Prince Charles has urged the Cayman Islands to help “lead the world” in the global fight against climate change and other environmental threats.
Speaking at the conclusion of the royal visit on Thursday, the Prince of Wales delivered an impassioned call to action for the territory to do everything in its power to protect and preserve its natural environment.
The prince’s comments came as the Cayman Islands government announced an expansion to the island’s marine park system, vastly increasing the size of the areas protected from over-fishing and other threats.
Speaking in front of Cayman’s leaders and hundreds of well-wishers during a reception at Pedro St. James, Prince Charles recalled visiting Cayman as a young naval officer in 1973. He said the island should be proud of the progress it had made in the four decades since that time and was now punching “above its weight” globally as an important financial services centre and major tourism destination.
He said, “With all of this rapid development there is, it seems to me, an ever greater need to protect your natural environment.
“I was pleased to see some of the excellent work that Central Caribbean Marine Institute is doing in Little Cayman to help protect the precious coral reefs that surround these islands as well as those elsewhere in the world.
“Accelerating and potentially catastrophic global warming along with the acidification and pollution of our oceans are nothing short of a planetary crisis that effects us all and, of course, the health of our oceans is absolutely vital for our shared survival.”
The prince, who has been a long-time champion of environmental causes all over the world, visited both CCMI and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, where he met Cayman’s endangered resident blue iguanas during his visit.
He said he had been warning for years of the impending crisis of climate change and the responsibility to protect the inheritance of “our children and grandchildren”.
He added, “Now those very children are crying out for concerted action rather than just empty words.”
He said it was heartening to hear Minister of Environment Dwayne Seymour announce the expansion of marine parks in Cayman. Seymour revealed during a speech at the opening of the new Children’s Garden at the Botanic Park, that Cabinet had approved drafting instructions that will more than triple the area around the islands that is protected from fishing and other impacts.
Prince Charles, in his speech, said this was an encouraging step but one that could only be effective as part of a management plan that deals with waste treatment and plastics. With such an approach, he said, Cayman could become a shining example to the world of genuinely sustainable management of its natural resources.
“Such an integrated approach is not only essential to protect our ecosystems but also, particularly in the Cayman Islands’ case, to protect the long-term viability of economic sectors such as tourism, on which they are utterly dependent,” he said.
“Such an innovative and far-sighted approach could become a beacon for the Commonwealth to help lead the world, and indeed the whole of nature, out of this appalling crisis of our own making.”
He added that the Cayman Islands’ “extraordinary financial expertise” could be a catalyst to support “urgently needed financing of environmental investment throughout the Commonwealth”.
Prince’s words welcomed
Prince Charles’s comments came as music to the ears of environmental campaigners in Cayman. Sustainable Cayman held a rally at Smith Cove Thursday morning to coincide with the visit. The group said the aim was to thank Prince Charles for his support of environmental causes and draw attention to some of the issues locally, including the threat to coral reefs posed by the cruise pier project in George Town harbour and the threat of development at Barkers peninsula in West Bay.
Members of the group held signs at the beach Thursday, declaring “God save the green” and “We love our reefs.”
Linda Clark, in an emailed statement to the Compass on behalf of the group said, “It was extremely heartening to hear the Prince voice, on Cayman soil, the need for our leaders to take decisive action to protect the very sectors which bring economic revenue into the country.”
She also welcomed the announcement of a planned expansion to Cayman’s marine parks and said the Department of Environment should be supported financially to “fully implement effective marine protected areas rather than merely paper parks”.
She added, “By harnessing the Blue Economy, working with the environment rather than against it, and fully integrating the United Nations Sustainable Development goals into the strategic plans of both the public and private sector, Cayman could certainly honour the Prince’s aspiration of becoming a beacon for the Commonwealth to lead the world as true steward’s of our environment for current and future generations.”
Marine Parks expansion
Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment, confirmed that the marine parks expansion, which follows widespread community consultation as well as years-long research and discussions between the department and its partners in the U.K.-based Darwin Initiative and Bangor University, had now been approved by Cabinet.
She said in an email, “A major enhancement of the marine parks system expansion is the increase of ‘no take’ zones – areas where individuals can no longer take marine life for any reason, in line with international best practice recommendations for marine protected areas. These ‘no take’ zones, including marine parks, environmental zones and wildlife interaction zones, will increase from a current national average of approximately 14% to 48% under the enhanced parks system.”
The marine parks expansion will also increase “no diving” areas, particularly on Little Cayman, where none now exist. A minimal increase to these areas on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac is also called for under the enhanced parks.