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CSI-Cayman Islands: Scuba divers take note

It’s a novel concept – an underwater CSI, something you don’t see on television. Later this month, the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, located on Little Cayman in the Cayman Islands, will present what is sure to be a FIRST — an Underwater CSI training course.

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) will be hosting this 3-day course at its Little Cayman Research Centre as part of its Dive with a Researcher (DWAR) Program. Lead diver and instructor will be marine forensic biologist, Dr. Hector Cruz-Lopez.  Dr. Cruz-Lopez is a professor of Forensic Science at the Palm Beach State College Criminal Justice Institute and serves on the National Forensic Science Initiative at West Virginia University.

CSI is an ever-growing ‘science’ that has become quite well documented in both the press and the (love them or hate them) television CSI series. The use of science to prove the facts, especially in the arena of the ‘law’, or, more importantly, in the prosecution of the ‘unlawful’, has become quite popular. Forensic science and pathology have been developed since the 1700s, gaining a technological boost from the 1960s onwards. However, the old forensic science methodology is currently undergoing a transformation with the introduction of Underwater CSI.

44% of the coral cover on the world’s reefs has been lost to date, and two thirds of the Caribbean’s reefs remain at risk (World Resources Institute 2004). Unfortunately, some people are still slow to realize the potential impact their behavior can have on our reefs, often resulting in negligent and/or illegal activity.  As a result, Underwater CSI is being used to help to identify and prosecute those who continue to threaten the existence of our reefs and marine ecosystems.

So, what exactly is Underwater CSI? Essentially, it is a set of protocols and techniques for investigating underwater crime scenes; as such, it can be quite useful in determining short-term violations that have had negative impacts on our reefs. The results of these investigations can be documented, recorded and analysed in a systematic fashion using tool kits developed to support these types of investigations. Similar techniques are now being used worldwide by marine enforcement officers, environment assessment agencies, coral reef researchers, litigators and natural resource managers.

“The enforcement of laws and regulations designed to protect coral reefs and other marine habitats deserve specialized means to investigate and document violations. Underwater forensics provides such a tool, as well as an opportunity to play CSI without having to deal with hardcore criminals or messy crime scenes,” adds Dr. Cruz-Lopez.

If you are a diver and are interested in taking a new look at the underwater world through the eyes of a Forensic Scientist, then this 3-day course is for you. Not only will you play a legitimate part in conducting an actual underwater crime scene investigation, but you will also learn how to analyze the data and construct a proper defense, using forensic techniques that you will learn in the program.

To find out more about CCMI’s DWAR Program, please visit our website at www.reefresearch.org.

For enrollment, please call 948-1094 or send your inquiry to ccmiapplications@reefresearch.org

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