The Central Caribbean Marine Institute, based on Little Cayman, is adding its voice to objectors who oppose plans to build a resort with over-water bungalows on the island’s South Hole Sound.
In a statement issued Thursday, 12 Aug., the research, education and marine conservation institution said it rarely comments on individual development proposals, but in this instance, feels the proposed development “has the potential to impact the entire local marine ecosystem”.
Peppercorn Investments Ltd., owned by Bill Maines, Matthew Wight and Naul Bodden, is applying for planning permission and a coastal works permit for the construction of the resort, at the site of the current Kingston Bight Beach Bar at South Hole Sound.
Several local residents in Little Cayman have vocally opposed the development, and the Little Cayman District Committee of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands has launched a petition objecting to the plan.
CCMI said the proposed development is within a no-take ‘marine reserve’ area, and pointed out that marine reserves are one of the “few positive solutions in the fight to protect future marine biodiversity”.
It said for South Hole Sound to be given marine reserve status, “the site has been a) surveyed for biodiversity and deemed worthy of additional protections due to ecological significance, and b) approved for protection by the Cayman Islands Government via the Marine Reserve process.”
“To ignore this marine protection designation by developing within the coastal/marine zone, directly goes against the intentions of the marine protection laws in the Cayman Islands, as well as creating a troubling precedence.”
CCMI also stated that the area where the proposed 542-feet dock, along which 19 overwater bungalows would be built, is an important feeding ground for bonefish, turtles, rays and sharks, as well as being a nursery for juvenile reef fish and sharks.
“The dredging, drilling, and construction of this dock and its water bungalows will inevitably have an impact on this important ecosystem,” CCMI said in its statement. “If approved, the construction of this site will also potentially have a damaging impact on the entirety of South Hole Sound.”
Based on its monitoring of Little Cayman’s reefs over 23 years, CCMI said the local reefs are already under stress from a variety of natural and man-made impacts, “and in order to sustain biodiversity, we must promote protection policies and minimize additional sources of pressure”.
The CCMI statement also said it was likely that stony coral tissue loss disease eventually would spread from Grand Cayman to Little Cayman, which, added to increased environmental stress via dredging and construction within this marine protected area, could be “catastrophic” for the island.
It added that the “ecological damage that will be inflicted on the marine environment in Little Cayman from the overwater bungalow/dock construction goes against the local environmental marine protection policies and is in direct opposition to the biggest threats facing Little Cayman’s marine systems: climate change, pollution, and increased anthropogenic activity”.
“Sustainable development is imperative throughout the Cayman Islands but especially for Little Cayman, where limited development has proven to result in a healthy marine environment, which is in stark contrast to many islands in the Caribbean,” CCMI said.
One of the Peppercorn owners, Matthew Wight, has told the Compass that the marine life and surrounding environment by the proposed development is “of utmost importance” to him and his fellow shareholders, and they do not believe the sea life in the area will be adversely affected by the project.
He said Peppercorn would “be happy to work with the National Trust or any other relevant body on this project to ensure the environment would not be negatively affected”.
Comments on the coastal works application for the project can be submitted, by 13 Aug. 2021, to Cabinet by emailing the Chief Officer of the Ministry of Sustainability and Climate Resiliency at [email protected].