H.E the Governor, Stuart Jack, Director of
Department of Environment, Gina Ebanks-Petrie (centre) and wife of
the Governor, Mariko, assisting the Mangrove Restoration
The Department of Environment (DoE) has partnered with the Reef
Ball Foundation in starting up the Mangrove Restoration Project in
an effort to save one of the Cayman Islands’ most critical
This project, which began in November 2005, is on a plot of land
owned by and nearby the Red Bay Sailing Club.
According to reports from the DoE, the declining mangrove
situation was grossly exacerbated by Hurricane Ivan in
2005 and during the 2005 hurricane season.
However, extensive damage of remaining mangrove areas has further
opened up the potential for their development, though, conversely,
the storm has also awakened an increased public awareness of the
fragile nature, as well as the importance of the Island’s
Therefore, environmental decisions and activities undertaken over
the next few years may be of the utmost significance for the
long-term ecological future of the Cayman Islands.
DoE staff in charge of the project has been planting a number of
mangroves and monitoring the site.
H.E the Governor, Stuart Jack,
and his wife, Mariko became part of the ‘planting process’, on
Friday 19 January, when they visited the mangrove site.
According to Tim Austin, Assistant Director of Research and
Assessment (DoE), the Governor was invited because they wanted him
to be part of an important process.
During his brief remarks, Governor Jack pointed out that it quite
important that ‘we look after our mangroves’. He was also pleased
that ‘a lot of young people are involved in the project.’
Gina Ebanks-Petrie, Director of the Department of Environment,
Matt Cottam, Terresterial Ecologist, and James Gibb, Research
Officer were also present to lend a helping hand.
The project involves the implementation of a high-survivorship
head-starting protocol, using Reef Ball technology. This involves
using reef balls to headstart and anchor the seedlings in place,
re-establishing mangroves in denuded areas.
While the initial outlay per seedling is high, once pioneer
seedlings are established, they will provide shelter for further
This novel methodology additionally has the potential to showcase
a restoration technique which may be implemented, by private
landowners, and will be accompanied by an ongoing monitoring
programme to evaluate comparative survivorship and
Restoration activities will be supported by an extensive
interactive website, interpreting projects in the context of local
biodiversity and international environmental responsibility.
The DoE reported that in the Cayman Islands, as in many areas of
the world, traditional under-valuing of mangrove habitat as a
natural resource has contributed to a precedent for rapid wetland
reclamation and development.
The mangroves play a very significant role in the Cayman’s
ecosystem. They are a critical habitat for key local species
including the Yucatan Vireo (Vireo magister caymanensis), the
(near-threatened) Cayman Parrot (Amazona leucocephala caymanensis),
and the main breeding site for the (vulnerable) West Indian
Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna arborea).
The mangroves are also an important stop-over and over-wintering
habitat for migratory birds:
waterfowl, waders, raptors including Osprey, Merlin and Peregrine
Falcon, and passerines including, most commonly Northern Parula,
Yellow-throated Warbler, Palm Warbler, Prairie Warbler,
Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird and Northern
Waterthrush. The mangrove wetlands are also an integral component of
Cayman’s marine environment.
The idea for the Mangrove Restoration Project began on Earth Day
2005, when over a hundred members of the public planted 650
seedlings. However this effort was in vain as the subsequent
intensity of the 2005 hurricane season, coupled with the exposed
nature of the site, resulted in very poor survivorship of
But the current project is doing well and will hopefully survive
through bad season.
The funding agency for the project is the US Fish and Wildlife’s
Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act.
Our partners are the Reef Ball Foundation who have provided
additional funds and logistical support in conjunction with
assistance from the CI Sailing Club (donated the site), Foster’s
Food Fair (donated 200 wooden pallets) and local schools and support
groups who have volunteered their time and effort to plant the