Statement by private sector member over Goat Island irks JET head

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT Observer staff reporter hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, August 25, 2014

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FOUNDER and CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) Diana McCaulay has expressed disappointment with a statement attributed to a member of the private sector that the only sign of life on Greater Goat Island were two ants that bit him.

Responding to a report in the media yesterday, McCaulay said that she hoped the "private sector leader was making a joke and did not expect to be quoted".

She, however, said the general attitude towards the Goat Islands issue made her very concerned.

"It is distressing to hear this kind of thoughtless comment. It implies a wilful ignorance. The Portland Bight Protected Area, including the Goat Islands and the adjacent areas, were protected under Jamaican law by the current Administration for good, scientific reasons and after considerable study," she told the Jamaica Observer, yesterday.

Earlier yesterday, McCaulay had vented her disgust with the statement in a post on popular social media platform Twitter.

"The only wildlife I saw on Great Goat Island was two ants and I killed them both' from a private sector leader. Says it all #hopeless," she tweeted.

According to the Save Goat Islands website, which is managed by the JET, the Portland Bight Protected Area is the largest mangrove system in Jamaica which contains seagrass beds and coral reefs and also contains the largest nursery area for fish and shellfish on the island. Apart from 81 square miles of dry limestone forests and 32 square miles of wetlands, it is also home to 44 communities and has the highest number of fishers in Jamaica.

But what irks McCaulay most is the fact that a protected area was selected and the information being made available on the developments slated to take place on the islands has been insufficient.

"JET continues to ask the same questions: Why is there no other site being considered? Why does the port and industrial park have to be in arguably Jamaica's most protected area of land and sea? Why is there such a paucity of information in the public domain as to exactly what is planned and what are the net benefits to Jamaica of this development?" she asked yesterday.

But where development on the protected area is concerned, McCaulay said it is clear that the private sector and Government are nonchalant about the situation.

"It is clear that both the Government and many members of the private sector would like to see this development go ahead, ignoring the legal status of the area and the clear environmental threats which are devalued and ridiculed in comments like the above," she said.

However, she maintained that the JET hopes for more thoughtful and informed commentary from leaders in all sectors.

She said the organisation awaits a trial in October regarding permission granted by the Supreme Court in May for the JET to file an injunction challenging the decision of Government to issue a Certificate of Exemption to bar agreements and proposals on the proposed transshipment port from public disclosure.

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