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.

1 COMMENT

  1. There’s no regulation preventing the harvesting a lobster filled to the brim with eggs (which I commonly catch/release during lobster season) so you gotta wonder if the DOE is seriously lacking a sensible focus/direction on environmental sustainability, they need to talk to the people,,, cause right now, they’re asking all the wrong questions. That being said,, I totally agree with the restaurant regulation, in fact I thought it was a regulation already. Just my opinion; but I believe lobster harvesting should be an amateur activity not a professional activity to be enjoyed in your home. Peace

  2. Cayman Compass I would agree that this new 3 lobsters regulation has about the same effects as any other marine conservation law , NO ENFORCEMENT.
    But I will answer the question you posed to DoE . Show you proof of lobsters populatin are being decreased or wiped out .

    I have been in the waters of the Cayman Islands from the 1960 to 1995 pretty much all of those years . I have seen fish conch and lobsters all in abundance untill about 1980 when I first started to notice that all three species had started to disappear . So I can’t imagine what the conditions are today now that the population and the consumption has doubled . I can’t imagine that the picture is pretty today 2017 .

    So I would say that any conservation measures or regulations that DoE would put in place and enforce is very much needed , but they need to realistically think before they implement . Or all marine species will be completely wiped out in the near future .

  3. Sound science doesn’t exist anymore. Corporate “science” has replaced it. You can’t trust most “scientific” studies these days. Observation, when it comes to the lobster population, at least, is more accurate than a multimillion dollar study sponsored let say by the DOT. Always ask, “who sponsors a study?”

  4. My apologies to the author, but I am compelled to respectfully point out that you are not likely a highly experienced diver. Anyone who has been diving or fishing in Grand Cayman continuously over the past 30-40 years has witnessed a radical decline of all edible species, including the lobsters from our reefs (as well as the reefs themselves) which is on a par with, but opposite to the visible increase in our human population (both resident and tourist). You don’t need statistics to convince observers that our island’s human population has more than quadrupled during that same period. It is equally obvious that the reef fish, lobsters and conch have been decimated primarily because all visitors to a tropical island (and residents) want to eat the fresh, local seafood. A reef fish population is a numbers game analogous to a bank account. The more capitol you have in the bank, the more interest you earn and can spend without depleting the capitol, aka sustainable use. Our edible reef species increase or decrease in the same way. According to this analogy, let’s say for the sake of argument that our grandparents might have inherited $10M “fish bucks” in 1960 earning $200,000 at a 2% interest rate, but we now have much closer to $100,000 remaining in our “reef bank”, which still only earns 2%… or just $2,000/year interest. What we are still experiencing is a hyperbolic decline. Obviously this is just a metaphore and the actual numbers are unknown, but the severity of decline and cause are no less real. We are visibly nearly bankrupt of our most popular edible species and cannot continue doing anything remotely like what we have always done! We must slow way down if we are to restore the principle to its optimum and thus the interest earned for optimum consumption. The problem is that we still have not addressed this issue, which is soooooo obvious to anyone who has had eyes underwater or has been fishing all this time. YES!!! I am livid that the DOE failed to even make a limited assessment of our reef fish population until 2009… long after the rapid decline became clearly visible to experienced divers by the early ’80’s. That leaves us with only anecdotal evidence from the old timers, both leather faced fishermen and divers to inform us. But that must not stop us from doing the right thing based upon what our most experienced observers have witnessed to be true regarding our severe decline. We will continue in decline until we both change and fully enforce our regulations! Failure to do so at this critical point in our beleaguered reef population will be economically disastrous for our descendants. Sadly, this same scenario is repeating itself all over the world, not just here. Many locales such as Jamaica, Barbados, Guam (it’s a very long list) are already well ahead of us in decline for the same reasons… over-fishing. The evidence is overwhelming. Our political policy continues to focus on attracting more residents and tourists, so the pressure to deplete is only rising. This should be obvious to everyone living here over the past 40 years and I am dumbfounded by the lack of awareness in our general population or political will to do the right thing in our legislators. If our economically challenged citizens are crying now about new regulations, what will they be saying to our leaders when there are only tiny fish left to catch? My 18 minute TEDx talk on this subject should be viewed by all who are not yet aware of how dire and valuable this issue is. Please Google and watch it. I suggest that we should immediately incorporate everything the DOE recommends for remedy, starting with the proposed marine parks expansion that has long awaited legislative consideration. We must then enable them to enforce the laws and to research (quantify and monitor ) our reef fish population. The cost would be far less than losing what was once and could become once again, our enormously lucrative “Sea World of the Caribbean”. It is not only the doubters among you who want those numbers. Those who know from experience how serious this is are desperate for the research that will prove what is already so visibly obvious. I fear however that several species do not have time to wait for decades of new research even if it is currently under way, should we fail to act immediately while awaiting the scientific, quantifiable proof that we all want to see. I apologize for the length, but this is truly serious and worth our time, consideration and action. May God continue to bless what He hath founded upon the seas and given to us as His responsible stewards.