An oft-stated truism is that the future of
a nation rests in the nurturing of its youth.
In a similar manner the future of many
living entities depends on its ability to foster offspring. Dampening that
ability would be a death knell to many species.
Clearly then the absence of marine
replenishment zones would be a negative situation. Many of the currently
endangered creatures would have no safehaven. Without any protection they would
likely be over-harvested by humans and ultimately result in serious
repercussions for Cayman’s ecosystem.
One fish that comes to mind as a possible
victim without the zones would be the Nassau Grouper. Already on the verge of
extinction, the grouper is a target of restaurants that serve them and
fishermen who make a living catching them.
Currently, the Marine Conservation Law
imposes rigid guidelines and penalties to discourage hunting the fish and
protect its known spawning sites. In fact there is an eight-year ban in place
on grouper fishing.
As Department of Environment officer
Bradley Johnson states, the zones are needed to ensure breeding
“By protecting these spawning grounds
results in more grouper and ensures groupers for future generations,” Johnson
said. “Groupers take up to eight years to become sexually mature. Research and
monitor is being carried out by the DOE on spawning sites, such as counting the
amount of fish that come, deploying current drifters to see where eggs are
being distributed and having technical divers explore deeper areas of the site
inaccessible on scuba.
“DOE began monitoring breeding grounds from
1987 to 2000. Data from all three Islands show a steady decline in all
measurements taken. Fishing in the spawning areas is simply not sustainable, it
profoundly jeopardises any chances of recovery if the populations are fished
below certain levels.”
The lack of marine zones would also heavily
impact the lobster and conch populations. It’s no secret both are mainstays of
Cayman culture and cuisine and the zones offer a place for the creatures to
safely breed for an extended period. Without such zones they could permanently
disappear due to over-harvesting.
Coral, too, could be affected. The lack of
zones and corresponding laws could see much of entities damaged and killed by
anchors, chains and lines dropped by unsuspecting or unscrupulous fishermen.
That scenario makes me wonder if there
would be even more indifference to sea life. As it is, many people illegally
fish the replenishment zones in search of catches that can be sold or served as
As a Caymanian, I have some understanding
as to the importance of the zones. Without them many of the creatures I grew up
learning about would be gone, along with the harmonious ecosystem we enjoy
Sadly not every resident respects nature
and what God has placed in the sea. The question may have started out being how
would marine life survive without safe zones. But the real dilemma is how would
the people of these islands fare without those areas.