Mangroves are found both along our coastlines and inland in the Cayman Islands. Cayman has three native species of mangroves: red, black and white and two native varieties of buttonwood: silver and green. All of these trees are protected under the National Conservation Law (2013). The details of their protection and measures for their conservation are detailed in the National Conservation Council’s Species Conservation Plan for Mangroves.
One of the aims of the Mangrove Species Conservation Plan is to control the “take” of mangroves. Through this plan, it is illegal to “take” mangroves without a Planning or Coastal Works permission, a National Conservation Council (NCC) Section 20 Permit or one of the exemptions listed in the Species Conservation Plan. “Take” includes the killing, collecting, clearing, destroying, damaging or harming of mangroves trees dead or alive. The “take” of mangroves without prior permission or a permit is an offence under the National Conservation Law. Persons may be liable, upon conviction of an offense under the National Conservation Law, to a fine of up to five hundred thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term up to four years or to both.
Benefits of Mangroves
The DoE typically recommends the retention of mangroves when reviewing development applications as they provide many benefits such as:
- Maintaining and improving water quality of our coastal waters, canals and other inland water bodies. With their dense network of roots and surrounding vegetation, they filter and trap sediments, heavy metals, and other pollutants;
- Providing a coastal defence during storms and hurricanes providing a natural barrier to protect coastal communities from increased storm surge, flooding, severe wind damage and hurricanes;
- Preventing soil erosion by binding the substrate, stabilizing and protecting the shoreline;
- Helping with drainage by acting as natural sponges that trap and slowly release surface water, counteracting the greatly increased rate and volume of surface-water runoff from areas of hardstanding and buildings.
- Providing habitat, breeding sites, nurseries and food resources for fish and marine life, birds and other various wildlife;
- Providing carbon storage by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere
- Contributing to and enhancing recreational and ecotourism activities like snorkelling, kayaking and paddle boarding and fishing.
Mangrove Trimming Guidance
There are various ways that developments can be designed sensitively to retain mangroves and their benefits. The Mangrove Trimming Guidelines provide some examples.
Many property owners trim mangroves along their shorelines to obtain or enhance their view of the water. The trimming of mangroves that are taller than 6ft (measured from the substrate/mud to the top of the tree) on private property is allowed without permission if it is done in accordance with the DoE’s Mangrove Trimming Guidelines.
Unfortunately, if not done properly, trimming can harm or kill the mangroves. Each species responds differently to trimming; information on the identification and trimming tolerances of these species is provided in the DoE’s Mangrove Trimming Guidelines.
These guidelines are intended to assist coastal property owners in identifying, trimming and altering mangrove trees in a manner that will:
- provide a view or navigational access;
- protect valuable mangrove resources, and
- be in compliance with the National Conservation Law (2013) & Mangrove Conservation Plan (2020).
What type of permission do I need?
- If your property is located in a Mangrove Buffer Zone (Development Plan, 1997), you may require planning permission to conduct trimming.
- To remove mangroves on your property by mechanical means, planning permission is required.
- To remove mangroves on your property by hand, a NCC Section 20 Permit is required.
- To trim mangroves outside of your property boundary on Crown property a coastal works permit or NCC Section Permit is required (unless it falls under one of the exemptions listed in the plan).
- Mangroves under 6ft (measured from the substrate/mud to the top of the tree) should not be trimmed.