By Paul Kennedy
Environmentalists on board a conservation vessel that docked in George Town say the country needs to rethink its cruise ship terminal plans.
Bad weather meant the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship The John Paul Dejoria had to make an unscheduled stop in Grand Cayman last week as it was forced to shore on its way to Panama from Cuba.
While here, crew took time to speak to people and inform them of the work they do during a lecture at Guy Harvey’s restaurant on the waterfront Friday, March 10.
They also opened the doors of their vessel, the latest edition to the Sea Shepherd’s fleet, to give people a first-hand glimpse into the work they carry out on the seas.
Connie Sanchez, the ship’s medical officer said she was taken aback at the underwater beauty she saw as the ship docked in George Town.
And while she agreed the need for more tourists is crucial to Cayman’s economy, she said environmental needs must be addressed.
“It is a fine line,” said Sanchez. “You need to work with government officials, work with the people. I think it’s very important to continue tourism in the Caymans but one of the things I really believe in is we don’t want to destroy the environment at a cost of bringing the ships in. It is a fine line, more people will mean more money, but it is versus the cost of the environment.”
Around 100 people packed into the venue to learn about the detection and observation work the organisation does to protect the marine environment across the world.
Sanchez said she was impressed with Cayman’s port, so much so she didn’t think it was real when seeing for the first time.
She added: “When I came in on board our ship I was looking at the beautiful marina here at your bay and I’ve never seen anything so pristine, so beautiful, I actually thought it was artificial in the beginning because I’ve never seen anything like that.
“That’s a gem that you have here. It’s a natural beauty that you have here. You don’t want to lose that. I think tourism is grand, you want to continue that because that’s what teaches people about this area but not at the cost of the environment.”
Earlier this year, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the time line for the proposed $150 million development of the port has been shifted. Government will now wait until after the general election in May before putting the plans for two new piers in the capital out to tender.
Next stop for the ship and her crew is Panama before they head to Columbia to do a shark finning campaign.
Sanchez believes there is no value to killing sharks simply to use their fins in food. “Shark fin soup is completely tasteless,” she said. “There is no nutritional value, it has to be flavoured in order to make it taste good.”