Poachers are targeting snapper, grouper and conch in Cayman’s waters as well as more iconic and endangered species like stingrays and sea turtles, water sports business owners fear.
A study commissioned by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation reveals that 86 percent of water sports businesses in the Cayman Islands believe that poachers are active in Cayman’s waters.
Nearly 60 percent of the companies surveyed also said there should be more marine protection.
The survey was carried out ahead of Ocean Conservation month in November, which will expand on artist and conservationist Guy Harvey’s “Shark Week” and “Shark Talk” events to bring a wider conservation message to the community.
Mr. Harvey said news reports of a “wave of attacks on marine life” had prompted the survey. The Compass has reported this year on eagle rays found chopped up on the beach, a nurse shark found swimming with a knife in its back, and a juvenile blacktip shark bludgeoned to death.
Last week, Department of Environment conservation officers rescued a green sea turtle that had been impaled with hooks and laid out to be butchered in a tool shed. It was the fifth confirmed turtle poaching incident this year.
Mr. Harvey said, “We’ve been horrified in recent months to read the news reports detailing the attacks on our marine wildlife and our survey results clearly show that we are not alone in our concerns.
“Removing just one species from the ocean has the ability to change the whole ecosystem and so we need to urgently work together with the local community to not only stop illegal and irresponsible poaching, but encourage greater public awareness around the issues surrounding the conservation of our oceans.”
Mr. Harvey’s ocean foundation surveyed more than 50 businesses in Cayman whose livelihood depends on the ocean about what needs to change.
Of those surveyed, 95 percent considered it was “very important” for children in Grand Cayman to receive more information about ocean conservation.
Other survey highlights included:
- 80 percent consider Marine Parks established in Cayman waters in 1986 have made a positive impact on marine life
- 96 percent consider the marine legislation needs more enforcement
- 60 percent consider tourists and locals are not adequately educated about ocean conservation.
Jessica Harvey, project manager for the Guy Harvey foundation, said the survey was part of a wider outreach to help inform the foundation’s educational programs.
She said, “We wanted to get a feel for the community’s views and general knowledge on this issue. It is important for us to know what people’s thoughts and level of knowledge are on these issues so we can improve our own programs. The better people know what is in their own backyard, the more they are likely to care about it.”
The foundation has designated the month of November as Ocean Conservation Month across the islands. The month will include a schedule of photography competitions, fundraising events, school talks and educational initiatives.