A boat captain who pleaded guilty to displacement of coral was fined $1,000 on Monday and thanked for his voluntary work in cleaning up a George Town beach.
Wade Walton Webster, 60, pleaded guilty to displacing the coral at a specified latitude and longitude in Cayman waters on Tuesday, April 25.
Crown counsel Eleanor Fargin told Magistrate Philippa McFarlane that a sailing vessel anchored in coral in a marine park outside the George Town anchorage around 3 a.m. Harbor patrol officers asked the people on board if they had sought clearance from Port Security. They said they had not.
The officers told them not to move and subsequently contacted the Department of Environment to assess possible damage. When checked, it was seen that the anchor was in sand, but had caused damage on the way down and the chain was still causing damage.
Ms. Fargin said the people on board told the officers they did not think anyone would be in the port offices. In fact, she advised, the Port Authority is open 24 hours a day and the vessel could have anchored elsewhere.
Webster indicated that he had consulted a chart on a website, but he accepted all responsibility.
An officer from the Department of Environment told the magistrate that Webster had done some “self-imposed beach clean-up.” She described an area near the Lobster Pot plus an adjacent empty lot where people congregate.
The magistrate said she would consider Webster’s early guilty plea and the work he had performed, which he had not been asked to do.
The defendant replied that he had come into a country that was absolutely beautiful, but he had not known it until he woke up that morning. When he moved his vessel where he was instructed, he passed the beach referred to and it was enough to make him cry because it was so littered. He said he worked on the area for three or four days and also used his dinghy to pick up debris in the water.
The magistrate told him, “I see you are passionate about the environment and you care about our environment, and I thank you for that. I am pleased you have taken it on yourself to clean up the beach.”
She asked about any precedent cases and Ms. Fargin cited a 2015 case involving 11.19 square meters.
The charge against Webster involved 1.5 square meters. A proportionate assessment based on the 2015 case would be $1,730.79, she said.
The magistrate considered the correct starting point to be $1,500 and gave Webster credit for his early guilty plea.
He will get his passport back after payment.