National Conservation Law officially commences
After ten years of conversation Cayman’s long awaited National Conservation Law has finally been formally commenced as Parts 5 and 7, the last critical parts of the environmental protection law, took effect from Monday (15 August).
Environment Minister Hon Wayne Panton, in announcing the commencement of the two parts of the law at a media conference on Monday at GIS, Government Administration Building, said it was matter of celebration for the country as steps have been taken to ensure the sustainability of the environment.
“It has been a long road, I think there has been a conversation about this law more than a decade ago and now we have the law effectively and fully commenced and I think that is to be celebrated. It is a very, very positive step for this country,” Minister Panton declared.
With the commencement of the NCL, the National Conservation Council is now been empowered with the tools to give effect to its mandate to protect the environment and ensure others make the environment a part of their considerations as well.
“This is a very significant step for this country, a country that has no natural resources in the form of minerals or anything else we can sell or manufacture. Our environment is our national asset and we are now protecting that in the best, most responsible way that we can and that can only be a positive for the country and part of our national psyche that identifies who we are and what we are as Caymanians and I do not think there can be anything more important than ensuring that continues to be a reflection of who we are,” the minister added.
The commencement of parts 4 and 5 will also see the repeal of the 30-year-old Marine Conservation Law as all its provisions come under the new NCL. However he said that two small parts of the law, which relate to the Environmental Protection Fund, have not commenced because of a need to clarify certain aspects of the language in the law. Apart from that, he said, the law is now in force and fully operational.
He explained that Monday’s commencement followed on the April 2015 commencement of Parts 3, 4, 6 and section 50 and schedules 1, 3 and 4.
Minister Panton pointed out that the significant aspects of the commencement of parts 5 and 7 provide “very key tools necessary for the protection and preservation of native habitats and species.”
The NCC will now have control over permits and licenses and to authorise various activities for government agencies to consult and take account of environmental issues in their planning and decision making processes as well as the Environmental Impact Assessment provisions.
However he stressed that those consultations and recommendations from the NCC with only be in an “advisory” capacity and it will be up to the entity to act upon the findings.
“The advice the NCC will give is not mandatory but it elevates the consideration of environment to same level as safety or other considerations,” he explained.
Director of the Department of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie said she was delighted the commencement has taken place and explained that there was very little new in the law with the exception of the spear gun licensing provisions which will now allow permit holders to import parts and guns.
She said comprehensive guidance notes were issued to government entities to prepare them for the NCC consultations; those notes are available online on the DoE website.
NCC Chairman Christine Rose-Smyth welcomed the commencement which she said will ensure the sustainability of not only the marine environment, but the terrestrial environment as well.
Minister Panton also shared that two sets of regulations came into effect which enables the NCC to publish the forms of licenses and permits issued under NCL called the National Council fees and forms regulations and regulations which contain the species protection provisions that were contained in the Marine Conservation Law and those also include protection government implemented specifically for the Nassau Grouper species.
The regulations effectively provide protection for the Nassau Grouper in the form of a slot limit of 16 inches to 24 inches, which Minister Panton explained, was the limit the public is allowed to keep the fishes once caught. Any fish outside of the limit is to be released.
“There is a very specific, a season in which you cannot catch and keep grouper that is December to April, outside of that you can. But you cannot do it between December and April because that is when the spawning season (occurs,) Minister Panton said.
A bag limit in respect to Nassau Grouper, under the new law, also takes effect as fishers will only be allowed a maximum of five Nassau Grouper per day.