Little Cayman’s Booby Pond on the island’s south side is among six sites on the island nominated for Protected Area status under Cayman’s new National Conservation Law.

According to the Department of Environment website, Booby Pond is the Cayman Islands’ only Ramsar site – a designation it received in 1994 as a wetland of international importance.

“Owned and managed by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, the Booby Pond is a unique habitat for breeding seabirds, with large nesting colonies of red-footed boobies, Sula sula and magnificent frigatebirds, Fregata magnificens,” the site states. As a Trust site, it is also protected by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands Law.

The National Trust’s Environmental programs manager Paul Watler has noted that the colony had about 2,500 active booby nests, and scientists believe it now represents at least a third of the birds’ entire Caribbean and Atlantic population.

The National Conservation Law provides for the establishment of new protected areas and expansion of existing protected areas. According to the nomination, expanded protection of the site would close a significant gap in the protection of the nesting bird colonies, as the nominated lands include some mangrove/dry land transition in which red-footed booby nesting is currently occurring, and limestone flats embedded in dry shrubland which supports the endemic Little Cayman land snail.

“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.

Contiguous landowners and the general public are invited to submit written views on the Protected Area nominations to the National Conservation Council.

According to the Department of Environment website, the consultation period will end on May 2 2017. After that the Council will consider all written submissions before deciding whether to recommend the proposal to Cabinet, or to amend or withdraw it.

The nomination document, posted on the Department of Environment website, proposes that a privately owned parcel, one small Crown parcel and specific parts of a much larger Crown parcel adjacent to the Booby Pond Nature Reserve be made into a Protected Area under Section 7 of the National Conservation Law. The National Conservation Council has resolved to advance this nomination.

The nomination document notes that the specific areas within the large Crown parcel contain small sub-population aggregations of the unique Little Cayman land snail, Cerion nanus, which will only survive if its very specific habitat areas are protected.

“These areas are in undeveloped places near existing government buildings, and are small enough in area that they should not unduly restrict expansion of government facilities as or when these may become needed,” it states, adding:

“Protection of these nominated lands will help secure the seabird colony on Little Cayman containing red-footed booby and magnificent frigatebirds, which is the key attraction for the National Trust’s visitor centre and the most visible and internationally known above-water feature of the island. As such, it is one of the factors that draw visitors to Little Cayman.”

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