Today’s Editorial for August 10: A dangerous job

Cayman’s Marine Enforcement officers have a difficult job.

Given the responsibility to protect the country’s precious marine environment, these brave souls must do a dangerous job without the proper staffing, without the proper equipment, and without the proper legislation to back them.

If they find people illegally fishing or poaching marine life, they are almost always outnumbered. The suspects almost always have implements that could be used as weapons, and often they are impaired by some substance or another.

It’s a recipe for disaster for the Marine Enforcement Unit. They can call on the police for help, but there is no guarantee that they’ll know in advance if they’re unable to handle a particular situation.

Because poaching in particular can bring heavy penalties and even jail time, there’s no telling how people – impaired or not – might react if they were caught in the act. This is why many other countries arm the officers charged with marine or wildlife protection.

It’s only reasonable that we give Cayman’s marine enforcement officers some means of defending themselves and subduing suspects who resist.

We know the government has financial problems, and that it’s not hiring new civil servants, but it is dangerous to have units like Marine Enforcement understaffed and under-equipped.

That brings us to the topic of the forever-promised Conservation Bill, which we hear must be ‘looked at’ again before it can be passed into law.

The passage of the Conservation Bill would set the framework for providing the Marine Enforcement Unit with the equipment it needs to do its job safely. The passage of the Bill costs the country virtually nothing, and yet will pay dividends far beyond the safety of the Marine Enforcement Unit.

We can only hope that the Bill doesn’t have to be ‘looked at’ too long.