Local environmental advocacy group Save Cayman announced on Friday 9 September the awarding of the greater George Town Harbour area as one of 14 new global Hope Spots.
Hope Spots are designated by Mission Blue, which is an initiative of the Sylvia Earle Alliance (SEA) to ignite public support for the protection of Hope Spots—special places that are vital to the health of the ocean and which Mission Blue calls “the blue heart of our planet.”
The news was announced at the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) World Conservation Congress, which took place from 1-10 September in Hawaii and was quickly snapped up by social media.
The Save Cayman group was surprised to learn about the other applications submitted and wished to express their gratitude.
“It is a victory for the thousands of people who have been fighting to protect the reef from significant damage. Their voices have not just been heard locally, but have now been strongly backed by the international community. We now hope government can see how important our environment is to our people and those who visit our shores,” said a statement from Save Cayman.
Laura Jackson Ebanks also submitted a nomination after hearing her 79-year-old parents’ views on the proposed Cruise Berthing Facilities intended for the George Town Harbour.
“I knew I had to do something which is why I nominated it as a Hope Spot. They are convinced this will be the destruction of Grand Cayman if it is allowed to proceed,” Mrs Jackson Ebanks said.
“We all have a duty and responsibility to future generations,” she added. “As a mother and grandmother I do believe that!”
The Save Cayman group announced it will soon be hosting a social open to the public to talk more about the award. The group also intends to announce changes in administration and announce a new paid conservation internship initiative open to 18-25 year old Caymanians that volunteers are currently working on.
“We invite all members of the public to attend. It is important for members of the community to come together, ask questions, and discuss ideas that can lead to better management of our resources whilst achieving developmental goals,” Save Cayman said.
Any person can nominate a Hope Spot via an in-depth application that details the area and threats to the area.
Save Cayman sent a statement to Mission Blue on the George Town Harbour’s desgination as a Hope Spot.
The statement said, “We are proud that George Town harbour has been selected as one of 14 new global Hope Spots. It proves that our coral reefs are not just of ecological, social, and economic value locally, but globally.
We are proud of our ecological heritage which helped to create the society we are today. The GTH is where the Balboa lays with the memories of those loved ones lost by many in our community. The GTH is one of our portals to the world, by which people and goods come to our shores. For decades, the GTH has been where many people locally and from all around the world are introduced to the beauty of the underwater world. However, unrestricted development threatens the fragile balance of not just these reefs, but the reefs around the island.
We hope that this acknowledgement by the scientific community of the unique value held by these reefs will encourage government to reassess the development of our harbour and that we can all work together to find solutions to make a world class, ecologically friendly port whilst preserving these precious resources.”
Mission Blue is an initiative of the Sylvia Earle Alliance (SEA) to ignite public support for the protection of Hope Spots—special places that are vital to the health of the ocean and which Mission Blue calls “the blue heart of our planet.”
Mission Blue draws inspiration from the vision of its founder, Dr Sylvia Earle, and is uniting a global coalition of partners to inspire an upwelling of public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas.
“From the seamounts of the high seas to the shallow sunlit reefs, Mission Blue seeks to bring about a significant increase in ocean protection from less than four percent today to 20% by the year 2020,” the Mission Blue website says.
Under Dr Earle’s leadership, the Mission Blue team has embarked on a series of expeditions to further this vision and shed light on these ocean Hope Spots.
The website says, “We also bring the discoveries and stories of a network of ocean experts to the public through documentaries, social and traditional media, and innovative tools like Google’s “Explore the Ocean” layer. Additionally, we support the work of many conservation NGOs with whom we share the basic mission of ocean protection and public awareness.”
Currently, the Mission Blue coalition includes over 100 respected ocean conservation groups and like-minded organisations — from large multinational companies down to individual scientific teams doing important research.
The Mission Blue website says, “Decades of overfishing, pollution, climate change, acidification and other human pressures threaten the fundamental nature of the ocean—and therefore threaten the future of humankind. We encourage all global citizens who care about our ocean to reach out and support Mission Blue in any way they can. Presently, less than four percent of the ocean is fully protected; just years ago, that number was around 1 percent. With concerted effort and passionate people, we can continue this positive trend and help create a global network of Hope Spots, the seeds of tomorrow’s healthy ocean.”
For more information on Mission Blue, visit https://www.mission-blue.org/