West Bay fishermen oppose marine zone expansion

In a second meeting to present the new marine parks plan in West Bay, about 100 people showed up Monday night to voice their opposition to the plan to Department of Environment officials. 

After 10 people showed up for the first meeting, Leader of the Opposition and West Bay MLA McKeeva Bush called for a second, bringing a large group to the Sir. John A. Cumber Primary School auditorium Monday night. “People must have recreation,” Mr. Bush said, adding, “Many people still go out to catch a meal.” 

Of particular contention was the protected zone around Barkers, where a marine reserve zone would prohibit fishing and taking any marine life. Many people were also unhappy about prohibiting fishing along almost the entire western coast along Seven Mile Beach and the eastern half of the North Sound. 

“I’m a fisherman, I have to put bread on the table for my family,” said one man during the meeting. Fishermen, commercial and recreational, said the marine parks expansion does not leave enough room for people to fish with their families or take tourists out on fishing trips. 

Under the current rules, fishing is not allowed in roughly 10 percent of the shelf around Grand Cayman. The new rules would ban fishing in about half the waters around the island. 

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West Bay MLA Captain Eugene Ebanks said, “We have to come to some compromise.” He asked the Department of Environment to look closer at the proposal that would ban taking marine life from a large stretch of the traditional fishing waters around West Bay. 

“We keep talking about heritage and Cayman culture. There’s no more Cayman culture than fishing on Barkers,” said another man from the front of the crowd. “I might not catch anything but I want the freedom to fish Barkers.” 

Department of Environment director Gina Ebanks-Petrie, who presented the plan and the reasons behind the expanded marine protection zones, said, “Healthy reef fish populations are essential for healthy reefs.” She said research on the existing no-take zones show a spillover effect where the protected areas increase fish populations outside of the zones. 

She added that recent research in Cayman estimate that fishermen take 15,000 fish a month, and about 3,000 of those are reef fish. 

Mr. Bush, speaking to the crowd toward the end of the meeting, asked anyone who supported the proposal to stand. No one did. But almost everybody stood when asked who opposed the new marine parks map. 

The Department of Environment is collecting input on the proposal at its website www.doe.ky/marine/marine-parks-review/ and by phone at 949-8469, due Dec. 4. The final proposal will go to the National Conservation Council for consideration and could ultimately go to Cabinet for approval. The new marine parks would then need legislative changes to be brought into force. 

Opposition leader McKeeva Bush hosted a second public session on the Department of Environment marine parks plan after 10 people showed up for the first meeting. - PHOTO: CHARLES DUNCAN

Opposition leader McKeeva Bush hosted a second public session on the Department of Environment marine parks plan after 10 people showed up for the first meeting. – PHOTO: CHARLES DUNCAN
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  1. I think that everyone needs to know what is needed to sustain a healthy environment. We all have to look at what the problems are that this issue is faced with. The need for enforcement, too many people fishing everywhere, no catch limit on different species, no taking of certain species of fish,and so many other things that can be done to protect and have a healthy and replenished resources for food and the future. This would mean that we all must know right from wrong and help protect the natural resources. I’m not saying that we should have less fishing area, but we all need to be responsible citizens and look to the future.

  2. When I first arrived in Grand Cayman 33 years ago one could drop into the waters of the North Sound and pick up 20 conch in 20 minutes and pick the best 2 or 3 to keep.
    Now it takes 20 minutes to find one.

    Fish were abundant at the dive sites too. Hundreds of them swimming past your eyes. Perhaps 5% are left. With Nassau groupers all but disappeared.

    This is not unique to here. Worldwide fishing stocks are almost gone. Looking out across the ocean it looks the same. It is only under the water that one can see what has happened.

    In that 33 years our population has gone from 10,000 to 55,000 all extra stress on our resources.
    Like it on not our waters needs time to recover. Or there will be nothing left for future generations.
    Perhaps we will have to get used to a diet of green iguana and wild chicken.

  3. Not only is there a huge problem with over-fishing here in Cayman, but we aren”t taking the right steps to stop this kind of thing from happening.

    For example, Conch is desired year round – why aren’t we farming it like Turks and Caicos.
    This would stop over-fishing when in season and poaching when out of season.

    If people could buy fresh, local conch for a reasonable price, I’m sure they would much rather that option.

    As for the expansion of marine parks – what is taking so long?.. This should have been done years ago.