Don’t trash coral reefs for the cruise industry!

coral reef Irreplaceable coral reef (© CC BY-SA 4.0)

The government of the Cayman Islands wants to ramp up mass tourism by building a port for mega cruise ships. The project would destroy an irreplaceable coral reef and seriously impact the Caribbean marine environment. Tell those responsible to drop this misguided plan!

Call to action

To: the management of Royal Caribbean, Carnival, MSC, Disney and other cruise companies

Cancel the project to build a new port for cruise ships in George Town, Cayman Islands.

Read letter

The Caribbean: the name conjures up images of pristine white beaches, crystal-clear water and breathtaking coral reefs. The Cayman Islands are a first-rate destination for scuba divers – most would agree that the name “Eden Rock” is quite fitting for the territory’s most famous reef.

Yet the local government seems oblivious to the ecological treasure just off its coast: it wants to ramp up mass tourism by dredging the reef and building a new port for mega cruise ships.

Up to eight cruise ships at a time can anchor outside the port, and visitors are ferried to George Town by tender vessels. Lately, however, cruise operators have been threatening to only call at ports that can accommodate their mega ships – vast floating resorts with thousands of passengers. Apparently worried about a loss in revenue from mass tourism, the local government is ready to bow to the will of the corporations.

To sweeten the deal, cruise operators have made financial commitments to help cover the costs of the project. The ecological damage to the Cayman Islands? Not their problem.

The port project would destroy twelve hectares of coral reef and other seabed. The coral reef that has grown and thrived since time immemorial – one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet – would be replaced by concrete. And what’s gone, is gone forever – marine biologists warn that resettling complex reef ecosystems, as has been suggested by proponents of the project, is a pipe dream: It would be tantamount to moving a mountain – a highly fragile, living mountain.

Local activists opposing the project need a robust show of international support. Please sign our petition and send the Cayman Islands government and the involved cruise lines a message: don’t trash the Caribbean marine environment for short-term profit!

Back­ground

The Cayman Islands is an autonomous British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean.

The Territory is a popular stop for cruise operators: at present, up to 20,000 passengers descend on the capital George Town and its 32,000 inhabitants on any given day. The total population of the three Cayman Islands is around 61,000.

Environmental activists criticize the plans for the cruise port project as being far too opaque. The construction costs could be between 150 and 300 million US dollars, making it the most expensive single project in the history of the Cayman Islands. A possible contender for the contract is China Harbour Engineering Company.

The renowned oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau has spoken out against the project in a letter to the Ministers of Tourism and Environment: “Shopping on Grand Cayman is not what draws people to the island — it is the natural environment. The reefs are already stressed from climate change, over-fishing, and increased nutrient input. Maintaining Cayman’s reefs requires that we reduce human impact, not increase it.”

Letter

To: the management of Royal Caribbean, Carnival, MSC, Disney and other cruise companies

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A Caribbean cruise is a dream vacation for many people in North America and Europe. Your companies promote those aspirations with images of crystal-clear water, an abundance of colorful marine life, spectacular coral reefs and pristine beaches.

That dream could quickly turn to a nightmare, however, when potential passengers realize that the cruise industry is actively destroying the nature that they are hoping to enjoy. Case in point: the Cayman Islands.

The Cayman Islands government is planning to build a port for mega cruise ships in George Town. It is widely believed that the cruise industry pressures small island states such as the Cayman Islands to build such ports because their ships would otherwise no longer call there.

The construction of such a facility and increasing ship traffic in an ecologically fragile area would destroy the unique coral reefs off George Town and place a great strain on the Caribbean marine environment overall. According to marine biologists, the proposed relocation of reefs or offsetting of damage elsewhere is not possible. The coral reefs – an unrivaled biodiversity hotspot – would be lost forever.

The destruction of irreplaceable coral reefs and marine ecosystems for short-term economic gain is absolutely unacceptable! The inhabitants of the Cayman Islands have been fighting to conserve their environment for years. They are now turning to the international community for support. Together, we call on you to:

- Reject the construction of a cruise port in the harbor of George Town, Cayman Islands. Protect the coral reefs of George Town instead of destroying them.

- Do not initiate, promote and fund projects that damage and destroy coral reefs, mangroves and other marine ecosystems.

- Support the protection of marine ecosystems in the Caribbean and around the world.

Yours faithfully,

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