Sunken refugee boat leaks fuel

Concerns were voiced at the Finance Committee on Thursday regarding environmental degradation from a boat, brought here by Cuban refugees, that has sunk in the Frank Sound area.

However, Minister for the Environment Charles Clifford assured members that the environmental issues were being dealt with.

North Side MLA Edna Moyle said that the people of North Side, Bodden Town and East End would like to see their environment cleaned up immediately.

West Bay MLA Rolston Anglin also expressed concern over this.

Minister Clifford said the responsibility of vessels that have come here with refugees lies with the Immigration Department. However, a current situation involving a boat in Frank Sound in which Cubans arrived here has become a matter for the Department of the Environment. This is because the boat has recently sunk and caused spillage of its batteries into the sea.

Director of the Department of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie said the DoE has been working with the Immigration Department over the past number of weeks in order to get the vessel removed. Mrs. Ebanks-Petrie also alluded to the fact that there is another such vessel in East End.

Reverting back to the one in Frank Sound, she said she had not, as yet, had confirmation on when the vessel would be removed. She hoped it would be removed quickly because it involved leaking batteries, fuel, garbage, and was causing structural damage to the dock.

Minister Clifford noted that these environmental issues had only come about in the previous couple of days, as the boat had only recently sunk. They were trying to address these issues, he said.

‘The immediate environmental issues are being addressed now by the Department of Environment,’ he said.

In answer to a question from West Bay MLA Capt. Eugene Ebanks, Mrs. Ebanks-Petrie said her department has received funding for one additional marine enforcement officer to be put in the sandbar/Stingray City area. This funding was allocated in the 2005/2006 budget. The process of recruitment for this officer has begun, she said.

She added that Cabinet is considering the draft regulations for the Special Management Areas such as the sandbar and Stingray City.

Funding for a vessel to be used in policing the SMAs has also been provided for in the 2005/06 budget.

One additional marine officer for the Sister Islands is being requested in the 2006/07 budget.

Following a question from George Town MLA Lucille Seymour Mrs. Ebanks-Petrie gave an update on mangrove re-planting.

Following Hurricane Ivan the DoE had undertaken replanting of mangroves in the South Sound area. However, Hurricane Wilma had destroyed a lot of those.

The DoE is looking at alternative methods of establishing mangroves in coastal areas, such as using a type of inert structure to grow them in a nursery environment first.

Mrs. Ebanks-Petrie said they are seeing lots of recovery in the central mangrove wetland and in some other areas.

Those areas that are not looking too hopeful will continue to be monitored, she said.