Little Cayman’s Tarpon Lake is among six sites on the island recently slated for consideration as protected areas under the National Conservation Law, which provides for the establishment of new protected areas and expansion of existing protected areas.
“Nominations of lands to be protected can be submitted to the National Conservation Council annually, and any purchases that are agreed are paid for using the Environmental Protection Fund,” the Department of Environment states on its website.
“Under Section 9 of the National Conservation Law, contiguous landowners and the general public are invited to submit written views on the following Protected Area nominations to the National Conservation Council.”
The National Conservation Council has resolved to propose Tarpon Lake be made a Protected Area under Section 7 of the National Conservation Law after reviewing a submitted nomination for its protection.
Attracting nature tourism, the island’s “largest single wetland complex” does not dry out throughout the year, making it an important habitat site that is productive year-long.
“If Cabinet approves this proposal, the natural environment in this wetland will be protected and managed according to a Management Plan to be developed under Section 10 of the Law,” the Department of Environment website states.
“The nomination consists of Tarpon Lake and a small adjacent coastal mangrove parcel, both owned by Crown.”
Tarpon Lake lies between South Hole Sound and Little Cayman’s Central Forest, linking to the National Trust’s Sparrowhawk Hill property. It is surrounded by mangroves and dotted with small mangrove islets in various stages of regeneration after successive hurricanes.
The nomination notes that Tarpon Lake is one of Little Cayman’s largest and most characteristic inland natural areas, which is easily viewed from a Government boardwalk which enters Tarpon Lake from the south coast road.
“Traditionally used as a base for tarpon fishing, the boardwalk is increasingly visited by visitors to Little Cayman,” states the document, adding that tarpon can often be seen cruising in the shallow water and a wide range of resident and migratory waterbirds frequent the mangroves.
The area is also home to fiddler crabs that inhabit the exposed mud flats, as well as white land crabs.
The proposal states that protecting this wetland will safeguard feeding habitat for various migratory duck species, and the West Indian Whistling Duck, as well as safeguarding habitat representative of Little Cayman’s coasts, thereby supporting long-term maintenance of the island’s biodiversity that depends on it. The wetland also serves as a nutrient buffer between Little Cayman’s mangroves and Little Sound.
According to the document, a management plan for Tarpon Lake will have to address ongoing maintenance of the boardwalk, and should involve current and potential future stakeholders to ensure on-water access (which is currently through non-motorized boats) is appropriately regulated.