Tourists flock here from all over the world to dive and snorkel our breathtaking reefs, but our stunning undersea paradise faces increasing threats.
These range from overfishing, pollution, climate change, and invasive species, to agricultural runoff and ocean acidification.
As we mark World Oceans Day (8 June), we take a look at the state of our reefs, and what can be done to save them for future generations.
“There are plenty of reasons for concern, but there are also plenty of reasons for hope, and Cayman is fortunate enough to be in a position to utilize that hope and do something about it,” said Department of Environment Deputy Director Tim Austin.
Three decades of marine parks have served the country well, he told Cayman 27, but times are changing.
“The marine parks, or the marine protected areas that we put in were fairly advanced in 1986 when they went in, but today, they’ve really lagged behind. We haven’t really been able to keep pace with the development and the pressures that are building on the environment,” he said.
Thirty years ago, climate change wasn’t even a blip on the radar. Now, the DOE said it’s a major concern for the health of our coral reefs, as it appears another bleaching event is likely this year.
“The el niño southern oscillation is likely to continue to have impacts on the temperature this year, and we are expecting to see elevated temperatures and indeed some bleaching occurring,” said Mr. Austin.
Last year, sharks and rays joined the list of protected species under the National Conservation Law. Mr. Austin said moves like these help maintain the natural order of things in the wild.
“Apex predators really are essential for healthy native systems, these top predators that basically control the system from the top down,” he said.
He told Cayman 27 the DOE’s proposed marine parks enhancements will help build on the successes of the last 30 years, and ensure there will still be something worth protecting as time marches on.
“The efforts that we are putting in to enhance those are a really going to make a significant contribution to the protection of the oceans if we can get these through,” he said.
The DOE said the new National Conservation Law’s parts four and six coming into place have been a giant stride for the management of our native wildlife. These have given conservation officers more power to enforce the law.