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May 2006 Vol. 32, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Cayman Coral Crisis

from the May, 2006 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

It’s rare when a dive-industry leader speaks candidly about reef degradation in her own back yard, but Cayman’s Cathy Church told the Cayman Compass that “If we don’t take action now corals will be in serious trouble. Anything that hurts coral needs to be contained — increased sewage, seeping groundwater from the unsealed landfill site, fertilizer runoff, detergent and the destruction of mangroves.”

She asserted that the proposed dolphin facility will also be problematic because bacteria from dolphin feces has been linked to coral loss in other destinations.

Church said, “This porous little island cannot support high-level development because everything we do ends up on the reef.” The more development, the more people come, contributing to more cars, more sewage and more pollution. “Every little bit we do kills off a little more reef.”

Church says there are fewer varieties of fish. “There is fishing line on any dive site on this island, and it is fresh,” she said, though no fishing is permitted on the coral walls. There needs to be stricter limitations on where to fish. However, dive operator Peter Milburn believes fish life is abundant, because marine parks are working, though he says all of Little Cayman must be given Marine Park Status to keep certain marine species from becoming over fished.

Church fears that if more coral dies, Cayman itself will start to disappear. She says if the coral does not build up faster than we destroy it,”then the sea will erode away our island. We’re built on a coral reef. We’re not on a wide continental shelf. Our coral is not just a tourist attraction; it’s the basis of our existence.”

PS: Cathy’s beautiful coffee table book, My Underwater Photo Journey, is available at Undercurrent. Click on Diving Book and Guides and all profits from our book sales go to save coral reefs.

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