DoE creates reporting app

| 28/01/2014

(CNS): Members of the public will soon be able to help the Department of Environment (DoE) enforce marine park laws when it launches a new app that will enable people to make reports to staff in real time on their iPads and smart phones. The new technological development is related to further research being funded by the UK’s Darwin Initiative to help the department address a number of additional issues that arose out of the most recent assessment of the local marine environment with a view to enhancing the Cayman Islands Marine Parks to give the marine life a hope of survival.

The development of technology to help enforcement is one of four elements that the DoE will re-examine as part of the research work on creating enhanced marine protection. As well as allowing the public to instantly report infractions, it will allow them to report any interesting sightings, from turtles nesting to whales or dolphins, and also give a GPS map of the marine parks to boaters and other water users.

Simultaneously, scientists are working on an app that the DoE enforcement officers can use to check licences and information instantly when they are patrolling, giving them more important information when they have concerns about people taking marine life out of season or fishing without a licence.

The DoE needs for more information about which other fish species are using grouper spawning holes to reproduce (termed as the local ocean’s“maternity wards” by department scientists), the changing behaviour of lionfish and the impact on culls, as well as the patterns and impact of local fishermen – what they are taking, when and how much – in order to see how areas reserved for fishing in the proposed new parks can be provided.

John Hunter, from Bangor University, who has been working with the DoE for many years with the research supporting the need for enhanced marine parks, explained on Friday at a press briefing that the DoE had received over $100,000 from the UK for this post-project research. As it is rare for funding to be awarded for the same thing twice, he said, the grant emphasised the importance of enhancing the parks.

The research relating to the areas of enforcement, lionfish, fishing and spawning areas is expected to be completed by September of this year and the findings, along with previous input from the first round of consultation, will again be part of a public discussion. Both DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie and Environment Minister Wayne Panton spoke about the importance of public support for the new park boundaries when they are finally implemented.

Panton offered his support to the work, with the goal of introducing the enhanced marine parks in the not too distant future. Having steered the National Conservation Law through the Legislative Assembly recently, despite last minute opposition, Panton is also offering his support for more marine protection.

Aiming to engage Cabinet on the subject in the coming months, Panton said it was important to ensure public support as well and to achieve consensus. However, the minister made it clear that he believes the parks need enhancing to protect the future of the country’s marine resources, which he said are the backbone of Cayman’s tourism product. He said the original parks were no longer enough to fight off growing threats, such as climate change, the lionfish invasion, coral diseases and bleaching as well as over development.

Scientists from the UK and the United States are working with the DoE to ensure that the information and data about these latest issues impacting marine life are properly researched before the new park enhancements are implemented.

While everyone is well aware of the famous grouper spawning, the scientists believe that as many as 20 other species could be using the same areas as spawning grounds too and that must now be configured into the new park zones. Technology is being tested to help the DoE enforce the marine park laws without necessarily drawing further on public resources, and the lionfish are under scrutiny following reports that the culling may have made the fish more evasive and adaptive at dodging divers.

Ebanks-Petrie pointed out that understanding the impact culling was having on the invasive fish was important because at present the DoE was reluctantly engaged in the high risk strategy of arming people with a licensed type of spear gun to cull them but they could no longer be sure it was helping.

This research into the ability of the lionfish to adapt to its human predator will help realign policies for dealing with the fish, though given how over-fishing has worked on most fish species that people eat, encouraging consumption still appears to be the best policy to tackle the fish and how they can be taken, given what will be enhanced regulations in the future parks.

Finally, the DoE will also be doing much more research into local fishing habits. Although many people still fish to eat in Cayman, it is no longer a subsistence economy, so those catching food are a smaller number than in other Caribbean islands. The goal to find out where, when, how and what local fishermen catch is to ensure that the areas that will be set aside in parks for fishing are the right places and that the parks will be able to help sustain those local fishing grounds without undue strain on the bigger picture.

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  1. Bozo says:

    And it looks like we are dealing with another invasive species? Amphiprion ocellaris

    Only found in the Indo Pacific….. and of course right ther on the Cayman iPad app!

  2. Anonymous says:

    We need more DOE officers out on the water to protect from poaching all year around!!

  3. brit says:

    DOE are understaffed & hindered!!!   Hopefully the quicker the consevation law gets sorted the better things will be.  You cannot educate the uneducated!   They don't give a monkeys about heritage,  natural resources or sea life that is dwindling rapidly.   There'll be nothing left for our children at this rate, they won't know what a conch looks like in the future.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps the DoE needs to consider the basic aspects first. In Cayman Brac the DoE should see that their vehicles are used for DoE work and not as personal transportation XXXX. This department also needs to monitor the actual hours worked by employees.

  5. Anonymous says:

    All we need now are more professional enforcement staff, and the equipment to do the job effectively. There are far to few DoE enforcement boats out there, poachers are creating havoc in our marine parks and the brave DoE staff are being outnumbered and out equipped by those hell bent on wiping out our natural resources and heritage.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh good. This means next time I see those dive boats pulling multiple conch/lobser out the water I can report them and this time, rather than  accusing me of lying they can be caught – or will the report just be ignored as usual?  It will be interesting to see how this spans out.


    • Anonymous says:

      Private consumers as well as restaurants feed the apparatus of poaching by purchasing lobsters and conch out of season, and of the wrong tail size and gender.  "These are okay, they came from Honduras" is the sales language of the veteran poacher, as they step out of their 16 footer.

  6. Cayman Concern says:

    If only other CI Departments would embrace Technology!?  We need to put the dinosaurs out to pasture.


    • Anonymous says:

      Indeed 15.23…traffic levels could be cut in half during the day time if all htis could be done online. However certain gas station interests may not like that…

  7. Anonymous says:

    This is good news and use of technology. When will this App be available?

    Will it be anonymous reporting?

  8. Anonymous says:

    DoE needs to do a better job of marking where the marine parks are. i have tried and tried and tried – but seriously where are the marines parks. other than calling the DoE officers which i must say are helpful in this regard how are we the public supposed to know where the marine parks are located. the map in the phone book, or on the internet is rediculously hard to read – seriously, i am not a map reader – i dare say i would get lost in my closet. why can't their be signs up that says this is a marine park and where the borders extent to. then they can get sexy with the apps. but let us know where the parks are first. PLEASE

    i want to keep the law.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you can’t figure out where the marine Parks are. Or you can’t read a map. You should probably avoid looking conch. Or driving a boat at all for that matter

    • Anonymous says:

      Whenever I have been to a marine park area I have managed to identify the marine park fine by reading the huge noticeboards with the maps on strategically placed at the car parking areas close to such marine parks.

    • GR says:

      Visit the DoE website and download the Marine Parks map?

    • Anonymous says:

      It's not that hard.  The responsibility for compliance rests with marine users and always has.  every year you shoud go to website and print it off, or go to DoE at Marco Giglioli Building and pick up the latest copy, laminate it and mark the borders on your boat's GPS and keep a copy on board.  Do whatever you need to do to understand the perimeters and seasons, or face the consequences.  Ignorance is not an excuse!

    • Anonymous says:

      Very true, more signage, better public information and education, and a higher profile for enforcement staff.