Cabinet took an important step this week in giving the green light to a dramatic expansion of our islands’ marine parks.
In so doing, they signalled their intent to protect and preserve our unique natural resources for future generations. Now, it is time to follow through.
With Cabinet’s blessing in hand, legislative drafters will craft regulations that, if adopted, followed and enforced, could significantly increase the protection of our wildlife populations and irreplaceable coral reefs.
The new regulations will prohibit fishing from approximately 48 percent of our coastal waters, up from about 14 percent today. It will expand no-dive zones off Grand Cayman and establish them off the Sister Islands for the first time. These changes are the culmination of the Department of Environment’s extensive research and consultation with community members and research partners. It has taken years to reach this point.
But the work is far from over. The success of these enhanced protections is dependent upon swift enactment, extensive education and robust enforcement. We urge government to waste no time in completing this important endeavour and urge the public to learn and comply with the new restrictions as soon as they are adopted.
We understand there will be adjustments. In the short term, divers and anglers may be disappointed to find they can no longer frequent some previously favourite spots. But the long-term benefits to our islands’ ecosystem and our economy far outweigh these near-term inconveniences. These small sacrifices will add up to an infinitely greater good.
It is no secret that there are those on our islands who make a habit of flouting fishing, wildlife and diving restrictions. Perhaps they feel above the law. Perhaps it is only to be expected, given the sheer volume of commercial and recreational traffic our seas support.
The DoE has made a good start at efforts to educate the public about marine protections and the reasoning behind them. A mobile application to help boaters find their location in territorial waters, and access the rules and regulations that apply there, will be an invaluable tool. The department also says they are stepping up enforcement against violators — a task that will, in some ways, be made easier once the new regulations are in place. But in the end, it will be up to all of us to know and respect the rules.
As Prince Charles, who praised the marine park expansion during his recent visit, noted in his farewell speech at Pedro St. James, “the Cayman Islands could become a shining example of best practice in integrated and genuinely sustainable management of its land-based and ocean resources”.
With foresight and a willingness to innovate our islands could, as His Royal Highness said, “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”.
That is a worthy goal, and one that would require a strong commitment to finding a sustainable balance between our present and future enjoyment of the sea’s once-abundant resources — a stronger commitment than we have previously been able to achieve.
That balance cannot be struck on paper, but must be forged in practice.