December 2, 2020

West Bay and Cayman Brac fishermen oppose marine park proposals

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We-need-you-imageAt a press briefing last week, Gina Ebanks-Petrie, the Department of Environment (DoE) Director, revealed that all of the comments and submissions from the public regarding the proposals set out by the DoE to produce the enhancement of and expansion of the Environment Parks were currently being assessed.

She said some modifications were being considered to the original plans that would strike the balance between the scientific case for enhancement and the need to accommodate local fishing.

Her staff was working to produce new park proposals to put before Cabinet to cover all marine conservation in Cayman for the next 25 years.

Whilst the majority of people supported the proposed enhancement of the parks, Ebanks-Petrie revealed there was some vocal opposition to the specific boundaries that the DoE had suggested for no take zones. Both the fishermen from West Bay on Grand Cayman and fishermen from Cayman Brac had submitted a petition against the new park proposals.

She said her Department had gone to all the Districts and a coordinated effort had been made with local MLAs, fishermen and other stakeholders to propose some alternatives to the DoE that could accommodate fishing interests and still extend protections. All of these proposals were now being considered she said.

Even though Ebanks-Petrie said time was running out and urged people to demonstrate their support for the enhancement proposals and the need for more protection, Environment Minister, Mark Scotland, has indicated he expected there to be more consultation once the DoE comes up with revised proposals based on the public feedback so far. Even if this is not just a delaying tactic by the minister, who is seeking re-election in May and environmental issues are a contentious subject especially with the developers, it is not good news for the DoE. Delays in the legislation and the much need enhanced protections are surely not going to be submitted before the General Election.

Ebanks-Petrie said she was hopeful that the proposals would be ready early next month.

A member of the DoE team is John Turner, from Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences, and his task was to combine the science with the public views to reach a sustainable and workable plan for the future of the marine environment.

Croy McCoy, DoE’s senior research officer said, “a stable growing population of fish will spill over into adjacent areas” because the protection of the reef from fishing allows the population to recover and then the areas will become filled with fish again which will swim into areas where people can fish. He said this would ensure traditional fishing and its part in the Caymanian way of life can continue.

I hope the West Bay and Brac fisherman read this and take heed although I am not optimistic.

 

 

 

 

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