NEPA to rescue Pedro Cays
Efforts are to be made by the Natural Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MOA&F) to put in place firm measures to ensure that a viable and sustainable environment is maintained on the Pedro Cays.
News on the effort was disclosed by Chief Executive Officer of NEPA Peter Knight at a recent heads of agency and departments meeting held at the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change.
Knight reported at the meeting that after receiving and reviewing a quarterly report from his environmental officers detailing the status of the cays, there is indication that solid waste is again increasing.
"Having reviewed the report, I sent it off to the Ministry of Agriculture ..., so we are still awaiting a response," he told the meeting.
Knight informed that the planned meeting with the ministry was a precautionary one and was intended to ensure that standards on the cays are monitored and maintained and that solid waste is managed and strategies put in place and regulated for collection and safe disposal.
The Pedro Cays are a collection of mostly uninhabited islands and islets, covered by vegetation and six species of plants.
They are frequented by fisher folk primarily from the southern parishes of the island, who make their livelihood from fishing and related activities, an industry worth up to US$30 million annually.
The Cays also support a variety of marine habitats, including sand, coral reefs, deep reefs, and seagrass beds.
The Pedro Cays are also considered to be an important nesting and roosting site for seabirds, which include the Masked Booby (Sula Dactylatra) and the Roseate Tern (Sterna Dougallii), among others. It also serves as a nesting site for several marine turtle species like the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys Imbricata) and the Loggerhead (Caretta Caretta) turtles.
In late 2012, following a visit to the cays by the media, it was revealed that there was inadequate toilet facilities, a lack of running water, and a significant pile-up of garbage on Middle Cay.
A census was then commissioned by the agriculture ministry, which was carried out by the University of the West Indies (UWI). This was specifically to measure the amount of human occupation and carrying capacity of the Cays.
During the 2014-2015 Budget Debate, then portfolio minister, the late Roger Clarke, disclosed that the ministry would be submitting the findings and recommendations of the survey to Cabinet. He
said the intention was for an inter-ministerial committee to use the study to formulate a sustainable management plan for the cays.
The MoA&F also provided funding of $34.5 million from the Fisheries Management Development Fund to deal with the management of the cays. This also included an allocated sum of $16.6 million for solid- waste management.
As an additional measure of control, the JDF Coast Guard, the Marine Police, and the Fisheries Division had increased its enforcement and monitoring activities on the cays.