Students from Cayman’s environmental youth movement met cruise line executives Wednesday and urged them to think again about the project to build new piers in George Town Harbour.
The Protect our Future group presented a copy of an online petition with more than 200,000 signatures to members of the Verdant Isle consortium during a meeting at The Ritz-Carlton hotel on Wednesday.
The students met with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines CEO Michael Bayley and others to outline their concerns.
Some of the youngsters carried signs spelling out opposition to the project during the meeting.
One sign referencing the petition declared, ‘205,315 signatures as of 30/09/2019 and growing’. Another said, ‘Our reef is our future’.
The students handed over a flash-drive containing a copy of the petition titled ‘Don’t trash coral reefs for the cruise industry’.
The petition, set up by international organisation Rainforest Rescue, was launched in May and calls for the project to be stopped. It had gathered 216,474 supporters by press time Thursday.
Ben Somerville, one of the students, said it had been a proud moment for the group to deliver the petition.
“I think the opportunity was amazing. To be able to sit down with the people in charge of this project and actually be listened to was a big step in the right direction,” he said.
“However, I think there is still an exceptional amount of work to be done. With already over 215,000 signatures on the global petition, they were able to see that the rest of the world is against this project,” he said.
Other students said they felt the meeting had been valuable and they were grateful for the chance to speak directly to those behind the project.
“I left the meeting feeling that my voice mattered,” said Dejea Lyons.
Despite that, the students said they were unconvinced by some of the presentations from Verdant Isle on their plans to mitigate the environmental damage of the project.
“They focused on coral relocation, even after we presented them with statistics that show how difficult this is,” said Lilly Langevin.
Connor Childs said he was also sceptical about the viability of coral relocation.
The five students, Lyons, Langevin, Somerville, Childs and Steff Mcdermot, raised numerous concerns about the project which they said they believed was unsuitable for Grand Cayman.
They highlighted the reefs that would be lost, the threat to adjacent reefs and marine life and the impact on Cayman’s reputation as a dive destination.
Members of the Verdant Isle team have been meeting with various community groups over the past few days. Bayley told the Cayman Compass this week he was willing to meet with people on all sides of the debate and wanted to be transparent.
A planned meeting with the Cruise Port Referendum Cayman Group was called off, however, after the campaign group requested that the meeting be rescheduled until Verdant Isle or government released more substantive information on the project, including the full designs and updated business case.