The Department of Environment has asked the public to pay close attention to open and closed seasons for a variety of marine species in Cayman’s waters.
The seasons have been put in place as a means of ensuring the long-term sustainability of Cayman’s marine resources, reminds the DoE in a press release.
Since August, Cayman Islands fisheries regulations stipulate that both take and possession are illegal outside the respective open seasons. This means both a person taking marine life illegally and a person receiving/purchasing it are committing an offense.
“This is a loophole that our officers, and the public who support conservation, have struggled with for a while and we are happy it has been resolved,” said Chief Conservation Officer Mark Orr.
Catch limits remain unchanged.
The rules for Nassau grouper have undergone significant changes. Taking Nassau grouper anywhere in Cayman waters is now prohibited between Dec. 1 and April 30.
“While we still have one of the largest Nassau grouper populations among the known spawning aggregations remaining in the Caribbean, we have effectively lost over half of our traditional spawning aggregations in the Cayman Islands,” said Research Officer Bradley Johnson. “Fishing on a spawning aggregation is not and never has been sustainable for any level of take as shown by DoE’s research, as well as the decline of spawning aggregations across the region.
“The current regulations are meant to ensure that we have Nassau grouper on our reefs into the future. This is the same strategy applied to other marine species like conch and lobster. During the open season [May 1 through Nov. 30] fishers may take no more than five Nassau grouper from Cayman waters per boat per day,” he said in the release.
A new app called “Cayman DoE” for iPhones and Android smartphones is being developed to help the public stay informed. While still a beta version, some of the features include interactive maps allowing the public to know where they are located in relation to marine park zones; rules where they are located; and feedback to the DoE on anything they deem to be important or of concern.
Persons can download the app and are encouraged to report any technological glitches to the DoE so that they can be rectified.
“We know that enforcement will always be an issue with any law and that our efforts will always be constrained by the number of officers we are able to employ,” DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said. “So we have to work smarter, both through the use of technology and by trying to ensure that our regulations are structured to optimise conservation objectives and enforcement capability.”
Persons who see or suspect poaching can call 911.
The DoE is distributing free Conservation Rules Brochures at a variety of locations around all three islands and these brochures may also be downloaded from www.DoE.ky.
Season dates and catch limits:
- Closed season: March 1 through Nov. 30
- Open season catch limit: Three per person or six per boat per day, whichever is less.
- Size limit: Six inch tail minimum size.
- Only spiny lobster (P. argus) may be taken.
- In any one day, no one person may take or permit another person to take, purchase, receive, offer for sale, exchange or donation, or possess more than three lobster from Cayman waters.
- Closed season: May 1 through Oct. 31
- Open season catch limit: Five per person or 10 per boat per day, whichever is less.
- Only queen conch may be taken.
- In any one day, no person may take, purchase, receive, offer for sale, exchange or donation, or possess more than five conch from Cayman waters.
- Closed season: May 1 through Oct. 31.
- No one may take whelks in Cayman during these months. No one may purchase, receive or possess whelks taken in Cayman during these months.
- Open season catch limit: Two-and-a-half gallons in the shell or two-and-a-half pounds of processed whelks per person per day.
- No one may purchase or receive more than two-and-a-half gallons in the shell or two-and-a-half pounds of processed whelks from Cayman in any one day.
- Chitons, periwinkles and bleeding teeth may not be taken at any time.
- Echinoderms (includes starfish, sea eggs/urchins, sea cucumbers and sand dollars) may not be taken from Cayman waters at any time.
- No one may disturb, molest or take turtles in Cayman waters or on Cayman’s beaches without a license.
- Possession of turtle eggs is prohibited.
- For licensed fishermen, closed season runs from April 1 through Nov. 30.
Sharks and Rays
- May not be taken from Cayman waters at any time.No one may feed, attempt to feed or provide or use food to attract any shark in Cayman waters.
- Closed season: Dec. 1 through April 30
Open season catch limit: Five per person or five per boat per day, whichever is less.
Size limit: Only Nassau grouper between 16 inches and 24 inches (inclusive) may be taken from Cayman waters.
- No one may take, purchase, receive, permit or possess Nassau grouper from Cayman waters taken in contravention of the above rules.
Protected fish: Jew fish (goliath grouper), tilefish (whities), filefish (pipers) and angelfish, including Grey, French and Queen angels (old monks), may not be taken from Cayman waters at any time.
Size limit: Eight-inch minimum size on all other fish except goggle eyes, sprats (herrings, anchovies) and fries (including loggerhead and fine fry; silversides or anchovies), and lionfish.