Views on marine parks sought

The Department of Environment has launched an online survey to ask the public if it thinks the marine environment in he Cayman Islands is worth saving.

The survey follows a series of public meetings in which the department outlined the threats to the Islands’ marine parks and measures taken to protect them.

The results of the online survey, along with other public feedback, will be included in a full report due out in April, which will be based on the findings of a three-year Darwin Initiative research project conducted by the Department of Environment with Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences and the Nature Conservancy in the United States.

Laura Richardson, a research support officer with the Department of Environment, said people have until February, 2012, to fill out the short survey, but encouraged participants to complete it as soon as they receive it while it is still fresh in their minds.

“The responses will certainly help inform the options we present to the public next April on how the parks and marine protection may be enhanced through this project.

“The survey also serves to keep this review in people’s minds until we come back out to the public in April for further consultation on which options people want most, so it is both a PR exercise and also a tool to make sure we are going along the right direction with the parks review,” Ms Richardson said.

The questionnaire asks what respondents would like the marine environment to look like in 25 years, what they mostly use the marine parks for, and the marine habitats, such as mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs, they would like to see better protected.

The Department of Environment is emailing all government email users, as well as staff of schools and universities and environmental organisations such as the National Trust, Cayman Sea Elements and the Ritz Ambassadors of the Environment programme.

It is also sending the questionnaire to a wide range of local associations, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and other professional organisations, with a request to forward it to all their members.

In September, the marine parks review project team presented the scientific findings of the exercise at 22 meetings on Cayman’s three islands and asked what people would like to see in an improved marine parks system for the Cayman Islands.

Those gatherings included public meetings in each district, discussions with the environment ministry, members of the opposition, the Marine Conservation Board, the Commissioner’s Office in Cayman Brac, four classes at University College of the Cayman Islands in Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman, the Land and Sea Cooperative, the Angling Club, the Seafarers’ Association, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association board, the Ministers’ Association and the Human Rights Commission.

A public meeting is also due to be held in Little Cayman early next year.

The presentation shown at those meeting has been videoed and combined with supporting materials in an educational package, 45 of which were distributed last week to all government and public schools, other education bodies, the prisons and environmental organisations.

The Department of Environment has also set up a Facebook group, called Cayman Islands Marine Parks – DOE and Darwin Initiative Review, which has 235 members, and has posted the survey on its own website.

The online survey is based around a questionnaire handed out at the recent Heritage Days during Pirates Week.

Ms Richardson said the questionnaire was also available at the Department of Environment reception “for anyone wanting to complete it as they wait for their meeting or their lion fish culling course and which can be handed out at future events”.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the advent of protected marine parks in Cayman.

Under the Marine Conservation Law, 16.7 per cent of the reef shelf around Grand Cayman is protected. The internationally recommended percentage of reef protection for an area is 30 per cent.

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