Swimmers of all ages took to the water off Eden Rock Sunday afternoon to support the conservation of the popular George Town dive and snorkel site.
Led by organiser Rory Joe McDonough, around 60 people participated in the Eden Rock Solidarity Swim, which involved swimming roughly 150 metres from the shoreline and back, to show their love for the spot.
“We’re just a group of concerned citizens, as well as residents on island, that are coming together just to show some support for the reefs, to show some appreciation for one of the massive draws that this island has to offer, to recognise that it is a place worth fighting for,” McDonough told the Cayman Compass Sunday.
He said while the swim was not organised to make a political statement against the $200 million cruise berthing and port project, the issues of protecting the site and the port development could not be separated.
“I chose to make this focus more about what we appreciate and what we have, as opposed to making it an outright political statement,” he added.
While the swim carried with it a serious message for those who joined hands in the effort, the kids taking part in the event, it seemed, were just happy to have fun in the water.
This is part of the message McDonough said he wanted to send to government – that people get joy from visiting the area.
“People care about the reefs. People care about having a natural environment, a clean environment, world-class reefs, recreational diving that brings people in from around the world. This is a very famous spot, and to just throw it away so callously for more T-shirt sales in town just doesn’t make any sense,” said McDonough.
Government has said previously that dive sites like Eden Rock would not be impacted by the project.
However, McDonough said a 2015 environmental impact assessment showed that silt will make its way to the South Church Street sites. In the absence of new reports, that is the finding the public has to work with, he said. “We have not seen anything that would convince us that this will not be affected by the silt dredging,” he added.
On Wednesday, a judicial review brought by Cruise Port Referendum Cayman member Shirley Roulstone is set to begin. She has challenged the referendum on the cruise berthing project, saying the question set by government was biased, and updated reports were needed before the vote could progress. She also challenged the timing of the vote.
The referendum originally was planned for 19 Dec. 2019, but the court delayed the vote to hear Roulstone’s case. The Solidarity Swim initially had been scheduled for 19 Dec., but was postponed due to bad weather.
CPR member Michelle Lockwood, who was among those that attended Sunday’s swim, said it was a community event and a great way for those who cannot participate in the referendum to show their support for the environment.
“There are some Caymanians that are still concerned about this, that aren’t registered to vote yet or might have missed the mark, as well as a lot of community people, kids that are underage. So, this is a really amazing way to be involved and let these people have an opportunity to voice their concerns,” she said.
Caymanian student Chris Fletcher said he was happy to be involved in the swim.
“I just feel it’s important to come out with people who have a similar mindset … about the whole issue. It’s just like coming together for a good cause, the environment, and to appreciate the beauty that Cayman has to offer,” Fletcher said