Essay winner tackles coral destruction

A teenager’s concern over anchored cruise ships wrecking coral in George Town Harbour has won the student first prize in an essay competition and a place at a marine sea camp for the summer.

Esay winner

Samantha Paul from Ogier and CCMI’s CEO, Jim O’Neill, congratulate Owen Foster for winning first place in this year’s Environmental Essay competition, which was in support of the 2008 Green Guide to the Cayman Islands
Photo: Submitted

Owen Foster, 17, was selected as winner of the Ogier/Central Caribbean Marine Institute Environmental Essay competition, organised in support of the CCMI’s Green Guide to the Caribbean.

His essay quoted an United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization website, stating: ‘Government scientists have acknowledged that more than 300 acres of coral reefs have already been lost to cruise ship anchors in the harbour at George Town, Cayman Islands.’

He wrote: ‘This is a large area of coral reef that has been lost. If we don’t act now, we may not have any coral reefs left.’

The essay set out solutions to the problem, such as creating permanent moorings, rather than letting the ship drop anchors on the coral, and fixes for the future, such as creating artificial coral reefs.

Students were provided with Green Guides as a starting point in their research, and encouraged to use this and other sources to highlight the main issues faced by Cayman’s coral reefs and other aquatic life.

The contest, which was endorsed by the Department of Education, was open to students between the ages of 14 and 18, offering a range of prizes supporting marine education and encouraging creative solutions to environmental issues.

The essay asked students to consider the following: from our sea-faring heritage to our current standing as a world-class dive tourism destination, Cayman has a long history of making its livelihood from the surrounding ocean. Why, in your opinion, is it important to protect the marine environment? What are the greatest areas of concern for Cayman’s marine wildlife and ecosystems, and how would you like to see these addressed?

A panel of judges made up of representatives from the Department of Environment, the CCMI and independent marine biologists reviewed the submissions, with scores for each essay being averaged to choose the overall winner.

‘We were very impressed by the quality of the submissions to this competition,’ said Ogier partner James Bergstrom.

Owen’s essay included a strong independent research component, which should prepare for his grand prize – a place at the CCMI’s Caribbean Sea Camp, sponsored by the Southern Cross Club. The prize will allow him to work side-by-side with scientists and marine educators at the Little Cayman Research Facility and take part in ongoing research projects. Sea Camp is a weeklong event, where each day is fully scheduled with field trips to the reef, discussions with scientists, and other activities to increase students’ knowledge of the fish, coral, and other life that inhabits a coral reef.

First runner up in the essay competition was Cayman Prep and High School student Brett Mobley, who focused on water quality, cruise moorings and mangrove conservation in his persuasive argument for marine protection; a fitting winner for a mangrove adventure tour donated by Cayman Kayaks.

The second-runner up was Arvid Harris, also from Cayman Prep, whose essay focused particularly on the plight of the Green Cayman turtle and other oceanic animals, and the effects that depletion will have on Cayman’s cultural heritage. He won a new 6.0 megapixel digital underwater camera.

‘Ogier has demonstrated true commitment and generosity towards CCMI’s goal to raise public awareness on the environment.T he 2008 Green Guide to the Cayman Islands has been an overwhelming success for which we’ve received dozens of compliments and commendations,’ said CCMI chief executive officer Jim O’Neill of the partnership.

Plans are under way for the next installment in the Green Guide series, which is scheduled for distribution in December of this year.

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