By Christopher Tobutt
A big increase both in marine park area and the scope of protection was announced by the government so that future generations can benefit from Cayman’s natural reserves. The new rules significantly increase the area of near-shore waters dedicated to no-take protection, from 14.8 percent up to 45.2 percent, amongst a range of other rules and laws aimed protection of the natural marine environment. It is hoped that the new measures will help to halt, or even reverse, the significant decline in fish numbers, their average size, and the variety of kinds of fish found in Cayman‘s waters.
The rules, together with a new brochure summarizing them which includes three clear maps of the different kinds of protected area in the seas around Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman were outlined during a recent press conference attended by Department of Environment Director, Gina Ebanks-Petrie, Port Authority Acting CEO Joseph Woods, Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin, and Minister of Environment.
In a printed statement, the aim of the new rules include increasing fish spillover from protected areas to non-protected areas; protecting healthy and productive habitat and ecosystem connectivity, and upgrading many areas already protected, for example, Marine Parks and Replenishment Zones becoming Marine Reserves, and extending protection from “shore to the deep terrace reef wall (up to 150 ft deep).
Mr. McLaughlin said: “I am pleased to speak today regarding the recently gazzeted regulations enhancing marine parks and protected areas. There is no doubt that this is important for the Cayman Islands both socially and economically,”
Recapping, Mr. McLaughlin said that the marine Parks came into force, following a period of public consultation, in 1986. In 2011 Cayman obtained UK Darwin funding for a comprehensive scientific review of the marine parks, as well as a public consultation on people’s views of what they wanted for the future. “Several rounds of extensive public consultation and ongoing local research occurred over the next few years, ending with the production of a plan in 2016 for the enhanced marine parks system,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Mr. Seymour said: “This project has been a long time coming and has taken years of research to reach the best possible outcome. People around the world depend on the ocean for their livelihood have had a front row seat for the dire…unprecedented change, and people in Cayman have not been spared in this regard.”
Ms Ebanks-Petrie said that the new rules address, “Important socioeconomic concern for our islands, ensuring that our fishery resources continue to be available for local consumption.”
The New brochure produced summary of the rules, and a clear map of the Cayman Islands and sister islands. There are several different categories:
• Marine Reserve, no taking of any marine life alive or dead, except catch-and-release fishing for tarpon, bonefish and permit.
• Environmental Zone: No taking of any marine life, alive or dead with no exceptions, No in-water activities, and no anchoring of any vessel
• Line Fishing Zone: Take of fish by hook and line only
• Shore line fishing zone.
• No-Diving Overlay Zone, - no SCUBA diving without permission, and the general rules of the underlying zone also apply.
• Spawning aggregation overlay zone.
• Wildlife Interaction Zone: No taking any marine life by any means, alive or dead. Only feed stingrays approved food, like squid or ballyhoo, and no selling fish food from boats.
• Port anchorage area No fishing, damaging natural resources in-water activity without permission of the Port.
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