The backlash continues, as opposition leader Ezzard Miller continued his pushes to have North Side’s no dive zones re-marked to his specifications.
The Department of Environment said the difference between the no dive zones as gazetted, and Mr. Miller’s suggestion of what the no dive zone boundaries should be are hundreds of feet apart. The DOE said if the zones are re-drawn to Mr. Miller’s specifications, divers would lose access to some spectacular dive sites, including Northern Lights and the world-famous and much-publicised Babylon.
Wayne Hasson of the Cayman Aggressor live-aboard vessel told Cayman 27 he was involved in installing more than 100 moorings in Cayman waters starting in the mid 80’s, and said none of them have ever been in the no dive zone.
“These dive sites have been promoted for all these years, they been promoted as a top dive site, people come to the Cayman Islands to visit those dive sites, and it would be absolutely a shame if they tried to change the no diving zones to include sites that we have invested a lot of time and money in promoting to the world,” said Mr. Hasson.
Mr. Hasson also strongly denied Mr. Miller’s claim that the Cayman Aggressor routinely violates the no dive zone, and has at times tied its stern line to coral heads.
Ash McKnight of GoPro Diving and CITA’s Watersports Association weighed in on the controversy.
“I totally agree with Mr. Miller that the no dive zones should be properly marked to advise the public. However it needs to stay the same as it is, not extended,” he told Cayman 27 in an email.
Now what was the impetus for these no dive zones in the first place? Red Sail Sports Operations Manager Rod McDowall remembers the tensions between divers and fishermen in the early 80’s.
“There was considerable damage being done to fishermen’s pots, that were done for various reasons, divers obviously being somewhat environmentally orientated were not happy to see pots and fish caught in traps and what not, so I know that there was a history there that they caused some antagonism,” said Mr. Miller.
Mr. McDowall said he’s surprised this issue is re-surfacing now in 2018, as he says tensions between the two groups have all but subsided over the last 20 years.
The National Conservation Council approved an enhanced marine parks plan back in 2016 which would include the creation of additional no dive zones in all three islands, and designate 40% of Cayman’s waters as no take zones. That plan has stalled.
The DOE said early this year that Cayman’s current marine parks system is becoming outdated.