Damaged coral: Volunteers step up, Carnival pitches in

Money talks. And the $100,000 donation from Carnival Cruise Lines to ongoing reef restoration efforts is a declaration of the company’s regard for its business relationship with the Cayman Islands and its respect for our fragile marine environment.

Thank you, Carnival, for the generous gesture of goodwill. Similarly, we extend our thanks to the army of volunteers who have been working tirelessly to piece together the remnants of the section of coral reef that was badly damaged last August by the Carnival Magic cruise ship’s anchor, and who most recently raised $28,000 to help sustain the recovery project.

The voluntary nature of Carnival’s monetary pledge must be emphasized. In short, Carnival’s donation does not equate to a determination of blame.

Last fall’s accident can be attributed to a confluence of factors, natural and man-made, and involved the participation of three parties: Carnival (whose anchor hit the reef), Bodden Shipping Agency (whose pilot may have directed the cruise ship to the wrong location) and the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands (who licensed the pilot).

Of the three principals, only Carnival (which, by the way, is the only “non-Caymanian” in the group) has pitched in to help fix what was broken.

In response to the news of Carnival’s pledge, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell and Environment Minister Wayne Panton portrayed the donation as a product of some sort of public-private partnership between the government and the cruise company. We find this quite curious.

We are highly interested in learning more from our officials about what, exactly, the public sector has contributed to the deal. From where we sit, the arrangement has operated thusly: The public sector has asked, and the private sector has given. Our kudos go to those who bring their checkbooks to such meetings.

While Carnival, local businesses and members of the community continue to reach into their pockets for the coral’s cause, the government hasn’t made any move toward its single biggest depository of money, the Environmental Protection Fund, which now contains about $50 million in funds that are most suited for just this kind of contingency.

The purported steward of the fund, the much-ballyhooed National Conservation Council, has met twice now (both times after the reef was destroyed), immediately diving headlong into a morass of paperwork, red tape and bureaucratic processes — none of it having anything to do with healing the still-fresh ecological wound in the middle of George Town harbor.

If the Conservation Council really were serious about conservation, its first substantial order of business would have been to channel money from Point A (the fund) to Point B (the reef), while, if it were deemed necessary, navigating obstacles related to legality and liability.

The private sector has stepped forward to contribute substantial resources to help repair the damaged coral. How is it that the public sector has not? After all, the reef is public property.

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  1. I always believe that You break it you pay for it Do not know whose fault it was, however it would seem that more than one person knocked the shelf causing the china to fall. However many thanks for the thoughtfulness. That was very good.

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