Changes to MCB retrograde step for conservation

| 23/04/2013

grouper (2).jpg(CNS): Members of the Marine Conservation Board (MCB) have said that the recent change to the marine conservation law piggy-backed onto an amendment to protect stingrays is a retrograde step for conservation. The decision to undermine the board’s ability to act swiftly to protect the marine resources which don’t follow the timetable of politicians will “reduce the capacity to manage and preserve” those resources with a detrimental impact. While politicians found time to try and undermine the board’s efforts, the members said it was “truly unfortunate” that proposed amendments that would have given long term protection for the Nassau grouper “were not deemed worthy of consideration by the Legislative Assembly".

Following the debate in the LA on the marine conservation law (just before the parliament was terminated ahead of the election) regarding the reduction of the board's time period and its powers, the MCB members set out their position in an open letter. It states that the use of the word “heritage” in reference to environmental concerns and “striking a balance” is rhetoric from politicians that have failed to really protect the marine environment.

The MCB pointed out that there have been no changes to the marine conservation law except for this retrograde one since January 2002, and noattempts have been made by legislators to positively benefit the country’s increasingly stressed natural resources.
In the letter (posted below) the board members said they were pleased that the topic of the environment was being discussed during the election campaign and hoped it would finally get the attention that is urgently needed.

The board, who all serve without drawing a stipend or even expenses, said the reduced tenure to just three years was not important but the objections they have raised relate to the need for “philosophical continuity to avoid negating previous accomplishments.”

The Marine Conservation Board stressed that it could not amend the marine conservation law and regulations and pointed out that, contrary to what the politicians were implying, the law can only be made by the legislature.

Since 1978, the law has required that the decisions of the board be put into effect by directives which must be gazetted. In January 2002, however, the legislature passed an amendment empowering the board to change or suspend activities within the designated grouper spawning areas. This came in the wake of the public outcry regarding the wanton destruction of over half of the last healthy spawning aggregation of Nassau grouper within the two brief spawning seasons of 2001 and 2002, when approximately 4,000 grouper were taken in around 20 days.

The MCB took the initiative in gazetting the eight year ban on grouper fishing to protect what was left of Cayman’s spawning grouper population. After several failed attempts by the board to get government to address the issue last year when the expiry of that ban approached, the board eventually implemented a second consecutive eight year ban.

“Had it not done so, fishing would have resumed at a level which would have further decimated what was left of the spawning aggregation, making it unlikely that the population would ever recover,” the board wrote in the letter. “Had we waited any longer, it would have been too late. This is a perfect example of why the directives serve as a mechanism to affect crucial and timely responses in dealing with urgent and immediate problems concerning living environmental resources, which, by their nature, do not respond favourably to our abstract time table.”

The board also defended its position on spear guns, which are illegal in order to protect the precious threatened marine resources.

“Spear fishing can hardly be claimed as a ‘heritage’ of the Caymanian people,” the board writes, explaining that the activity of spear fishing, like grouper fishing during the spawning season, on a very limited island shelf, is unsustainable. “Both will eventually exterminate themselves at the expense of the fishery they are based upon, and therefore at the expense of the true heritage of the Cayman Islands people, namely, the long term availability of these marine resources for generations to come.”

Speaking directly about the legislative change, the board said, “We view this move to reduce the capacity to manage and preserve our only truly controllable, economically valuable asset, the environment and its resources, upon which these islands were founded, as a retrograde step.”

See letter in full below.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Anyone who claims to value our fish stocks, or our bleaching local reefs needs to understand and get vocal about the toxic leachate problems at GT dump.  You cannot look at these things in isolation.  Hypothetically, we could turn the entire island into a marine park, but we would still loose our fish because we are not talking about stopping the endless pollution that flows directly into north sound from the dump.

  2. noname says:

    It is time we elect MLA's who understand that environmental resources belong to ALL Caymanians and not just the few who would strip them commercially for personal gain at the expense of all the rest of us.  Our very limited reef fish stocks are now much more valuable (to all of us) as a tourist attraction and for sustainable personal consumption, lasting far into the future, than used unsustainably to earn a quick buck by a few.  It's time to listen to the expert marine biologists who have been studying this situation.  Elect MLA's who are willing to act on DOE's advice!


    If you are running for office, please state your position on conservation!  That's how I'll be voting!


    P.S.  I tried to use my name but am having login problems.

    • peter milburn says:

      Not sure if this is the note that Kirsten was wriitng but if so I support her comments 110 %I will not bother with what I have been saying for the past 47 years as most of you know where I stand on all this Conservation stuff but will remeind ALL our CANDIDATES that they MUST make the proper stand in favour of what is best for this country and that is complete support for our fragile environment.I would venture to say that since the start of political parties NOT ONE GOVT has supported this and all I can say is SHAME!SHAME!Thinks of your kids and their kids and stop being so childish in your lack of support.

      • kirsten luke says:

        Peter, I did not write the note above, but I agree with it 100% too.

        What frustrates me most is this is an easy win for the groupers and the politicians. The only people, in the Brac, affected by the ban are 15 fishers and their families and they have lived without legally fishing the grouper holes for 10 years now. No one died from starvation, because we wouldn't let them earn a living.

        Arguably, the Little Cayman groupers represent the last viable known population of Nassau grouper in the world. That's a big responsibility and the MCB know it. 

      • Len Layman says:

        Well said Peter.

  3. Anonymous says:

    They can barely all tie their shoe laces let alone make educated decisions on marine conservation!!!!!!   Just a load of old big wind bags the lot of them & only out for what they can get & sod everyone else.  Disgusting the lot of them hoping a new younger generation with brains & guts get in this May or God help us all!!! 

  4. Anonymous says:

    We will never be able to protect our natural environment when we dealing with third world mentality.
    We as people of the islands demand protection of the environment from the poachers and laid back lazy politicians that don’t give a damn.

    Under the bill of rights the environment is to be protected under law and our Conservation officers need the powers to do just that.

    We need the NCL but unfortunately it’s not likely to happen and we are sliding further and further back.

  5. Anonymou says:

    The debate held in the LA about this issue was a pep ralley for the fishermen voters. It was disheartening to say the least. The same old rhetoric of Caymanian Heritage toward spear guns and I want my child to use a spear gun as it is my culture. Give me a break.

    The politicians have no shame.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wow, just wow. This news has JOCC all over it. I was in the room back in 2002 when we (DOE) presented our findings to exco; one more year of fishing the little Cayman grouper hole would decimated the population. They were clearly unwilling to close fishing. Someone pointed out that the MCB already had the authority to make new regulations to the grouper hole laws, and Julianne did not hide her disgust at this information. Too much power! The grouper hole fishermen of the sister islands are her voters. Let’s not forget, a few years back she signed a petition letter regarding the grouper fishing ban., siding with the fishermen, despite being in office.
    This is terrible news. Without the MCB having some authority the grouper would be gone today.

    • Kirsten Luke says:

      I did not intend to be "Anonymous".  I wrote the Wow, just wow comment.

      • Rorschach says:

        Kudos to you, Kirsten for standing up and speaking your mind, AND for having the guts to sign your name.  I always admired you before, but your stock just went up another notch.

        • Mi sa so says:

          Agreed, well done Kirsten, the problem is that it is election year and good old ju ju… Doesn’t want to up set her braccas, one way to by votes.. This is dreadful, the next government has to address the environment, I would like to,hear from the potential candidates their thoughts on this matter..

  7. Anonymous says:

    This just displays the calibre of most of the Legislative Assembly members. When they can't make an obviously right decision in the long term interests of the Caymanian people and the  natural resources on which they depend, then it's time to bring in representatives with the education and imagination to employ what the rest of us refer to as common sense. Do our current  representatives wish to preside over the extinction of the Nassau Grouper, or is it just that they simply can't be bothered to educate themselves on the glaring issues? It would seem so. God these people are depressing!