Marine resources still in peril

| 25/05/2011

(CNS): Reefs in the Cayman Islands, in common with those throughout the region and the rest of the world, are in increasing danger, the local environment boss warned this week as Cayman celebrates twenty-five years of marine conservation. Gina Ebanks-Petrie said that the country should be proud for taking the bold step a quarter century ago to protect marine resources but today, with ever more present dangers, she warned that much more needs to be done, as she called for the passage of the national conservation law and the need to reassess marine management. Even the most  well-protected and managed marine areas are under pressure from an array of regional and global problems, she warned.

“While it is true that our Marine Parks are now fully accepted by almost every citizen of these islands and while they have earned many accolades both at home and abroad — and so we have much to celebrate today — I feel a huge responsibility to use this time of celebration to also sound a warning bell.”

Ebanks-Petrie was speaking at a special event at the George Town library organized by the department to celebrate the significant achievements made in marine conservation, but after twenty five years she pointed to the need to step up the protection. “Major improvements in reef health will require a broader array of management interventions,” she said, pointing out the threats to reefs.

The latest World Resources Institute report on Reefs at Risk details the status and threats to the world’s coral reefs. It states that corals across the region have been in decline for several decades – with average coral cover declining from around 50% in the 1970’s to just 10% today. More than 75% of Caribbean coral reefs are considered threatened from impacts such as over-fishing, coastal development, marine and watershed based pollution. The increasing incidence of coral bleaching due to global warming increases the overall threat to more than 90% of regional reefs.

The director said local research by the DoE shows similar results for coral cover on Cayman’s reefs, which has declined from an average of about 32% in the early 1990’s to an average of about 10% today. 

“Our Marine Parks are an important tool for managing our marine resources, they are not a panacea,” she noted. “We will need to be ever vigilant and engage in a wide array of new management tools to tackle local issues, while also increasing efforts to quickly and significantly cause a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Pointing out yet another reason why the country needs comprehensive conservation legislation she said that the department would continue to promote the need for the National Conservation Law. She also spoke about the ongoing project to assess and review the marine parks and their effectiveness, given the increasing modern stresses and threats.

In association with the University of Bangor and The Nature Conservancy through a UK-funded Darwin grant, the DoE has also completed a Draft Climate Policy under the Enhancing Capacity for Adaptation to Climate Change project, also funded by the UK which, Ebanks-Petrie said, would shortly be presented to Cabinet.

“We look forward to continuing the dialogue with members of the public on recommendations to enhance the system of Marine Parks that have served us so well over the last 25 years so that they are able to continue to play a major role in helping to preserve our marine resources for the next quarter century,” she added.

The minster with responsibility for the environment told the audience that the marine parks had enabled dwindling conch, whelk and lobster populations to be sustained and also protected our reefs and secured fish stocks, and that the move established Cayman as a regional leader in marine conservation.

“Apart from fulfilling the moral obligation to secure marine resources for future generations, the marine parks have also proven to be a sound economic decision. A 1985 National Geographic article described Cayman’s reefs as “a bonanza for pleasure and profit,” adding that the Islands’ “submarine splendor” supported an underwater recreation industry which even back then pulled in more than 350,000 visitors annually,” Mark Scotland stated.

He said that the country found itself at a defining moment for conservation as he pointed to the need for continued economic growth and the need to protect natural resources.

“Development should never trump conservation and even as we work to build a strong economy, it is equally important to think about the kind of environment we want to leave behind for our children. Yet the challenge is not only for government; it is also for individual citizens and for the private sector. Long-term solutions can only be found if everyone steps up to the plate,” he added.

Thanking the Department of the Environment for its tireless work to protect the environment he also applauded them for putting Cayman on the map as well through international research projects and conservation partnerships such as the shark research, the Darwin Initiative and the efforts to control the invasive lionfish.

Paying tribute to the early pioneers who had advocated for the parks who took on the difficult task of convincing the community to support what at the time was considered ‘futuristic’ legislation, Scotland made no mention of the conservation law that he has failed to steer through the Legislative Assembly as a result of the same kind of opposition faced by those marine park pioneers.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I lub money


    • Anonymous says:

      Ms Pietre need to check the beach houses and condos. Manof them have their suage and dirty water pipe under the sand emptying into the sea.;

  2. Heywood Djoublomi says:

    Does this mean that perhaps we will not allow Imperato to destroy 6 acres of reef in East End?

    • Anonymous says:

      No the plan is to remove all of the reef so the problem of preserving it just goes away! That how we roll !