Ten years ago, my first novel (Cayman Cowboys) revolved around the conflict that happens when development squares off against the environment. In that case, a developer was destroying coral reefs in search of treasure while building a cruise ship dock. There were protests, corrupt politicians and good guys trying to save the reef. At the time, I honestly thought it was a little farfetched because the reef in Grand Cayman is a main draw for visitors. The idea that anyone would allow a developer to come in and haplessly destroy coral reefs that have earned the island the distinction of being one of the top diving destinations in the world was a bit out there. I thought.
Flash forward 10 years and the government of the Cayman Islands is planning to build a new pier that will allow cruise ships to dock in the harbor and not have to rely on shuttle boats, called tenders, to get the tourists back and forth the dock. The problem is, to build the dock, the government is going to have to destroy acres of viable coral reef and a historic wreck dive site that is in the middle of the approach to the harbor. They have discussed the idea of moving the reefs, but that’s just about the most absurd thing anyone without a financial stake in getting the dock built has ever heard. Those who have a financial stake in the dock think it makes perfect sense.
The short version is they would have to cut loose and lift thousands of tons of rock and then relocate it to a new area. It’s all underwater, of course, and you just can’t blast it loose and then scoop it up. It would have to be cut loose from below the sand and carefully lifted and moved. On top of that, wherever you would move it to would have to have similar conditions of currents, depth and sunlight to allow the coral reef to continue living.
In short, it’s impossible. Read this opinion piece on the subject.
As an additional layer of absurd, beyond the reef that will be destroyed by the construction of the dock, many additional acres will be destroyed by the silt from the construction and dredging. That will devastate many existing hotels just outside the harbor by destroying their house reefs and the dive sites they frequent.
None of this makes any sense. Unless you consider that the cruise ship lines want the dock. And they spend a lot of money on the island. It all comes back to short-sighted decisions in the interest of money.
The above video is just a simple collage of eight different dive sites in the area near the harbor. All of it will be destroyed or seriously degraded by the actual construction and the dredging. The conditions weren’t perfect the week I shot the video. As a matter of fact it rained every day so the visibility was a little degraded. A couple days, it was raining while I was in the water. Still, it shows the amazing diversity of undersea life on Grand Cayman. And it shows what we all stand to lose all in search of money. In the long run, tourism will suffer.
I think I’ll try to get back to Cayman one more time before they move forward with this disaster. Because once construction begins, the island will be permanently off my destination list..