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Cayman Grotto

Cayman Reefs Face Destruction

Protestors seek referendum to protect Grand Cayman reefs

The planned expansion of the Grand Cayman cruise ship pier threatens the coral reef off George Town, including the popular dive site Devil's Grotto, a report has found. The official environmental assessment on the impact the $150 million project would have on the reef system was presented to the public on 9 June, stating that dredging in the area would destroy several acres of the coral reef off the George Town coast. 

Protesters have gathered more than 3,000 signatures for a petition to hold a public referendum on the issue and prevent the construction. 

The website www.savecayman.org has published the entire environmental impact assessment report, concluding '[The assessment] revealed that several acres and hundreds of thousands of square footage of reef will be completely destroyed as a result of the cruise berthing facility that government is proposing to build as a means of improving cruise tourism,' the Save Cayman statement read. 'The report also made it clear the project will have significant negative impacts on the marine ecology within the George Town Harbor areas.'

'Will we get the signatures? I don’t know,' Keith Sahm, the general manager of Sunset House and member of the 'Save Cayman' group commented, 'Can we raise awareness … about what’s beneath the water? Yes.' 

Twenty five per cent of registered Cayman voters would have to sign the petition and verify their participation to hold a public vote. The referendum would need a majority to be approved.

Original plans to relocate the reef were dismissed by conservationists and divers. 

'You can’t just lift up a coral and move it because coral grows in the depth that it needs to survive, obviously from sunlight and currents. If you move coral it has to be moved to the equivalent depth with the equivalent amount of sunshine, otherwise it’s just going to die,' Andrew Barns, the divemaster at Eden Rock, told CNS Business.

'Lets face it, these things take thousands of years to grow and to just try and pick them up and move them — it’s crazy,' he added.

Speaking at the presentation of the environmental report, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has said that Cabinet will assess the findings from the report and public consultations before making a final decision on whether to proceed, the Cayman Compass reports.

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