Cayman gets first official environment NGO

| 13/11/2013

(CNS): A group of concerned citizens who believe Cayman needs to plan for a more sustainable future have launched the country’s first independent environmental advocacy group. Sustainable Cayman, founded by Katrina Jurn, Searlina Bodden, Sandy Urquhart and Laura Richardson, is lobbying for more responsible environmental practices in the Cayman Islands. It has launched its Facebook community and members have begun speaking publicly about their plans for public education as well as marketing functions for issues concerning the environment. The group said it aims to work alongside existing stakeholders, such as the National Trust, Department of the Environment and the private sector, to foster structured discussion and advocate for change. Photo by Courtney Platt

“We are at a pivotal point for Cayman’s natural environment,” said Jurn, who holds a PhD in Environmental and Economic Sociology from Cambridge. “It is high time we stop turning away from the environment’s value to our country’s quality of life, our economy and ultimately, the future prosperity of the country.”

The nongovernmental organization (NGO) has begun its public campaign as the PPM government prepares to bring the long discussed National Conservation Law before the Legislative Assembly. Environment Minister Wayne Panton has committed to bringing the legislation before the end of the year.

The law creates a mechanism for protecting environmentally sensitive areas on land, as well as threatened native plants and animals and was originally drafted over 10 years ago. The group said it now awaits the release of the 2013 revision, which is not expected to be significantly different from the last draft circulated during the previous UDP administration but largely ignored by the relevant minister during the previous government.

Sustainable Cayman said the draft law has already been through three public consultations and amended after each consultation to address the concerns raised by the numerous stakeholders, including developers and land owners. Consequently, after 10 years of consultations and amendments, the law is now uniquely tailored to the particular intricacies of Cayman’s economy and culture. 

Although the group will address a wide range of environmental issues facing the Islands, it has identified the National Conservation Law as its first order of business. However, the founders are keen to reassure people that it is not opposed to beneficial development.

Sandy Urquhart, a sustainable development professional in his own right, lends his voice to the group as an advocate for the responsible treatment of Cayman’s land.

“As first and foremost a lover of endemic, tropical environments, this cause is dear to my heart,” he said. “I grew up in a small, sensitive island in the South Pacific, so I am aware of the vulnerability of Cayman’s endangered endemic plants and animals. I also carry that sensibility into my work as a sustainable designer, so this group is a natural fit for me.”

With the current consensus on the need for the Law and the Government’s commitment to enact the Law, Sustainable Cayman will be running a public education campaign to help the public understand the content of, need for and implications of the law and is encouraging people to get informed about this important piece of legislation.

Searlina Bodden, one of the founding members and the public relations representative for Sustainable Cayman, said that being business friendly meant protecting not abusing the jurisdiction’s natural resources.

“While the Cayman Islands must portray itself as a business-friendly jurisdiction, it is counter-productive to brand ourselves as a sophisticated Caribbean destination for business and leisure, whilst not actively protecting our most bankable resource, which is the appeal of our natural habitat,” she said.

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  1. Anonymous says:



    A group with a practical approach to environmental conservation is truly needed in Cayman and Sustainable Cayman sounds like they have found the balance. 


    I look forward to the work that this group will undertake and also look forward to participating and doing what I can do as member of the Cayman community to contribute to positive environmental change in the future. 



  2. Anonymous says:

    Greensleeves – I think part of the point is that these other organisations that you speak of do not exist. There is no environmental advocacy group in the Cayman Islands. No other org that advocacy is within their prescribed remit. 

    Environmental Orgs:

    Department of the Environment – government

    National Trust – buy and hold land for conservation

    Blue Iguana Recovery Program – Blue Iguanas

    Orchid Society – Orchids

    CCMI – research

    Any others?

    The above do not do advoacy. 

    I think this organisation is desperately needed. 

  3. Anonymous says:

    CNS, please correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the National Trust for the Cayman Islands the one and only NGO which has been protecting and advocating for the environment since 1987?  If I do the math 2013 is more recent than 1987, so that would make Sustainable Cayman the second NGO and not the first.

    The NT has been a major advocate for the preservation of the environment for the last 26 years.  Not only being an advocate for the law (NCL) to be passed but also in the purchase many acres of  environmentally significant land but also through their work with the Blue Iguana, bats etc. Perhaps a quick view of the National TRUST annual report would benefit everyone reading and commenting on this matter.

    • Truthseeker says:

      From the National Trust website –  "The Trust is a not-for-profit NGO created to preserve the history and biodiversity of the Cayman Islands.  Through education and conservation we work to protect environmentally sensitive and historically significant sites across all three Cayman Islands."



  4. pmilburn says:

    I agree 100% as this is what is causing us to have so many problems getting anywhere.Its like voting.We lose someone that can do well for us by splitting the vote.We have a common ground when it comes to how important our natural environment is to our tourism AND developement so why not ALL work together for the common cause.I wish you all well all the same and good luck.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree  with pmiburn  (not verified) The DOE law need to be changed that an officer of the DOE can act when it see potenial danger to the enviorment . Let me give you 1 story of why the law need to be changed . Late 1980s i kept my boat in the ci yacht club , so i didnot have much reason to go safe haven marina where goverment own the property.Mr Benson Ebanks told me and 6 other caymanian charter boat owners that we are permitted to keep our boats on this property , but if we  trashed up the Goverment would have to take the privlege away from us .       1day a other boat owner came to me and told me that non caymanian charter opperator have 2 drums of oil by the edge of the seawall, and lots of garbage.  I called DOE reported this , they told me that they would have to get court order to enforce the clean up,I told them by then the oil would be in the water & ground then it will be harder to clean up. Then i said i have to take care of this myself,  I called the owner of the boat/oil and told him that this oil and trash had to be cleaned up within  24 hours, his reply i cant tell him what to do, i hungup , then called  tv station told them  i have a enviormential story for them, they asked what time , i gave them the address & time , We were all on time ,but oil /garbage not gone yet. 1hour after i told my story to media  , the oil/ garbage was all cleanedup ,&his dock space was clean ever sence.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This group has done a great job thus far of simplifying a very much complicated (unneccesarily too!) law into terms that will make everyone think it is a good old jolly law when in fact it has very far reaching and dangerous consequences.  Why do conversation officers need to carry guns?  Why does it empower one person (Director of Environment) more than any other law has ever empowered a person?


    • Slowpoke says:

      I find that people pay a lot more attention to me, when I bring a gun to a conversation. :>)

    • Anonymous says:

      A) They have said, repeatedly, that they won't be carrying guns. Why do you persist with claiming they will?

      B) Thats how the laws work after the PMFL. Responsibility is enshrined in a post (Director, whoever). If you look at other new laws, like the immigration law, you'll see that the Director there gets lots of jobs (empowerment as you call it) assigned to them. – Or is it that you have an axe for the director?

    • Anonymous says:

      "Why does it empower one person…" – you mean like the Chairman of the Central Planning Authority??

      • Anonymous says:

        Chairman of the CPA has no extra powers that a regular person of the CPA

  6. Greensleeves says:

    Their intentions are no doubt good, but why is it that everyone has to “build a new clubhouse”?

    Why not join an existing organisation instead of further splitting up the small local charitable donation pool?

    • B. N. Onneste says:

      It's because not much has been accomplished yet.  We NEED to get the National Conservation Law passed. 

    • Hear Hear says:

      I can think of at least 3 very nice clubhouses in enviromental settings that are not used during the day….use those.  Talk about not willing to recycle??