A long-awaited conservation law will take its first steps toward coming into existence early in the new year.
Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford announced during a debate in the Legislative Assembly on Friday that the National Conservation Bill was on the cusp of being tabled to the House.
Mr. Clifford said there had been ‘countless public meetings’ and meeting with stakeholders about the bill.
He said he would take the bill to the political caucus early in the new year, and then to Cabinet before tabling it in the Assembly as a Green Paper for debate.
‘There are strong views on both sides of this issue,’ Mr. Clifford said.
‘The government does not have the luxury of sitting on one side of the fence. We have to consider the implications of this bill on all sectors and also the importance of the bill in protecting the environment. We have to strike the right balance in bringing this legislation to the House,’ he said.
He referred to the opposition and difficulties that had been faced in the introduction of the Marine Conservation Law. ‘I remember the significant uproar that took place over that legislation.’
He said that the late Vassel Johnson was responsible for pushing that legislation through the House, despite a lot of criticism from individuals who opposed setting a limit to the number of conch or lobster or turtles that could be captured and the establishment of marine parks.
‘We all know that most, if not all, of those critics are the same individuals who will tell you that they don’t know what our marine environment would look like today if not for that legislation,’ he said.
He added: ‘The government is well aware there will be some significant opposition to the National Conservation Bill.’
Mr. Clifford said he hoped that the bill could be tabled at the first meeting of the Assembly in the new year.
Public consultations on the bill were held last year and the public was asked to submit its opinions on the bill by May 2007.
Key elements of the bill include the establishment of a National Conservation Council; mechanisms for the designation and management of protected areas; procedures for the nomination, designation and conservation of protected species; and regulatory procedures for the introduction of non-indigenous or genetically altered species of flora and fauna.
It is also slated to include statutory requirements for environmental impact assessments; a Conservation Fund; and procedures whereby directions may be given to the Council by the Governor in Cabinet.
The new law would bring Cayman into line with a number of international treaties on conservation.