How many times have you heard it from a waiter: “Do you have any questions about the menu?”
Well, in this instance, actually, we do. “Where’s the local lobster?”
For those who missed it in yesterday’s Compass, we published a story that revealed – to almost everyone – that a year ago, the Department of Environment amended its regulations regarding local lobsters. The new regulations, in effect, extended the catch limit of “three per day” for the lobstermen, to the restaurants which going forward can serve, or have on their premises, only “three per day.”
There are a number of issues that derive from the DoE’s decision, but let’s start with this one:
They neglected (we expect inadvertently rather than purposely) to notify the restaurants of the new regulation. The effect of that, of course, is that restaurants continued to operate as usual, which means for the last year they have been in violation of a law that they did not know existed.
John Bothwell, of the Department of Environment, told the Compass the department posted the change on “social media” and sent a notice in a press release to the media. We at Pinnacle Media, the largest media house in the Cayman Islands, cannot find a trace of that press release, but, even if we had received it, does Mr. Bothwell or anyone at the DoE believe that issuing a press release or publishing a post on social media constitutes fair and effective notice to Cayman’s restaurateurs that they risked serious sanction if they did not abide by this new – we’ll call it what it is – “secret law.”
We are reminded of a quote we came across recently in another context, namely businesses which don’t advertise new products they have to offer:
“It’s like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you’re doing, but nobody else does.”
For the record, the Compass contacted a number of well-known restaurants in Grand Cayman, asking the simple question of whether they knew about the “three-lobster limit” imposed by the DoE a year earlier.
Not one did, including, ironically, the venerable and aptly named “Lobster Pot.” Well, if you don’t tell the Lobster Pot about a lobster law, who are you going to tell?
Many of the restaurant owners or managers we talked to were not necessarily opposed to the new regulations – it’s just that they had never heard of them. All agreed it would have an effect on their businesses but, in good spirit, if it were necessary for the preservation of the species, well, they could understand that.
We sort of agree with that sentiment but are, perhaps, a little less trusting or sanguine. We would ask the DoE to produce and make public the empirical evidence that our lobster population is, indeed, in danger of diminishing or even disappearing.
Has anyone at DoE ever actually “counted,” that is, taken a representative sample of, Cayman’s lobster population? When was that done, who did it, and what did the results show?
And further, if DoE did indeed conduct such a census, how did the results compare with earlier counts? We would expect that the DoE, or any other rule-making body, would want to know whether any species is increasing or declining before proceeding with impactful measures such as writing, or in this case, rewriting its regulations.
Many laws, but especially conservation laws, must be based on sound science and never based on anecdotal observations, generally accepted “truths,” or popular or political themes of the moment.
If the DoE cannot produce and make public its “sound science” on this change to its regulations, that’s bad. If it can, that’s good.
We, the public, and, we’re sure, a lot of restaurateurs and lobster-loving diners would like to see it.