Thankfully in the face of rising concerns over Cayman's environment, many community members and organisations are stepping up to do their part. Read our guide to Cayman's Green Scene, which outlines current environmental issues and the initiatives in place to combat them.
As of 2021, Cayman's Environmental Protection Fund (EFP) has grown from $57 million in 2020 to approximately $57.9 million in 2021. In 2020, approximately $1.2 million was allocated towards the Green Iguana Cull Project, which you can read more about on our Pest Control page. At of the end of 2020, the Department of Environment (DoE) have predicted cullers have successfully removed about 1.25 million green iguanas from the Island. A further $70,000 was allocated from the fund in 2020 for landfill remediation works, however further plans were halted due to complications of COVID-19. The new 2021 EFP budget will come with new allocations, hopefully put towards the aid of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (STCLD).
COP26: Revamping Cayman's National Climate Change Policy and Strategy (2022)
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In 2011, the National Climate Change Committee in
the Cayman Islands drafted the 'National Climate Change Policy and
Strategy'. However, as of 2021, we still have not seen this agreement
come to fruition, nor was it ever passed by Cabinet. Therefore, this
scheme has remained in the 'draft' phase for the best part of a decade.
In the past, some stakeholders in Cayman have argued that the policy was never enacted due to lack of guidance from our parent nation, the UK, on how to implement it without appropriate funding and/or political motivation. Yet, it is questionable whether the agreement was actually stagnated due to Caymanian stakeholders' lack of concern towards climate change. We still see the absence of discern today; climate change is rarely seen by big developers or planning committees on-Island as detrimental to building a structure - many recent developments are moving closer to the seashore, not considering how rising earth temperatures and sea levels may cause damage to these properties soon after they are built.
The COP26 UN Annual Climate Change Summit in Glasgow, however, placed the Cayman Islands in a red-handed position of full responsibility for making sure such policies are signed and implemented. However, as other nations work together, the UK cannot help but show concern towards their Overseas Territory. Cayman therefore ended up agreeing to a risk assessment of our climate to be carried out by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas). Governor Martyn Roper announced that he has been provided CI$123,250 in UK Government funding to facilitate a redrafting of Cayman’s National Climate Change Policy, based on current circumstances and also COP26's goals. Such aims include:
- to commit at least 19 countries to end public financing for fossil fuel projects by the end of 2022
- to keep the rise in global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius (and secure a global net zero economy)
- to protect natural habitats
- to mobilise at least $100 billion in climate finance per year, finalise the Paris Rulebook that makes The Paris Agreement (2016) operational and more. You can learn more about COP26’s targets here.
Throughout the conference, Cayman acknowledged the importance of making changes locally to allow for a continued improvement of global circumstances. We hope for there to be a report of Cayman’s climate change impacts published sometime in March 2022. There will then be a meeting in Q2 of 2022 to discuss how to implement the assessment into a new drafting of Cayman’s National Climate Change Policy and Strategy – the highest risks will be highlighted. Another final, summarised report is then expected to be produced by Cefas in September 2022 – which will be publicly accessible.
Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD)
Caymanians and marine conservationists are focusing their attention on the rapidly-increasing outbreak of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (STCLD). STCLD is a parasitic disease that has already affected over 20 species of Caribbean coral. It first emerged in 2014 in Florida, and was originally suspected to be a bacterial pathogen spreading through Cayman’s waterways. However, new research as of August 2021 has found that STCLD may not be caused by bacteria, but a viral disease called Zooxanthellae that releases infectious substances.
Although the disease has not yet made an appearance on corals in Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, SCTLD is spreading rapidly among Grand Cayman’s coral reefs. According to the Cayman Islands Government and the DoE, the infection is spreading predominantly between the public moorings 'Delia’s Delight’ (19° 21.537' N, -81° 14.718' W) and westward to ‘Conch Point Reef’ (19° 23.6238’ N, -81° 24.003’ W). They are becoming increasingly concerned about the disease's spread towards the west end of Seven Mile Beach.
Disease Spread Record:
13th March 2021: the disease has spread to the northwestern coast of Grand Cayman – it has now reached the Macabuca dive site.
7th April 2021: the disease is spreading to the eastern coast of Grand Cayman. DoE research officers have also observed the spread along the coastline in North Side.
27th April 2021: the disease has spread to North West Point and is continuing along the west coast, towards Seven Mile Beach.
5th May 2021: the disease has now spread to East End - Dragon's Lair and Snapper Hole off Colliers, and Fishtank and Valley of the Dolls off Spotter Bay.
26th May 2021: the disease has been spotted at Anchor Reef off of Smith Cove (the southwestern coast).
2nd June 2021: the disease has been spotting around East End near Armchair Reef within the southwest point of Grand Cayman.
23rd June 2021: the disease is now affecting species of pillar coral - one of the rarest of corals in the Cayman Islands. SCTLD has been observed in an East End dive site (also known as 'Top Secret').
19th July 2021: the disease has now spread from West Bay throughout the island's northern edge all the way to Frank Sound's eastern edge.
9th September 2021: the disease has now spread from Ron's Wall, through to Kent's Caves and past Little Table Rock, all the way around to Eagle Ray Rock and past Armchair Reef. It is also been found to stretch around the West Bay shoreline, from Ghost Mountain, past Macabuca and all the way to the Doc Poulson Wreck and Mitch Miller Reef (mooring has been removed here).
21st September 2021: the disease has now spread from the Breakers Wall all the way down to the Beach Bay shoreline.
26th September 2021: the disease was spotted by the GT Port/Eden Rock Diving Center.
How You Can Help:
The best effort you can take to combat SCTLD is to disinfect your dive gear. Modes of transmission are much higher when divers are in the water, as bacteria and other microorganisms live inside divers’ gear, especially wetsuits and gloves. These pathogens spread from the gear into the water, and the effect is even worse if divers touch the corals directly.
To combat the spread, the DoE and volunteers have been working to distribute antibiotics to infected corals, with intent of preventing the spread of the disease. Make sure that you take proper steps to disinfect your dive gear as we all work together to prevent the growth of this disease.
Disinfect all equipment and boat bilge water with 1% bleach – similar to protocols of a viral disease spread (like COVID-19, when we were constantly washing our hands whenever we came into contact with external contaminants).
Email: Tammi.Warrender@gov.ky to volunteer to help with the project or to seek further information about SCTLD.
Submit any photos you find of SCTLD to the Cayman Islands Coral Watch Facebook page.
You can also send a text message to the SCTLD Hotline: 1 (345) 926 0680.
Preserving the Mangroves
Mangrove trees are often known to be the 'first line of defence' against natural disasters for coastal countries. Not only do they protect our coastline from flooding due to rising sea levels, but they also conserve carbon, maintain good water quality by filtering sediments, as well as provide biodiversity hotspots for crabs, sea turtles, birds, fish and many other species - some of which are endangered. As outlined in the National Conservation Act, section 17, the following mangrove species are considered as protected wherever they are naturally growing, or in cases where they have been restored: Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), White Mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa), Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans), Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus).
Mangroves are arguably one of the most important ecosystems in the Cayman Islands, forming the framework of seasonally and largely flooded wetlands. Mangroves are what protect Cayman's coastline from significant environmental damage, erosion, as well as lowering the chance of us being affected by tidal floods.
According to the Cayman Islands Mangrove Rangers,
How You Can Help:
The Cayman Islands Mangrove Rangers are an organisation aiming to protect the Islands' remaining mangrove forests. They currently train young Caymanians to understand the importance of preserving the mangroves in a sustainable way. They also collect data on the human impacts upon mangrove ecosystems in the Cayman Islands through intense observation, and they then report these results to the Department of Environment (DoE).
Click here to view the National Conservation Council's Species Conservation Plan for Mangroves.
Lionfish began appearing off Cayman’s coast in 2008 as a foreign, invasive species. Once lionfish are introduced into an environment, it is near-impossible to drive them away without strict eradication efforts, as we in Cayman have unfortunately found. That is why, in Cayman, we have introduced ‘culling’ – a control programme to reduce the lionfish population. Lionfish mass-produce at unprecedented rates – females can release up to 30,000 eggs every four days. They are voracious predators that devour small, juvenile fish and crustaceans in large quantities, and they compete with native species for space and food.
How You Can Help:
The Cayman Islands United Lionfish League (CULL) is an organisation that was formed to raise awareness for the need to cull lionfish to protect our precious reef fish. To learn more, see their Facebook page.
Learn more about the Lionfish University programme and which of Cayman's dive operators are involved.
A majority of on-Island dive operators offer lionfish culling courses. DiveTech offer a DoE Lionfish Culling course for $100. Learn more by visiting this page. Ocean Frontiers also offer a Lionfish Hunter Certification, which you can sign up for here. Ambassador Divers also offer a PADI lionfish spearing/culling certification, as do numerous other dive operators on-Island.
Supplemental Stingray Feedings
Stingray City is a known ecotourist destination for those looking to travel to Cayman. Daily feedings supported by keen marine junkies have resulted in stingrays consistently returning to this spot, just off of the Sandbar in Grand Cayman.
The Stingray City Sandbar (SCS) has been provided with supplemental food since 1986. As one of the world’s heavily visited wildlife encounters, Caymanians have had to make sure stingrays continue to return – and how have we done that? We keep feeding them!
When the Cayman Islands entered lockdown, however, people were not coming to the SCS, which meant the amount of squid and other food being distributed was basically zero. Therefore, since the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, the numbers of stingrays have decreased from over 100 stingrays at the site, to approximately 60. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation census in November 2020 found that the food provided on a daily basis was consistent with a population of between 45-50 rays. The government were quick to fund water-sports operators $80,000 to continually feed the rays between November 2020-February 2021. As of February 2021, the not-for-profit Stingray Feeding and Interaction Programme will now receive $27,000 per month to increase the amount of food being fed to the stingrays at the WIZ (Wildlife Interactive Zone). This funding will continue at a rate of 20 trips to the SCS a week, up until June 2021, with the hopes of improving the stingray population.
The stingray population at the SCS is not 100% reliant on having a consistent food source. However, the biggest contributor is human interaction. Stingrays had been travelling to the Sandbar for years, however, the increase in squid on the weekends perhaps contributed to their continual return.
How You Can Help:
Although it is unclear how much of a stingray's diet comes from us, they are still able to forage for their own food. However, if food is not present at the SCS, due to over-fishing or lack of human presence, the stingrays will leave the area to forage food elsewhere, which is what we are trying to avoid.
Go to Stingray City - see, visit and feed the stingrays, and they will thank you! Please remember to handle them carefully - visit this page for a full guide to taking care of stingrays.
Local residents have raised concern towards the increased amount of debris seen in the waters around the FIN development site. Once local resident Rachel Osbourne expressed her concern to FIN, they were quick to hire a local dive team to clean up the area. There were also, however, concerns not only about debris in the water, but also silt from removing the ironshore. In February 2021, it was reported that silt from the FIN construction site had reached and spread across the coast by approximately several hundred feet. Indeed, general litter, especially on the sides of the road and across the road from construction sites is an ongoing problem in Cayman. On any given day you will find roads littered with plastic bottles, styrofoam food containers, glass bottles, plastic bags and other rubbish lining the road.
How You Can Help:
Although developers have agreed to monitor the debris and waste around the site and where it may end up, we are still reminded that beach clean ups are very important in our community to maintaining the beauty and health of our beaches.
Plastic Free Cayman host regular beach clean ups. They often post upcoming clean ups on their website, so be sure to head there to keep in the loop.
Protect Our Feature also holds regular beach clean ups, which you can follow at their Facebook page.
Finally, we can all do our part. Don't litter. Teach your children not to litter. Take a small plastic shopping bag with you when you got for a walk and pick up litter that you see.
Sargussum on Cayman's Beaches
Sargassum occurs naturally on beaches, albeit in smaller quantities. It plays a role in beach nourishment and is an important element of shoreline stability. During decomposition there will inevitably be a smell and insects around. The experience in locations that have left the sargassum on the beach is that it will eventually get washed away or buried in the next storm, with rain easing the smell. Leaving sargassum on the beach has proven to be the simplest and lowest cost approach, also helping to nourish the beach and stabilise the shoreline.
How You Can Help:
It is always preferable to leave sargassum where it is, if possible. Where this is not possible or feasible, the guidelines below should be followed. Removal of sargassum by mechanical means cannot be undertaken without consultation with the DoE and issuance of a letter of approval, which will outline any conditions to be followed. In some instances it may be necessary for a member of DoE staff to be present to check for wildlife e.g. turtle nests, prior to any clearing;
Least intrusive practices are preferred – hand raking is preferable to machinery. Permission is not required from DoE for raking the beach. Extreme care should be taken during turtle nesting and hatching season, with peak activity spanning from May to November.
Removal of sargassum should be from and to agreed areas only, and equipment should use the same route on to and off the beach to prevent destroying beach vegetation or turtle nests.
Any attempts to clean Sargassum must be undertaken extremely carefully as its removal can have a very destabilizing effect on beaches and can result in worsening erosion through the removal of sand, particularly if machinery is used.
Solar Energy & Recycling
Solar Power & Grid-Tie Systems
Created in 2009 with attempts to reduce our carbon footprint and provide work to the small business sector, the CORE programme consists also of the FIT (Feed-In-Tarriffs) programme, which has been in place since 2011 but has received many revisions over the years.
The FIT scheme is used for anyone who has installed renewable energy sources with a capacity of 5MW or 2kW. FIT payments are made based on a meter reading you send to your supplier to ensure you are not undercharged or overcharged for your energy use.
The Renewable Energy Auction Scheme (REAS)
As of October 2021, in alignment with Cayman's National Energy Policy, OfReg have announced that they will commence a new 'auction scheme' for businesses and/or investors, allowing them to 'bid' against each other through long-term renewable energy contracts at low prices. The policy is aiming to reach for a 70% threshold of electricity supply being generated from Cayman's renewable resources by 2037. Currently, Cayman is at a 5% level of renewable energy supply (10 MW).
Many benefits have been said to come from such a scheme, as it has proven successful in other countries. This includes the UK, who launched their Contracts-for-Difference (CfD) renewable energy scheme back in 2014. As of September 2021, the UK have offered their highest-valued auction yet, offering 55 million pounds (GBP) towards offshore wind projects and 24 million GBP towards floating offshore wind turbines. This contract was offered to ensure the UK reaches it's target set: to reserve 40 GW (gigawatts) of renewable energy by 2030.
In the Cayman Islands, the auction scheme therefore aims to encourage large-scale investments in renewable energy to not only drive economic growth and create job opportunities, but to also secure a solar and/or renewable energy plan for Cayman's future, slowly growing through a 'pipeline of auctions'.
We anticipate the REAS to open in the first quarter of 2022, managed by OfReg. OfReg hope to have achieved 140 MW of solar-generated electricity by 2030, where they already have a 25MW solar renewable energy allocation for 2021, albeit a small amount. They are also aiming for an increase of 30MW in wind power (from utility scale solar power) by 2028, without the caveat of increased monthly utility costs for residents.
Auction dates and amounts/renewable, 'low-cost energy' contracts up for grabs will be announced sixty days before each auction.
How to Move to Green Energy:
If you’re considering moving to solar electricity, the CUC CORE system is a good way of being charged fairly for your energy use, as all of the electricity you use is sold to CUC, and then channelled straight into the grid and redistributed.
You can also sell your excess electricity to reduce waste to CUC, built at a ‘demand-rate’ structure. This way, you will only be charged for the rate in which you consume energy. Their newest Distributed Energy Resources (DER) programme allows you to produce and consume your OWN energy, generated by your own renewable energy system.
Also, see our page on Solar Systems for a list of Solar companies and panel installers.
The Dump & Improper Disposal of Batteries
In January 2021, a fire broke out at the George Town landfill due to an old cell phone battery. Although a small surface fire, workers will have to keep on top of potential re-ignition in future.
NOTE: To learn more about the newest efforts to remediate The Dump, Project Regen, please see our page on The George Town Landfill.
How You Can Help:
Batteries should not be disposed of as you do with other items. Instead of chucking them in the bin and mixing them with your other materials, such as paper and plastics, take lead acid batteries to a garage or any retailer that sells lead acid batteries. You can also use a battery recycling bin, which are located on Island in West Bay, George Town, Central George Town, Industrial Park, East End and more. For a list of detailed battery recycling bins, see this page.
See also our Recycling Locations page for details on where you can recycle other items.
Learn more about the green communities in Cayman that you can get involved in.Read More