Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that money can not be eaten. - Cree Indian Prophecy
A profound quote. It is haunting and heavy with truth. A cautionary warning, foreshadowing what is to come if we don’t recognize the devastating implications of man’s destruction of the environment. There is an urgency for us to stop and take a look around at the state of peril our environment is in. We need to examine the way we are living. Is it really worth compromising the intrinsic value of the land and sea for profit, greed, convenience and to serve man’s ego? Man has infinite wants with finite natural resources. Sustainable living is key to reversing and repairing the damage already inflicted upon the planet and it is fundamental for generations to come. This planet was neither designed nor created so that man could exploit, destroy and exhaust all the natural resources in the name of profit. However, money continues to have the ruling voice over everything and the environment pays the consequences for man’s greedy actions. In the end, money will be both pointless and useless if the damage to the planet reaches a point when it is irreparable. We will only have ourselves to blame. This planet deserves respect and we should all do our part to take care of it. If we ruin this planet, we can’t just hop onto another planet and start all over again. Moreover, it is an unsettling reality that no matter how great the urgency to protect our environment some still continue to dismiss it.
“Only after the last tree has been cut down,” is a horrifying thought. These words hit too close to home. Just recently, the Cayman Islands government made the decision to move ahead and build a port right in the heart of the George Town harbor. I am personally disgusted and deeply disappointed by this news. It is unconscionable that our government would not take more consideration and time to find an alternative option, one that is environmentally responsible. There are environmentally responsible options, though they have seemingly been dismissed. For instance, an option to build a Skybridge. This option would have allowed for a unique experience for cruise ships passengers and set our island apart from other Caribbean destinations. Tourists would have had an incredible opportunity to see the island from an interesting vantage point. However, it is apparent that the Cayman Islands government is moving forward with an option that poses threat to at least 15 acres of coral reef in the George Town harbor, directly where the proposed dredge pit will be. Plus, an additional estimated 15 to 30 acres of reef structure that is just outside of the area that will be directly affected by the port is also at risk of being ruined.
Going forward with this port, in spite of environmental assessments which strongly advised choosing a more environmentally viable option, will very likely result in significant damage to the coral reefs and oceanic wildlife within that area. Subsequently, it will have a huge negative impact on Cayman’s lucrative diving industry. The George Town harbor alone, has a string of highly visited famous diving sites at risk of being damaged by the building of the port. It is unfathomable to think that the Cayman Islands government would allow for a port that is problematic for the environment to be built within a designated marine park area. Notably, Eden Rock is in a designated marine park. The notion that coral reefs could possibly be relocated, for millions of dollars, just to suit the building of the port should not even be considered as a viable option. Instead, the reefs should be protected and remain where they are. What right does man have to start moving coral reefs around just to suit a cruise ship berthing facility design? It is truly mind-boggling. Additionally, there is talk of relocating the Balboa Shipwreck. The Balboa shipwreck has great significance to Cayman’s history, it is a part of our heritage. Frankly, like the coral reefs, it should remain where it is and not be disturbed. It is a historical site and functions as an eco-system for oceanic wildlife due to the coral reef structure that is a part of the shipwreck.
From the very first moment the dredging into the oceanic floor takes place, to begin the construction of the proposed cruise ship berthing facility in the George Town harbor, it will result in disastrous repercussions. A domino effect will be set in motion, disrupting the balance of the eco-system of the coral reefs in that area. Consequently, the upset in the balance of eco-system will affect the oceanic wildlife residing there. There is a possibility that the negative implications will spread throughout Cayman waters trickling down to our famous Seven Mile Beach and elsewhere. It is truly heartbreaking to think that it is a very real possibility and reality that the coral reefs in the George Town harbor could very well be decimated by the building of the proposed port. The intrinsic value of our coral reefs is being completely ignored. Thriving coral reefs bring in millions of dollars every year, through snorkeling trips, diving and glass bottom boat tours and Cayman has prime diving sites to offer the world. Cayman has some of the most extraordinary coral reefs in the world. Essentially, if dredging in the George Town harbor takes place, there will be nothing but a graveyard of coral reefs -an oceanic wasteland.
“He hath founded us upon the seas” written on our coat of arms and it sums up the history of the Cayman Islands. Cayman has cultivated its image around being one of the most prominent diving destinations in the world. Cayman is famous for flawless white beaches and crystal clear waters. Tourism is fundamental to the Cayman Islands economy. Tourists, avid snorkelers and divers alike, flock here to explore our pristine waters and take snapshots of their oceanic adventures. However, the approval of the proposed port threatens our greatest asset, our most alluring attraction for tourists, that is our coral reefs and oceanic wildlife. In particular, the coral reefs in the George Town harbor are at stake. Cayman has been blessed with the good fortune to have some of the most incredible and diverse coral reefs in the world. Some may even view them as our national treasure. Therefore, our island has been entrusted with the responsibility and moral obligation to preserve and protect this gift nature has bestowed upon us. Unfortunately, many popular diving sites are within the area where the dredging will take place to build the proposed port. These diving sites are an asset to our country and contribute to the prominence of Cayman’s renowned diving industry. You would think it would be our government’s priority to take care of them and protect them. However, that does not seem to be the case. They are selling out our coral reefs in order to build a port, that requires dredging, to allow more cruise ships to visit the island and create a convenience for passengers. If the Cayman Islands has to have a port, why can’t it be one that its construction does not pose threat or cause damage to the coral reefs located in the George Town harbor? For years, tenders seemed to work just fine. Apparently, tenders are not enough anymore.
The hard truth is, the primary reason tourists visit our islands is to relax on our beaches and explore our unique diving sites. Instead of protecting the very thing tourists travel here to see and experience, our government has decided to put it at risk of being destroyed. If we no longer have pristine waters and lose some of our top notch diving sites then why are tourists going to bother to come? The whole allure of visiting an island is to dive, snorkel, and lay on the beach, is it not? Rather than focus efforts on building a port when what is currently in place, though not perfect, seems to work just fine why not focus on encouraging more stay-over tourists? If our island needs a boost in our economy and tourism then shouldn’t we focus on preserving our ocean and diving sites. The very reason why tourists visit our island in the first place. The beauty of our islands oceanic landscape is our product and that is what tourists pay to see and experience. We need to protect it, not harm it, or put it in danger. The coral reefs in the George Town harbor benefit everyone from tourists to the people of the Cayman Islands. Why does our government not see the greater need to ensure that our island remains set apart from other islands? Cayman is a unique island and that is an advantage. Standing out from other Caribbean islands is something to be proud of. Cayman does not need to follow the status quo and be like every other island in the Caribbean. It is our richly diverse diving and snorkeling sites that make Cayman a tourist attraction.
Cayman is a diving destination hot spot. Cayman’s diving industry is of incredible value to our economy and tourism industry. Why would we want to ruin it? Cayman’s diving sites are filled with flourishing coral reefs and oceanic wildlife. Our coral reefs are our pride and joy. Diving is what Cayman is known for and it would be a great disservice to our country to damage our coral reefs in the George Town harbor. Ruining those coral reefs would be greatly disrespectful to the years of hard work by pioneers who shaped Cayman’s diving industry into what it is today. Our coral reefs are pivotal to our island. Yet, the government is not protecting our island’s greatest asset. Instead, they are pawning off our island’s national treasure in exchange for a cruise ship berthing facility that puts our oral reefs in jeporedy of being destroyed. Once the building of the port takes place there is no turning back. The environmental damage will be detrimental to the coral reefs in the George Town harbor, and our diving industry will be hit with a devastating blow. Restoring the reefs will be an extremely daunting task, if it is even possible. It is inconceivable to image what the oceanic landscape of George Town harbor would look like if the reefs were ruined. It is so sad to think that younger generations of the Cayman Islands, as well as future tourists, may not have the privilege to experience the coral reefs in the George Town Harbor, like many of us have had. Those reefs are worth saving for the generations to come, they deserve to inherit thriving coral reefs and pristine waters. It is unnerving to think that perhaps all that will be left behind is photographs of what use to be there, before a port was built. Prominent diving sites such as Eden Rock, Devil’s Grotto, The Wreck of the Balboa, The Wreck of The Cali, and Soto’s Reef a.k.a. “Cheeseburger Reef” are at risk of being damaged if dredging takes place to build a port that requires dredging. Our government will have destroyed what was of true value to our island, our coral reefs. Our coral reefs are irreplaceable. If our coral reefs in the George Town harbor are destroyed we can’t buy new coral reefs to replace them. Some things are not for sale, and some things money can’t buy back.
Special Thanks to Courtney Platt for use of his photos. Please visit his website click here
To learn more on how you can help save Cayman’s coral reefs visit Save Cayman