Marine Park expansion plan revived

A proposal to dramatically expand no-fishing zones in Cayman’s waters has been revived as the National Conservation Council seeks to introduce a new system of marine parks.

Environment officials say more restrictions are needed to protect marine wildlife and habitats from the threats posed by overfishing and coastal development.

The proposal on the table would increase “no-take” zones, where all fishing is banned, to nearly half of the “marine shelf”. Currently just over ten percent of the marine shelf, the coastal waters enclosed by the reef around the Cayman Islands, is completely protected from fishing.

The recommendations, approved unanimously by the National Conservation Council on Tuesday, will go through another round of public consultation later this year.

Once that process, required by the National Conservation Law, is complete it would be down to Cabinet to legally designate the new marine park boundaries.

Similar proposals were discussed previously but the initiative was sidelined until the new law could be introduced and implemented.

In a presentation to the council, Director of the Department of Environment Gina Ebanks Petrie said the DoE was now ready to recommend the implementation of an expanded marine protection regime. She said Cayman had been a world conservation leader when it first introduced marine parks in the 1980s, but had now fallen behind international standards.

She said the park boundaries no longer offered sufficient protection to the islands’ valuable marine ecosystem.

The new system, if approved, would extend the boundaries of marine parks from the current outer limit at a depth of 80 ft to a depth of 150 ft. It would also simplify the regulations, which currently contain a mix of restrictions on different types of fishing, to make marine parks strictly “no-take” zones.

“We believe the areas proposed are feasible to protect and manage. It will actually be easier because there are not as many different zones. When you see somebody in a marine reserve and they are fishing they are breaking the law.

She said reefs across the Caribbean, including around Cayman, had declined in coral cover and abundance of marine life over the past three decades. She added,

“We have already had some consultation, but what we are seeking to do is to take the proposals back to the public for some final input and bring them back for approval by Cabinet.”

She said some of the concerns raised in district meetings during the previous period of consultation had been taken on board and “fishing concessions” had been included in the new plan.

Aggregation sites

The proposal also includes additional regulations for critically important sites where several species, most notably grouper, are known to aggregate to mate.

Council member Davey Ebanks took issue with the restrictions at the aggregation sites, which extend no-fishing zones out to a depth of 600 feet around these areas, saying they were over the top and would prevent any kind of fishing in those areas.

He said he was in “total agreement” with 99 per cent of the proposals but said the proposals on aggregation sites were unworkable and unreasonable. Tim Austin, deputy director of the DoE, acknowledged that aspect may have to be tweaked depending on public feedback, saying it was not the intention of the legislation to prevent trawling for pelagic species at those sites.

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  1. This is great As a scuba diver it is nice to see that the government is concerned about helping to keep the fish population up. The island makes a lot of money from divers and this can only be good for everyone on the island

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  2. The people at the DoE won’t be happy until all fishing is banned, the turtle farm closed, and there is no taking of conch or lobsters anywhere on the island, and Cayman islands become vegans.

    So basically the guy trying to catch himself some fish from the insides reefs will become a criminal.

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  3. I was instrumentally involved when the marine parks laws were put into law , this is what Government tried to do back then . This move looks like Government wants to take it even further. I do agree with the laws that are in place now, all that needs to be done is more enforcement of the laws, but please don’t take away the opportunity that one would be able to fish and catch a fish in legal fishing zone.

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  4. All tho I think its a little over the top to say fishing is completely banned in the marine parks areas, because this would leave little or no place to go catch a few fish. Maybe a catch limit instead? But as for the aggregation sites I don’t see where the issue is there. Ban all fishing at these sites. These are areas where certain fish especially grouper go to spawn and I see no reason anyone should need to fish in these areas. If there is a complete ban on any fishing any where around the island these are the areas that needs to be in affect in.

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  5. Mr Bruce, I applaud you for your comment on protection of the marine environment , and I hope you continue to let others see how important that the marine environment is to the Cayman Islands.

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  6. Change the first paragraph from "A proposal to dramatically expand no-fishing zones in Cayman’s waters has been revived as the National Conservation Council seeks to introduce a new system of marine parks."

    To:

    A proposal to radically expand no-fishing zones in Cayman’s waters has been revived as the Radical National Conservation Council seeks to introduce a new Castro-Like regime of marine parks (Basically the DoE owns the ocean like Castro owns Cuba).

    As a fisherman, I”m all for conservation and realize the importance of replenishment zones, no fish zones and seasons. But i get the sense that these type of policies are ideologically driven rather than driven by effective benchmarks. The ideology that is somehow wrong to eat fish and marine life and thus laws are framed around that political ideology. the fish in cayman are also to be enjoyed by consumers of fish, not only tofu-eating photographers. there is plenty of fish to photograph in cayman without virtually banning the entire island from fishing!!! This proposal is utter NONSENSE and I intend to bring this sort of a radical policy making to the leadership in government and try to stop this form of radicalism.

    If you can’t enforce the present laws (WHICH THEY NOT) then making new laws and zone are only preventing AND PENALIZING law abiding people from being able to fish and enjoy eating fish and seafood limited to what we consume.

    I’m sick of these people constantly in your face.

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  7. 32 years ago I used to SCUBA dive around Eden Rocks and there were many yellow tail snappers and a large number of sergeant majors. The reef there used to be healthy and alive with coral.

    I dove there again last week. No yellow tail snappers, very few sergeant majors and the reef was all but dead.

    Likewise 32 years ago one could go out into the North Sound and within minutes pick up a dozen conch.

    Now you need to search to find just one.

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