Seven Mile Beach in the Caymans. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Despite an environmental report finding that building a new cruise port in the Cayman Islands would destroy acres of pristine coral reefs and animal habitats, as well as impact local scuba, boating, fishing businesses, the island’s government has decided to move forward with the project.
Caymanian Premier Alden Mclaughlin announced the controversial news Wednesday: “The decision to be made is not whether we want to build cruise berthing, it is whether we want to remain in the cruise business in any significant way,” he said. “The decision is whether many hundreds of people and families who today rely on jobs created as a result of cruise tourism have those jobs next year and in the years to come.”
The project would expand the cruise port in George Town Harbor to include docking and direct access to the shore, attracting millions more tourism dollars. Currently cruise ships, which are vital the Cayman Islands’ economy, must anchor off-shore and taxi passengers to the island. Eighty-five percent of tourist arrive to the islands by sea.
McLaughlin said the government considered what the new berthing facility would do to the environment.
According to the environmental impact report released in June, dredging for the new facility will destroy 15 acres of coral reefs and negatively affect another 15 to 20 acres, harming 26 unique species of coral, including two critically endangered species and four threatened species.
The project will also disrupt the marine activity business in the area, which currently makes about $19 million to $22 million a year.
“It was not unexpected, but I think it is a sad day for the country,” said Keith Sahm, a leader of the Save Cayman anti-port campaign. “Once they do this, there is no turning back.”