a lawyer to threaten to challenge the police’s exerce of discretion to charge you – they cannot charge a resident if the only reason you need a permit is your nationaility.

      I agtree that this should not be a Caymanian/ex-pat a debate – and the starting point should be equality – it should be permits for everyone and strict enforcement.  But that would be unpopular, and conservation and ecology always come out second in a popularity contest.

      • fuzzy says:

        If  I follow your logic ,then I cannot be denied entry into another country (say the US )simply because of my nationality.I dont think so!!!!

        • Lurking says:

          That is because you could not follow my logic. 1) I was talking about discrimination between lawful residents and 2) the ECHR framework does not apply to discrimination.  1) required an accurate reading of the post and 2) requires some knowledge on the subject.  But spouting off on half readings of topics one knows nothing about is the very essence of CNS posting.

    • Amen says:

      Part of the problem – no Caymanian – myself included – likes to be told what to do in our own island.  Reality is, smarter Caymanians (I’dlike to think I am one of them) gets over the truly sensible new rules and realizes it s for the long term benefit of all.  The dumb a$$e$still poaching turtles, snatching conch and lobster out of season, taking more than their limits, and so on, are the short sited ignoramouses that need to be taken down.  They are killing our future – so why should we show them any leniency?  Bring them to justice and save our Cayman for our future generations!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Stories like this leave me shaking my head.

    The self serving ignorance of these people who are fishing grouper is beyond belief.

    Obviously education needs to take place to alert these people that they can destroy the grouper population which will have a ripple effect on marine life in general.

    When will the government take the conservation law seriously and vote it in?

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree strongly with your views, as a Caymanian I have had my speargun gun taken away, as I have to fish with my line an expat put on his tanks with his gun and come up with lobsters to offer me.

      This is all a big ploy to have Government give more money to support more expats to tell us that we can’t have conch, welk, lobster and no spear fishing for Caymanian ,but the money expats get anything they want because they eat free at the cocktails parties.

      It our own Caymanians  that taking away or rights for the to be recognized by the crown.


  6. All you people that throw your slurs at the native people for their birth rights are just stoking the fire, I have  aquestion for the marine park officers, who are 90% expats, why is it that you target the locals about taking lobsters, conchs and the groupers ? when you  see and know that a lot of expats do the samething but you turn your heads the other way. There is a guy that go out every day  twice a day, get conchs for his winter friends have conch fritter parties some of these marine officers are invited and nothing is done about it. Stop the self righteous attitude and practice what you preach.

    • Anonymous says:

       How about…annonymous (sic!!!!)…you get your facts straight??  The Marine Park Officers do not TARGET  locals for taking lobster, conch and grouper (grouper, which btw should NOT be taken by anyone regardless of their nationality due to the mass culling of grouper that happened some years ago!!!…get some SENSE!!)…they ‘target’ ANYONE taking these animals in a PROTECTED area…understand the word ‘protected’???  know WHY these areas are ‘protected’??? To preserve the natural life of the island…. yeah, not just for tourists, but for EVERYONE!!!! You twit!!!!  Be grateful that SOMEONE regardless of their nationality is helping preserve the islands natural resources for YOUR children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, yes you personally!!  If you are Caymanian and you wanna fish lobster and conch….do it in the appropriate areas and catch the allowed limit…no one is stopping you from doing that….whassamatter….been caught picking up too many lobster and conch in maybe the wrong areas by someone doing their job? Aw pity!! 

      • Anonymous says:

        The poster was completely correct. Expats have been detected taking protected species in the Marine Parks, reported to the authorities and let off. In one case the local made the mistake of calling the offender a "limey" when the officer himself was English and this backfired.

        You seemed to have a very emotional response to that post and took it ver personally. Can it be that you are one such Marine Parks Officer? You certainly cannot vouch for every other officer.

      • Anonymous says:

        Simmer down buddy.

      • Hey TWIT, you totally missed the message, I am not saying that it should be done numbnut, I am saying that what they do is wrong, if you are going to warn the locals or fine them, then do it to your buddies too. its a known fact that some of the enforcement people are doing it too, OR did I step on your toes? are you one of those that enjoy your buddy’s  conch fritter parties, by going out a few times a day to garner the conchs. The truth hurts na.

    • Bobby Anonymous says:

      You made a boo boo, the enforcement section is, I belive 95% Caymanian. Be it, paper one’s or real one’s.

      I suppose you could call the DOE or Police about the guy going out twice a day, or is he "native"?

      • No, the guy going out twice a day is not local, the marine enforcement knows it too. The expats are biased, no I do not go out to fish, lobster or conch, so I have never been caught. but I have seen the abuse that is posted here and the favortism for their buddies.I hear some of them brag about being caught and nothing done. If you are going to bve cocky with one do so with all.

        • Bobby Anonymous says:

          Why do you not call The Dept of Environment and tell what you know?

          I am sure they will deal with it very discreetly.

    • Anonymous says:

      your birth right???? do you have a birth right to fish species to the edge of extinction? caymanian fishermen almost wiped out the turtle and they still can’t see sense in the 21st century.   XXXXXX

  7. Anonymous says:

    There should be a total ban on taking any Nassau groupers from the waters around these islands.  And the sale of Nassau groupers by either fisherman or restaurants should be met with a massive fine.

    Anyone caught poaching on the reef should face such punishment that they would never even think to do it.  Boats should be confistcated and people should be thrown in jail.

    Keep in mind when you order these foods in resaurants you are contributing to the annihilation of these species.



    • Anonymous says:

      You have to ban landing the fish during the season and you have to forfeit the tackle and boats or just forget about it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Turn these areas into Marine Parks and actually enforce it.

    The amount of non-Caymanians I see fishing on the side of the road daily who no doubt do not have fishing licences is absurd. These people catch dozens of baby fish before they have a chance to breed and kill out entire populations. These people should be charged.

    I recently phoned the police to notify them of illegal conch taking and waited to see if they showed up. They didn’t.

    RCIPS Marine Unit and DOE need to get their acts together.


    • A Louse In Wonderland says:

      Foreigners cannot be charged for not having a licence because the law is discriminatory on the basis of national origin.  An arrest would result in massive compensation for the wrongfully arrested party.  Either everyone needs licences or nobody does.

  9. Anonymous says:

     a dead lobster is a dead lobster.  the rules do, and should, apply to everyone.  this allows the populations of these animals to replenish themselves. 

  10. Bobby Anonymous says:

    Ban taking Grouper!

    And on another note. Stop ALL non Caymanians taking ANY marine life!

    The Lobster and Conch populations can and WILL run out!

    Protection would be a lot easier and stocks would be a lot healthier.

    If 10 non Caymanians take their 3 Lobster each day for a week, that is 210 lobsters. And for Conch thats 350! Do the simple maths and put a stop to it!

    • anonymous says:

      The Marine Park rules applyto everybody, including "Birthright" Caymanians who still feel fit to grind up Loggerheads for meatballs.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes – but expats need licenses

        • Bobby Anonymous says:

          How do you determin what an Ex pat is? If they say they have status or are Caymanian, what do you do?

          Arrest them untill proof is produced? Can you imagine the stink that would cause!

          I suppose it is way to easy to produce a ticket system, same as driving, you have 7 days to produce or pay the fine. But then again that would save fish stocks and produce income that the Government dont really need.

          Should fishing from shore cover the taking of conch and lobsters? I would like to think so!

          • Anonymous says:

            You are a Caymanian OR you are an Expat. The distinction is easy, but the police and many others do not get it.  Everyone here could easily be in a database that designates them as Caymanian or Expat (people with Status are Caymanian so dont bother going there). It is incompetence and ignorance that prevents such a database from existing, and prevents the authorities from querying it immediately whenever that issue needs to be addressed.

            • Bobby Anonymous says:

              Well said,I totally agree.

            • QE2 says:

              Or are they all just British Overseas Territories Citizens?

              You know, if only "Caymanians" were allowed to have cell phones, the networks wouldnot have gotten so clogged up after that little earthquake the other day.

        • Tim Dim says:

          As pointed out elsewhere, this law is not human rights compliant.  Either all residents need licences or no residents do.  Since at the moment some residents do not need a licence because of national origin then no one needs a licence. 

    • D.T. says:

      The irony of the above comment is that the Grouper Holes aren’t just a short line throw from shore.  As such, it requires a boat to get there, and it should be very obvious "who is where" and "doing what" during breeding season.

      The bottom line is that *no one* should be so shortsighted to fish a species while it is actively breeding.   And to invoke the Caymanian-vs-ExPat debate, the heritage of the native Caymanians means that they have _less_ of an excuse for ignorance of the ways of the sea. 

      Thus said, now there is no doubt that there are overfishing problems within the Caymans, for which protection zones – – such as the Grouper Holes (which are supposedly the main subject here) – – is trying to minimize the impact thereof.  

      This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t also address the overfishing issue, but what it does mean is that we have to recognize that from the perspective of the fish, lobster, whelk, or conch that gots caught, the nationality of the fisherman doesn’t matter, because the result is still one fewer creature on the reef.  

      Perhaps what Cayman needs is something like what is done in some parts of the USA:  if you’re fishing, you have a flourescant orange badge that you wear on your back, so that an Enforcement Officer can see from a mile away that you’re probably properly licensed.   Yes, the implications of this are that native Caymanians will be expected to wear a license too – – but this isn’t saying that there would be a fee charged.  If fishermen want to protect their fishing areas, they need to be willing to accomodate making enforcement easy, even if that means a minor inconvenience for themself.