(CMR) New regulations to protect Cayman's native and endemic plants and animals are now in effect under the National Conservation Act. The National Conservation (Alien Species) Regulations, 2022, introduce a prohibited species list, outline the distinctions between domestic and feral animals, and further define the procedures and allowable actions to control feral animals and other alien species to reduce the threat to our native species.
“The National Conservation Council believes these Regulations represent a substantial win for our unique native and endemic plant and animal species which are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of invasive, alien species,” National Conservation Council chairman McFarlane Connolly explained,
“We understand this can be an emotive topic on all sides, and we hope these Regulations will bring greater clarity to conservation practitioners, animal welfare groups, landowners, veterinarians and pet importers and owners. While the Regulations were published in the Cayman Islands Gazette on 3 November 2022, certain portions of the legislation come into effect three and six months after publication,” Mr. Connolly added.
Over the next six to twelve months, the Department of Environment will work closely with the National Conservation Council to undertake substantial public outreach to help the Cayman Islands community understand what the new Regulations mean and how they may impact households and businesses across our three islands.
“A communications plan has been developed and is being deployed over the coming months to ensure key stakeholder groups, government entities, community organizations, and, indeed, the wider Cayman Islands public can know everything they want to know about how these new Regulations will work,” said Mr. Connolly.
Knowledge of the key types of species is essential to understanding the way the new Regulations work.
Prohibited Species are plants and animals which have been identified as posing exceptionally severe threats to the native species of the Cayman Islands. Under the Regulations, prohibited species have strict regulations for keeping as pets or as ornamental plants, breeding, import, export, purchase or sale, and stiff penalties for infractions.
Permits to allow exceptions to the new prohibited species regulations, for people already having them here legally, may be applied for within the six-month period ending 3 May, 2023. Prohibited species found in contravention of the Regulations after this date may be seized and subject to sterilisation, export or euthanasia. To apply for a permit or learn more about the process, including how to turn in or report any prohibited species without fear of prosecution, can email [email protected].
The prohibited species list outlined in Part A of the new Regulations was in part informed by a regional British Overseas Territories invasive species workshop hosted in the Cayman Islands in 2018 which brought together scientists and stakeholders to identify various species and activities which pose threats to native flora, fauna and environments across the region. Local scientists considered what species were both the biggest risk to our local species and also the most likely to be requested for import when drafting the new regulations to address known and anticipated threats. Invasive species have long been recognized as a significant environmental problem internationally as well as locally and work has been ongoing for several years leading to the passage of these new Regulations by the Cabinet.
Native species are plants and animals which existed in the Cayman Islands prior to any humans having come here. These include our endemic species – those species which occur only in the Cayman Islands or on one or more of our three islands like the Grand Cayman Blue and Sister Islands Rock Iguanas and Cayman Parrots, as well as those species that, although not unique to the Cayman Islands, are found here naturally such as the Brown and Red-footed Boobies, sea grape trees and mangroves. Many native and endemic species face local or global extinction, or are culturally and environmentally important, and are protected from harm under the National Conservation Act.
Alien species are plants and animals which have been introduced to our islands either intentionally or accidentally through human intervention. While not all alien species become invasive, a lack of proper management, or mismanagement, of these alien species can negatively impact native plants and animals. Alien species include domestic dogs and cats, livestock such as goats, pigs and cattle, and even plants used for landscaping or agricultural purposes. The new Regulations provide greater clarity on how these species may be managed safely to ensure they do not become a threat to the existence of our native species.
Invasive species are plants and animals which have been introduced to our islands either intentionally or accidentally through human intervention and do pose a significant threat to our native species, particularly as often their reproduction and/or resource consumption occur at much faster rates than can be managed naturally. Notable examples in the Cayman Islands include green iguanas, rats, lionfish, and the Brazilian pepper tree.
Feral species are those domestic or agricultural alien plants and animals which are living in “the wild” and do not have an identifiable owner. In the case of plants, the identifiable owner is the person cultivating them. In the case of animals, the identifiable owner controls the animal’s movement and provides shelter, food, water and veterinary care. “The wild” is defined as any area that is not under control or management by an identifiable owner who is ensuring that the movement or propagation of the domestic or agricultural species is confined to that area.
Control and management of alien species
The Regulations further define the procedures and allowable actions for controlling feral animals and other alien species. Subject to the approval of the National Conservation Council, the Directors of the Departments of Environment and Agriculture may implement procedures for the control or eradication of any alien or genetically altered species by means which do not cause unnecessary suffering to the animal. Control measures for green iguanas, feral cats, and other unmanaged alien species is critical to avoiding further declines of our most threatened native animals and plants.
Additionally, under the new Regulations, a person may not knowingly feed, support or release an alien or genetically altered species into the wild. Releasing an alien or genetically altered species into the wild was already illegal under the National Conservation Act. Enforcement for feeding or supporting alien or genetically altered species in the wild will come into effect after the three-month period ending 3 February, 2023.