By Staff Writer
New regulations to protect Cayman’s native animal, bird and plant species have been accompanied by heated debate over the penalties.
The new National Conservation (Alien Species) Regulations, 2022 were passed in November last year and came into effect a few days ago on February 3rd.
The new regulations which fall under the overarching National Conservation Act of 2013 carry severe penalties for violations ranging from CI$5,000 under the regulations, up to CI$500,000 or four years in jail under the broader National Conservation Act 2013.
The penalty under the overarching Act is one hundred times more severe than the fine stated in the regulations but is reserved for the most serious offences.
According to officials persons guilty of breaking the law are more likely to be slapped with the CI$5,000 fine under the new regulations. However, the possibility does exist for the imposition of the half-a-million-dollar penalty as defined in the National Conservation Act which has been on the books for the past ten years.
National Conservation Council(NCC) Chair, McFarlane Connolly said: “The National Conservation Council believes these Regulations represent a substantial win for our unique native and endemic plant and animal species which are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of invasive, alien species. We understand this can be an emotive topic on all sides, and we hope these Regulations will bring greater clarity to conservation practitioners, animal welfare groups, landowners, veterinarians and pet importers and owners.”
The Department of Environment (DoE) and the NCC have launched an intensive public awareness campaign surrounding the new regulations “to help the Cayman Islands community understand what the new Regulations mean and how they may impact households and businesses across our three islands.”
“A communications plan has been developed and is being deployed over the coming months to ensure key stakeholder groups, government entities, community organisations and, indeed, the wider Cayman Islands public can know everything they want to know about how these new Regulations will work,” Mr Connolly added.
The new regulations under the National Conservation (Alien Species) Regulations 2022 categorise and distinguish the native species being protected from those which pose a threat to them.
The Cayman Islands National Conservation Council has explained that the new regulations help to address threats to native flora and fauna. It introduces a prohibited species list, outlines the distinctions between domestic and feral animals, and further defines the procedures and allowable actions to control feral animals and other alien species to reduce the threat to native species, according to an official statement.
Native species are plants and animals which existed in the Cayman Islands prior to any humans having come here. These include our endemic species – those species which occur only in the Cayman Islands or on one or more of our three islands like the Grand Cayman Blue and Sister Islands Rock Iguanas and Cayman Parrots, as well as those species that, although not unique to the Cayman Islands, are found here naturally such as our Brown and Red-footed Boobies, sea grape trees and mangroves.
Prohibited Species are plants and animals which have been identified as posing exceptionally severe threats to the native species of the Cayman Islands.
Alien species are plants and animals which have been introduced to our islands either intentionally or accidentally through human intervention.
Invasive species are plants and animals which have been introduced to our islands either intentionally or accidentally through human intervention and pose a significant threat to our native species,
Feral species are those domestic or agricultural alien plants and animals which are living in “the wild” and do not have an identifiable owner. In the case of plants, the identifiable owner is the person cultivating them.
Image credit: NCC
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