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.
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.