Caymanian conservation: an oxymoron?

| 27/06/2010

One hates to be negative and it would be wonderful if some sort of comprehensive conservation legislation could be passed in our lifetimes. However, it is difficult to get excited about Cayman’s pending Conservation Law given the depressing realities of this country when it comes to the natural environment.

First of all, why wasn’t this done 30 years ago? Did it really take this long for ourelected leaders to consider and be won over by the idea that conservation might be a good thing? What a tragic string of morons and greed-filled pirates we have had fill the Legislative Assembly all these lost years. Imagine how beautiful Grand Cayman would be today if these people had any vision and sense of responsibility for our country’s natural resources.

I recall the words of Bodden Town MLA Haig Bodden back in the early 1990s when someone dared suggest the need for laws to protect Cayman’s birds: "I say it’s nonsense. In my book, people come before birds!" Sadly, he was no lone wolf in his view that conservation is annoying nonsense to be squashed whenever it comes up.
Yeah, let’s kill all the birds, the fish, the trees. “We” come first. I’m sure that will work out really well for the Cayman Islands. Geez…

In fairness, there have been victories. Thankfully Caymanian Gina Petrie-Ebanks and Dace Grounds (a largely forgotten expat hero who did great things for Cayman) were able to push through the Marine Conservation Law some 25 years ago. If they and few others had not achieved that milestone, the coral reefs and all other marine life around our islands would be even more degraded than is currently the case. Oh, and no surprise, some of our prominent political and business leaders who are still on center stage today strongly opposed the Marine Conservation Law.

Does anyone remember when the National Trust was an outspoken, meaningful institution that fought loud and hard against the runaway destruction of Cayman? What happened to it? Why don’t we hear strong protests and condemnation from the Trust when politicians and developers ignore the few laws we have to ravage our environment? I’ll tell you why.

Short-sighted MLAs such as McKeeva Bush and Ezzard Miller bullied the National Trust, effectively shutting it down and muting it. They made sure that it wouldn’t make too much noise on behalf of a positive future for Cayman. And the clueless public reelects these sorts of people over and over.

It is clear that those who are in power today care nothing about the environment because they are either blinded by short-term greed or they are simply stupid. By consistently choosing immediate payoffs at the expense of irreplaceable natural wealth, they have shown us all their shallow minds and empty souls. They care nothing about what will not be left for future generations. They are so lost they don’t even seem to understand that they likely are setting themselves up for eventual economic failure—something they do care about.

Grand Cayman has already fallen so far from being the visually appealing place it once was. West Bay Road looks like any run-down Florida town. Seven Mile Beach is virtually inaccessible and hidden from view thanks to wall-to-wall condos that should never have been built. George Town is a mess with half-built offices and homes sitting stagnant for years, shanty towns, and a landfill that stands as a towering monument to the incompetence of the people who run our country.

Conservation Law? Yeah, whatever. Guess it can’t hurt. Then again, with our luck, it will probably end up giving the UDP and PPM anti-nature politicians a smokescreen to continue their pillaging and plundering under the guise of "careful consideration for the environment". Conservation Bill or not, don’t be naive enough to believe that a leader like McKeeva Bush will let "foolish" concerns about the marine environment, fresh water, air quality, trees, or wildlife stand in the way of casinos, bigger resorts, dredging for mega-yachts, etc. One only has to look at past history.

These people will always choose a dollar over a tree, and they will always get their way so long as dim voters can be won over by lies and trinkets. Intelligence and consideration for our grandchildren, be damned.

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  1. Sign the petition for the NCL (National Conservation Law) if you want to save Cayman.  It is absolutely true that Caymanians in general think that they would prefer to live in a setting that looks more like Tampa than Cayman.  Too many Caymanians see wildlife as a pest without recognizing it’s obvious economic value.  They are the exact opposites to the American Indians who are famous for studying the value of each and every aspect of nature.  If Caymanians continue as we have seen so far, they will get their way.  "Be careful what you wish for as you may get it".

    My argument is that the tourism economy has already been severely injured by the loss of natural habitat, which has always been the main attraction for tourists here.  I am Caymanian, in case you were wondering.  I have worked in the tourism industry for nearly 30 years and have heard many, many tourist tell me that this will be their last visit (and seen lots of negative blogging) due to the "paving of Paradise".  Did you know that Government actually hired a consultant to devise a development plan for Seven Mile Beach back in the ’70’s, in which he proposed that nothing be built on the sea side of the road?  When someone in power decided that this would cost a few landowners on the beach to lose money, it got shelved.  Try if you can, to imagine how many more tourists would still be coming here (but now do not) if you could always see sea grape trees, beach and water from the road while "touring"?  We still have a chance to implement that sage advise in the Sister Islands. The short term gain of a very few has become the great long-term loss for all Caymanians far into the future. Wisdom and sacrifice on the part of a few can often be parleyed into far greater good for the many as is the case for environmental protection.  I suggest that it was much harder to give up slavery than it should be to give up destructive development, yet it even that got done.  Democracy is supposed to favor ideas that benefit the majority rather than the few.

    It is a matter of the future economy of Cayman that we use even the weakest foresight to see that tourism will continue to die along with the environment if we do not take this opportunity to protect it right now! 

    If you care about future Caymanians, then please take every opportunity to promote new legislation to protect what is left of the environment.  It most certainly will affect our economy long into the future.  Your vote makes democracy work.  Before the proposed NCL (National Conservation Law) goes to the Cabinet for review, you should sign the petition for it’s approval!  Let the Cabinet know that you want it passed.  That’s how democracy works!

  2. FedUpCaymanian says:

    Please remember that there are no indigenous people in the Cayman Islands.  There are simply settlers who arrived a bit earlier than the rest of us!!

    • KaptainKayman says:

      If there are no indigenous peoples of the Cayman Islands, then who is it that is leaving all the trash in places like Barkers and Ivory Kai?  Settlers and recent immigrants would certainly know better than  to leave rubbish behind.

      • Anonymous says:

        All Caymanians know that Barkers is one of the main areas that trash from the sea drifts into and collects along the shoreline. However, there is no excuse for those people dumping trash along the road in Barkers. That is just shameful.

    • Anonymous says:

      Spoken like a true new arrival.

      Whilst you are strictly correct you ignore the fact that over centuries a culturally distinct group of people toiled together and devellopped a culturally distinct character with their own music, accent, and  food. The arranged themselves and their society in a manner which clearly distinguished them and it from everyone else. The called themselves Cayman Islanders.

      They were proud, and considered themselves to be the original inhbitants of these specks of land, and had every right to do so. They did such a good job that many wanted to move here from all over the world. Some respected them and adhered to their culture and way of life. others  respected them and their culture but nevertheless lived harmoniously but separately from them. Others took advantage of them, milked their society for all it was worth, and whilst protesting that they themselves are now Caymanians too, speak openly about going "home" for the summer.

      That latter group will never be Cayman Islanders.

      • Kerry Horek says:

        I agree with you.

        I for one get quite annoyed when I hear others speaking of us as if we fell off the catboat last week and swam ashore!

        I am proud to call myself a native Caymanian.   I may have a funny last name, but that’s from marriage, and that does not take away from the fact that I was raised on these shores, and everything that I know as being a native Caymanianas my education of my heritage and culture came from my parents, grandparents and a great grand mother. 

        So when people say that we are not native, you are insulting me and every Caymanian Citizen in this country that was born and bred in these islands. 

        Stop for a minute, then turn around and look at your employer as they maybe one of the native Caymanians.

        I also agree that if our people knew they could have leased out their beach land instead of selling it for a basket of fruit or a slab of beef they would have done so.  That’s the unfortunate situation of my people today.  We don’t own our beach land, but one day we will I am confident that time will cure that evil that has peirced our society for generations.

        Therefore, if you must live with us, then don’t downgrade us to nothing, we are all someone, and every native Caymanian is a first class citizen regardless if there are those out there that think differently we know who we are and will continue to fight for what semblance of culture and heritage we have left and protect it from those whose only ambition when they come into our midst is to destroy everything there is about us.  Sorry for being overly dramatic, but somethings must be said.

        I am proud of my Country, and those who are not, well you know what we natives say…………….

        Kerry Horek
        ‘Keep My Island Clean and Green’

      • Anonymous says:

        Speaking of a "new arrival"?  I am proud of my heritage and culture too but this Caymanian jingoism is getting to be a bit too much.

        "…a  culturally distinct character with their own music, accent, and  food" ??

        I have to ask you: What conch shell did you just crawl out  from under?

        Maybe the accent is somewhat distinctive – and it is not significantly different from some other Anglo-Caribbean accents. The food genre is quite borrowed and one finds no culturally distinctive music at all.

        May I edit one of your statements so you might be enlightened as to who really has been exploiting these islands? May I?

        OK, here ya go: "Some took advantage of them, milked Caymanian society for all it was worth, and whilst insisting that they themselves are loyal Caymanians too, they speak openly about flying ‘abroad’ in first-class seats, having publicly-funded chauffeurs and personal chefs and the like – and all the while the common people suffer economic hardship in silence."

        "The latter group ARE Cayman Islanders!"

        (Get the picture now?)

  3. Victor Look Loy says:

    Pipistrellus Pipistrellus & Apis mellifera

    Much ado has been made about the new National Conservation Law, and while I am in agreement that it is a necessary piece of legislation,alas once more beaurocracy , legal draftsmen and civil servants have transformed a great idea into a protracted document which protects scorpions ants, bugs , centipedes while ignoring bees, and bats. My question is, am I missing something in the letter or intent of the law whereby such effort and expertise could be so misguided and negligent to leave out the important things. As is to be expected in Cayman, the law, as is presented is replete with long Latin names describing the protected species. I feel confident that not one of the Legislators, who would be proud to say that they voted yeah, can identify Encyclia Kingsi if it walked up and clapped him or her in the face.

    Common sense has never been the operative word when creating our legal framework but surely to protect our food and our farmers should be our primary focus then we can be concerned about our local scorpions and our 34 types of snails. The fruit trees ,the Breadfruit tree Artocarpus altilis and other things that can sustain should take priority or at least deserve a mention above Catalpa Longissima .

    In case anybody is wondering what Pipistellus Pipistrellus means look to the common fruit bat and Apis Mellifera is the Honey bee which fertilizes our crops.

    Victor Look Loy

    • Gina Ebanks-Petrie says:

      Dr. Look Loy,

      Thank you for your support and recognition of the need for comprehensive conservation legislation, and for your observations regarding the proposed law. For clarity we would like to address a number of the concerns raised in your post.

      First, the Species Schedule. All bats are already listed under Part 1 of the Schedule. Honey bees are not included because they do not meet allof the listing criteria. However, given their ecological importance, the law provides for their listing if this becomes necessary in the future. And, the law ensures that you or any other member of the public will be able to propose their listing and protection.

      All species listed on the Schedule are either endemic to the Cayman Islands (i.e. unique to these Islands), already protected under the existing conservation legislation, or assessed regionally or locally as being in need of protection. The Schedule uses the scientific naming convention (binomial nomenclature) to ensure absolute certainty in the identification of a particular species. The current Animals Law used the common name to protect our iguanas; unfortunately the effect was to protect ALL iguanas, not just the Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) and the Sister Islands Rock Iguana (Cyclura nubila caymanensis). We need to prevent this type of problem occuring again. Some of our unique species of plants and animals, like Encyclia kingsii, do not have common names and so are identified by their scientific names.

      Second, the proposed National Conservation Law is not an Agriculture Law, nor is it a Planning Law. While we too appreciate many of our introduced species (such as the Breadfruit), the remit of this law is the proection of our native, particularly our endemic, species such as the 34 species of snails.



      Gina Ebanks-Petrie

      Director, Department of Environment


  4. Hollygoregularly says:

    Why are all MLAs "greed-filled morons" for believing that "people are more important than birds"? 

    I believe most international pro-conservation groups will agree that the distinction between facilitating the economic development of their people and the protection of the natural resources which afford them the continuing enjoyment and appreciation of their surroundings, and thus their quality of life, has been and remains a fraught one for politicians in the developing world.

    CC, I know you have explained at length– and ever so eloquently– in the past that viewpoints are supposed to be logical rather than factual. So forgive my poor brain when I ask you to explain your logic. How are MLAs being greedy and stupid by delaying this law? What benefits have accrued to them, if any? From whom did these benefits accrue? Why did these persons feel the need to transfer resources to MLA’s to block the passage of this law, if they did in fact do so? Do you have any evidence to suggest that at least some of the MLAs were not thinking about legitimate social concerns? Please share your logic with us.


    I know this sounds like a lot of busywork to pass on to someone I don’t know, but who else is going to do it? The greed-filled morons? Or the more shadowy sinister persons that your argument implies who motivate the politicians. C’mon, its the least you owe your public.

    The sad thing is that this law desperately needed to be passed all those years ago when it was first brought in. The situation is beyond desperate now. However it may become even more desperate still if we don’t explore every single ramification and have a public dialogue that engages all sides before the matter goes to a vote.  Of course this leads to the question of whether Government’s public education and consultation model is working and that is a subject for a whole ‘nother Viewpoint.

    CNS note about the deleted paragraph: I don’t recall CC ever advocating an open door immigration policy (and you included several assumptions about CNS for good measure) so asking CC to explain this in the context of conservation is too off the wall.

    • noname says:

      People ARE more important than birds!

      The point being made is that when you destroy the environment for birds, trees, coral, etc. you are in fact also destroying the human habitat too! 

      I say Grand Cayman is a lost cause. We should focus all our attention on protecting Little Cayman. They (government and developers) will trash it too, if allowed. No doubt about that. 


  5. Animaliberator says:

    Has it ever occured to anyone that just maybe a good portion of our indigenous population simply does not like native trees, plants, cats, dogs or any wildlife?

    Lands are being cleared without a prospective buyer or developer and is therefore advertised as "beautiful" cleared land ready for development.

    A large variety of animals are either being shot, killed on the road or simply left for dead, whatever or where ever that may be and most of the time, for no good reason.

    We are living in a society that can’t seem to think beyond today or perhaps tomorrow anymore at best when it comes to preserving just about anything without having a clue what the consequences are or may be.

    A proper conservation law may just be the one thing Cayman needs now in order to prevent it from going extinct itself.


  6. James says:

    I’m always impressed by the attitude that the local water sports companies and the Caymanians who fish around the island have towards marine conservation. To my mind users taking on responsibility for conservation is far more valuable than legislation.

    However I am often shocked by the disgusting habits of people using seven milebeach. It is usually littered with empty food and drink packaging and plastic bags, not to mention wires and glass just under the sand. And for the record I am not implying it is just tourists or cruise shippers.  The worst mess I’ve seen was after the Easter camping weekend where it seems campers just wallow in their own mess and then walk away leaving everything- including tarpaulins, ropes, plastic plates and mountains of rubbish- behind to be slowly blown down the beach into the sea.

    I think education and personal responsibility are far more effective than legislation.

    • KaptainKayman says:

      The mention of non-tourists/visitors sullying up SMB and other areas during Easter brought to mind images of the piles of trash left by indigenous peoples at Barkers, our so called national park, and Ivory Kai Point.  

      I just wonder why some people go through all the effort of bagging their rubbish and only to leave it on the beach???  Are these people so used to the life of privilege that they are expecting some nannies to come after them and clean their mess up?  

      Barkers, or any park for that matter, should be a leave nothing behind but footprints area.  Whatever you pack-in, you pack-out when you leave.



  7. Anonymous says:

    "Grand Cayman has already fallen so far from being the visually appealing place it once was. West Bay Road looks like any run-down Florida town".

    I agree with your general sentiments, but "WB Road looks like any run-down Fla town"? Hardly.  Although I regret what has been done to WB Road, the buildings are mostly new and of high quality. There may be an exception somewhere but it is certainly not an apt description of the strip. Have you actually seen a run-down Fla. town? Trust me, they look nothing like WB Road.   

  8. My2cents says:

    Cayman has few natural resources, but its natural beauty is one of them.

    If the island destroys it’s natural beauty, and allows its reefs to continue to be destroyed, what will there be for future tourists?

    Cayman does not have a good track record of carefully managing its limited resources. The wild turtles were caught to near extinction in a wild greed-filled frenzy of hunting. Then suddenly there were none left and the economy collapsed. 

    The same will happen with our natural beauty. It will all be ripped up and paved over, to the dismay of the visitors who will stop coming, and we will be left with an eye-sore of empty buildings. It’s already started. Look at the Hyatt, the Courtyard Marriott (formally the Holiday Inn) not to mention theEmerald Shop in down town George Town, amongst many other places. 

    No wonder the young are angry. Look at what they will inherit. An island where the natural beauty has been paved over, a mountain made of trash, and a mountain of debt that 30,000 Caymanians won’t ever be able to service. 

  9. Anonymous says:

    look at mt trashmore…says everything you want to know about caymanian politicians………..

    a monument to their in incompetence and short sightedness

  10. PaperCaymanian says:

    "Pave paradise,put up a parking lot"

    Prophetic lyrics from the 70’s.

  11. Terry Wilton says:

    Last year I wrote a piece titled, "Wildlife in Cayman" which CNS posted as a Viewpoint article on September 9th. Below is an edited, abbreviated extract from it. You can still see the original piece and the comment that it generated in the Viewpoint archive.

    "I have lived in my house by the sea in Prospect since 2005. When we first came here I used to sit in a reclining chair and gaze up into the sky and watch between five and ten Frigate Birds gliding around creating a wonderful spectacle.

    A Sea Eagle would fly east along the shoreline at around 11 am every morning and fly back west at about 4 pm. I have not seen a Sea Eagle for more than 2 years.

    I rarely dozed off in my recliner as I was prevented from doing so by the incessant chatter of Ching Chings, and if they were quiet, I was kept awake by the raucous noise of Parrots squabbling in the surrounding palms. On the grass, or on the eaves of surrounding houses, were Mocking Birds and occasionally I would see a snake slither past. When I stood up I had to be careful not to step on a lizard.

    In the last two years they have all gone. No Frigate Birds, no Osprey, no Ching Chings or Mocking Birds and Parrots are never seen or heard. I never see a snake nowadays either. There are still lizards but nothing like as many as there were. Anyone sitting on my porch today would see the almost total absence of wildlife. It is a wildlife desert.

    All this in just two or three years which, in geological time, is a period so short as to be immeasurable."

    Things have got worse haven’t they?

    • Anonymous says:

      i would think the lack of wild live must have to do with the multiple 4 and 6 lane highways all over the place……………

      • Lois Blumenthal says:

         Roads are one of the most dangerous places for wildlife, including birds. Cayman Wildlife Rescue takes in birds injured by cars or other human actions every week. We currently are raising two baby owls and the expenses are mounting. Please contribute a few dollars (or a lot of dollars) to help us with this important work. We save hundreds of birds yearly, we are all volunteers and have no paid staff – but food, medicines and veterinary care is very expensive. Please send contributions to Cayman Wildlife Rescue, c/o National Trust for the Cayman Islands, P. O. Box 31116, Grand Cayman, KY1 1205. Sponsorships of specific animals and projects also available.  Visit for more information, pictures and success stories. 

        • Anonymous says:

          Seeing that Caymanians have almost wiped out several species, I think your words are falling on deaf ears!