CCMI Urges Close Look at Downstream and Long-Lasting Impacts to the Island by Proposed George Town Dock Whilst There is Still Time
The Cayman Islands and its gorgeous beaches have been built over tens of millions of years, by the stony limestone skeletons of millions of coral reef organisms. It is these corals and skeletal organisms that break down from natural physical and biological processes to produce the sand on our beaches. The longer-term impact of the proposed George Town dock construction and the removal of sand, corals and bedrock is, therefore, an extremely important aspect to consider. Any removal of depositional material, which is an important part of the overall sand budget and contributes to the formation of the beaches, Cayman’s most iconic tourism product, is detrimental.
CCMI urges special consideration to protecting sources of sand, as critically important for businesses that rely on coastal tourism, for local residents who enjoy the beach, as well as the cultural and natural heritage of the islands. Home and resort owners on Seven Mile Beach, and everyone who enjoys Seven Mile Beach (in particular) should think seriously about the impacts of this proposed dock project on reefs, and the part corals play in contributing to Cayman’s tourism product and healthy ocean ecosystem. The downstream and lasting risks of dredging/coral relocation not only include the long-term loss of coral and tens of thousands of other species living within the reef, but also a gross reduction in the capacity for the reef organisms to produce the skeletal sand that makes up the beach.
The full details on the coral relocation have not been released. But for simplicity, if we conceptualise that only one foot is removed off the top of the proposed twelve acre dock site, we are moving a half a million cubic feet of limestone, coral and sand. Imagine taking a stroll down Seven Mile Beach, for a mile. Now imagine a one hundred foot (wide) slice of beach being scooped up (one foot deep) and removed, all the way along your walk. This is just over half a million cubic feet of sand removal… and this is what is being proposed for the twelve acreage of coral relocation alone. We recognize that there are many complex processes contributing to Seven Mile Beach’s sand budget but what is proposed will undoubtedly affect Cayman’s most famous beach.
Positive results from coral regeneration and relocation practice also continue to be challenging, with corals across the Caribbean region typically suffering 80% mortality* within two years of relocation. Little hope for replenishing the sand on Seven Mile Beach in the long-term exists, due to the limited proven success of coral relocation as a mitigation strategy. The proposed dock construction will disrupt an entire ecosystem by removing the corals and sand. CCMI is concerned about the detrimental impacts to Seven Mile Beach and the coral reef ecosystem in the George Town area, and urges all stakeholders to really take stock whilst there is still time.