Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fishing ban extended for the Nassau Grouper

BYM Marine Environment News
December 17, 2011

Dr. Guy Harvey applauds decision but says more needs to be done.
A groundswell of public support generated by Guy Harvey¹s latest film The Mystery of the Grouper Moon has prompted the Marine Conservation Board of the Cayman Islands to extend a ban on fishing the Nassau grouper spawning aggregation site near Little Cayman.

The Board, this week, voted to extend the current moratorium another eight years after reviewing extensive research conducted by REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) and Oregon State University and a public education campaign supported by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) and the Cayman Islands Department of Environment (DOE). The existing ban, in place since 2003, was due to expire at the end of the year. The penalty for catching Nassau grouper in a spawning aggregation site between November and March is up to one year in prison or up to $500,000 in fines.

"The Cayman Islands are celebrating the 25 anniversary since the formation of the first marine park here, so it is fitting that such a strong conservation effort has been made by the MCB and that common sense has prevailed," said Dr. Harvey.

In filming the research work being conducted by REEF, Guy Harvey and award-winning filmmaker George Schellenger created a compelling and informative 45-minute documentary The Mystery of the Grouper Moon. The film's purpose was to document the research and make the results available in layman's language to the residents of the Cayman Islands. The documentary (for a preview go to was shot entirely in the Cayman Islands and was supported by REEF and the DOE. The GHOF also supported the education campaign with custom artwork.
More work, however, needs to be done, according to Dr. Harvey, an internationally celebrated marine artist and a professor of marine biology, who makes his home in the Cayman Islands.  See the whole story here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Plastic-free Saturdays begin

Caymanian Compass
December 7, 2011

Beginning this weekend, every second Saturday of each month will be plastic bag-free days in the Cayman Islands. 

Last year, local supermarkets replaced their nondegradable plastic shopping bags with biodegradable alternatives and started charging 5 cents per shopping bags in a bid to cut down on the number of bags ending up in Cayman’s landfill. 

That first phase of the Cayman BECOME campaign brought an initial reduction of as much as 80 per cent in the number of plastic bags sold in supermarkets. Prior to that, an estimated 12 million plastic bags were being disposed of every year in Grand Cayman. 

Now the Corporate Green Team Network is embarking on the next phase to cut down on the amount of plastic finding its way to Mount Trashmore.

Starting this Saturday, 10 December, on every second Saturday of every month, supermarkets will not hand out any plastic shopping bags, in a bid to encourage shoppers to either bring their own bags from home or purchase environmentally-friendly, re-usable bags. Read the whole story here.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Eco-initiatives in the Caribbean

The Boston Globe
December 4, 2011

The new spa at Jalousie Plantation on St. Lucia was built from indigenous woods.

Hotels around the globe are making significant efforts to "go green." Though many Caribbean resorts have been slow to embrace the green movement, the majority of them have spent the last few years playing catch-up. Whether it’s relying on local farmers and fishermen for produce, creating awareness about marine ecology, using earth-friendly construction materials, or offering travelers “give-back’’ initiatives, it’s clear the islands are engaged in some impressive environmental activity. Here is a look at programs aimed at maintaining and protecting Caribbean landscapes.


With more conscientious chefs putting down roots, the reliance on local farms has blossomed. Eric Ripert’s Blue at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman (Seven Mile Beach, 345-943-9000, www.ritz carries a “fish fund’’ to patronize local fishermen and farmers, and offers 20 seats at “Lunch in the Kitchen,’’ where the chef de cuisine shares the highlights of the catch of the day. Read whole story here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why Republican attacks on environment laws are flawed

The Guardian
Tuesday 15 November 2011

In recent months, some in Congress have been waging a whole-scale war against the Environmental Protection Agency. By now it has reached comical dimensions, with three separate bills aimed at preventing a so-called EPA "dust rule" that has never even existed.

The spectacle would indeed be funny, if it wasn't deadly serious. Republicans in Congress and in the GOP presidential debates are seeking to defund an already cash-strapped EPA under the pretense of caring about the federal deficit and are trying to hamper the agency by arguing that its rules hurt the economy.

Quite to the contrary. We have 40 years of data to show that a cleaner environment goes hand in hand with solid economic growth. Read the whole story here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Losing ecosystems will be costly

By: Norma Connolly |
Caymanian Compass
15 September, 2011

Putting an economic value on the Cayman Islands’ ecosystem and its marine wildlife could be the argument that convinces the government and opponents to conservation of the importance of preserving the environment, attendees of a public meeting on marine parks heard this week.

John Turner of Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences, who is working with the Department of Environment on a study of the Cayman Islands’ marine parks, said a study of the value of the world’s ecosystems in 1997 showed they were worth US$33 trillion per year, almost double the whole world’s annual gross domestic product.

He said a rough calculation of the value of single stingray locally was US$600,000 per year and that coral reefs were valued at about US$6,000 per hectare per year.

He was responding to a suggestion from audience member Suzanne Bothwell, who said if people understood the economic impact of losing the local marine ecosystem, they would more fully support conservation measures. Read more...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What if the Sea Level Rose?

Hannah Reid
Caymanian Compass

Every native of Cayman Brac knows where to go when their island is threatened with rising waters. Even to this day, Brackers will retreat to the bluff during hurricanes.

But what if the sea level rose, not temporarily due to a hurricane, but permanently as a result of climate change?

While the 150 foot bluff gives Cayman Brac an average height above sea level of 56 feet, Little Cayman only has an average height above sea level of approximately nine feet and Grand Cayman is barely out of the water with an average elevation of only six feet.

According to a report released in 2010 by the National Climate Change Committee, titled The Green Paper: Towards a Climate Change Policy, even a moderate increase in sea level could have a considerable impact on these low-lying islands.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Save Cayman out in force

Cayman News Service
May 28, 2011

Campaigners aiming to protect the North Sound from proposed dredging projects and other major developments that could threaten the local environment were out in force Saturday at Grand Cayman’s local supermarkets collecting more signatures for the petition and recruiting people to assist with what is growing into a major green movement. Captain Bryan Ebanks, who is spearheading the campaign, said that the support for Save Cayman is growing and more and more people are pledging their support. Following a week of radio appearances and meetings to help promote this weekend’s push, Ebanks said he was really pleased that more and more people were willing to step up to the plate and say enough is enough.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hotline to protect nesting turtles

Cayman News Service
May 11, 2011

While sea turtle remains a popular national dish in the Cayman Islands, the public is being asked to join a world wide effort to halt the decline of these endangered species. The Department of Environment (DoE) is appealing to the public to aid in the recovery of Cayman Islands sea turtle nesting populations by reporting turtle nests to a new DoE Turtle Hotline 938-NEST (938-6378) whenever sea turtle tracks or nests are found. The goal is to find all turtle nests and protect them from the time they are laid until they hatch two months later.

DoE Research Officer Dr Janice Blumenthal explained that during the turtle nesting season DoE staff and volunteers patrol beaches four days per week finding and protecting nests but they are not able to visit every beach every day so rely on the public to assist them.

She added, “While sea turtles spend the majority of their lives in the ocean, from May to November females make their way on shore to lay their eggs. On the beach, nesting turtles, turtle nests, and baby turtles are extremely vulnerable. We hope that with the new and easy to remember Turtle Hotline number, members of the public will be better able to assist in sea turtle conservation efforts.”

Data collected by DoE over the past decade show that Cayman Islands sea turtle nesting has begun to increase but many nests are in highly developed areas such as Seven Mile Beach. This makes nests susceptible to threats such as lights near the beach, beach driving, heavy equipment operation, bonfires, and poaching. The Turtle Hotline makes it possible for members of the public to help by alerting DoE when they spot turtle nests or see a nesting turtle or baby turtles in danger.

In addition to reporting nests, beachfront property owners and residents can assist by following the DoE’s guidelines for making beaches safe for turtles:

  • Reduce beach lighting: turn off, redirect, or shield any lights that can be seen from the beach during the turtle nesting season (contact DoE for more information). Lights near the beach can lead baby turtles away from the sea and result in their death. Lighting may also deter nesting females from coming ashore.
  • Remain quiet and stay at a distance if you see a nesting turtle. Flashlights, loud noises, or getting too close might cause the turtle to abandon her nesting attempt.
  • Remove obstacles such as beach chairs and recreational equipment from the beach at night.
  • Do not drive on the beach—this can crush turtle nests. Contact DoE before using beach cleaning machines or heavy equipment.
  • Protect beach vegetation. Vegetation blocks light from buildings, stabilizes the beach, and encourages turtles to nest.
  • Do not have bonfires on the beach in the summer—use a designated BBQ pit.
  • Do not rake or cover turtle tracks. Department of Environment staff and volunteers use the tracks to find and protect nests.
  • Call DoE’s Turtle Hotline if you find a turtle track, nest, or baby turtle.
  • Remember that sea turtles are protected under Cayman Islands Law and turtle poachers face steep fines and imprisonment. If you see persons harming or taking sea turtles or their eggs call DoE Enforcement or the police (911).

Contact Janice Blumenthal at DoE for more information or to volunteer for the Marine Turtle Beach Monitoring Programme. DoE Turtle Hotline: 938-NEST. General: 949-8469. Emergencies: 916-4271 or 911. Email:

Earth Day celebrated in style

Caymanian Compass
May 5, 2011

Earth Day was celebrated in style this year at an event at Camana Bay that brought together the traditional evening market and green businesses.

Participants included more than 40 exhibitors, ranging from those offering green products and services to not-for-profit organisations working to raise awareness of Cayman’s environment.

The pairing of the event with the quarterly evening market, which took place on Market Street, was a great fit, as locally grown produce has a much reduced carbon footprint compared to food transported to Cayman.

The main festivities took place on The Crescent, where exhibitors displayed everything from solar panels and information on environmentally friendly homes to environmental tours, art and photography. There were also vendors with natural products and even fashion labels with clothes made from environmentally conscious fabrics. The youngsters were not forgotten, with activities to keep them occupied while parents spent some time educating themselves on how to make a difference to the environment. Read the whole story here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Longer grouper ban needed

(CNS): Fishermen on Cayman Brac are finding it hard to believe that the nine year ban on catching Nassau grouper at the spawning holes during spawning season has not resulted in a significant increase in groupers, but as Department of Environment staff explained to them at a meeting Monday night, replenishment of grouper populations is a slow process and an extended ban is necessary to ensure that the last viable spawning aggregation (SPAG) site in the Cayman Islands – in the West End of Little Cayman – does not collapse. The fishermen, on the other hand, say they have done their part to preserve the grouper population by observing the ban for nine years and are asking the decision makers to remove it and reintroduce catch limits.

Research at the Little Cayman grouper hole has shown that the groupers which gather together in great numbers to spawn live around that island – there are no great migrations of grouper from elsewhere for spawning. Scientists have also found that the larvae released are brought back by the current, and so repopulates the same island. We cannot, therefore, rely on SPAGs in other countries on the region to restock our grouper population, and they don’t have much stock left in any case, DoE's Research Manager Phil Bush noted.

The grouper holes were first closed in 2003 in what was planned to be alternate years of being open for fishing. However, Bush told people packed into the conference room at the District Administration Building, it was determined that it was “mathematically impossible for the population to replenish itself if the large numbers of fish, especially the big spawners, were taken out.”

Read the whole story here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

DOE: No environmental impact assessment required

January 26, 2011
Cayman 27 News

Louisiana State University Professor, Dr. Harry H. Roberts, said dredging a channel in the North Sound could change it significantly and many others are saying that government needs to do its homework before the digging starts.

Dr. Roberts did his dissertation work in the North Sound and he said it’s hard to say exactly what potential environmental impacts the dredging may have.

“Anytime you open up a closed system, or semi-closed system like the North Sound, it does have some implications,” Dr. Roberts said.

Among those implications, he said, are changes to wave activity, which could lead to rocky times for one of Cayman’s biggest tourist attractions –Stingray City.

“Opening a channel could in fact shift those sands and perhaps even disperse the sand so that the habitat that you have there now may disappear. I don't know that's the case, but it could be the case,” Dr. Roberts said.

Premier the Honourable McKeeva Bush said last week he wants proof that dredging a channel would hurt North Sound.

“Someone will need to show me scientifically why what I’m saying shouldn’t happen,” the Premier said. Read the whole story here.