Archive | April, 2013

`Conchservation’ eyes ban on exports

The Nassau Guardian
By Jeffrey Todd

Key stakeholders in the national “Conchservation” campaign are advocating a possible ban on conch exports until the domestic reserves reach acceptable levels.

Following the launch of Conchservation last weekend, the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance (BCFA) are in open dialogue on the way forward.  Both parties agree that the conch population has reached a “critical stage”, and rather than implementing an open season, meaningful changes are needed to save the iconic mollusc.

“We export around 500,000 pounds of conch each year,” said Neil McKinney, the president of BNT. “According to the Department of Marine Resources, there are around three conch to a pound. So that’s 1.5 million being exported every year. It is more than the stocks can bear.”

Allaying the concerns of the fishing community, the BNT president said banning conch fishing outright or imposing a specific season could possibly be avoided. Fishermen are reluctant to allow a season because many Bahamians make ends meet on conch when crawfish season is closed.

Adrian La Roda, BCFA spokesperson, said banning conch exports would be a welcomed policy.

He said a compromise for BCFA is not to reduce exports but eliminate them entirely. While conch exporters might not relish the idea, he pointed out that 1.5 million conchs does not represent a large industry.

“It will have a minimum effect on exports and a big impact on the population. We think the domestic population will be better served by harvesting for local consumption only,” he explained. “We are not going to support a closed season or any sort of ban  We need other means to reach a solution.”

La Roda also argued that a ban on exports would make the Bahamian conch more “special” and a greater draw for tourists.

Whether exports are banned or not, McKinney told Guardian Business that last weekend’s event is only a first step.

He said education must now kick in whereby Bahamians stop harvesting conchs that have yet to mature and spawn. He also called for the outlaw of fishing methods whereby underwater breathing apparatuses, typically used for lobster, allow fishermen to dive below 60 feet and take immature conches.

Another issue both sides seem to agree on are reserves so the existing conch population can breed undisturbed.

“How big would those reserves be?  And how many would it take to sustain and eventually grow the stock?” he asked. “How will it be managed or enforced?  We’ve reached a crucial stage where these questions and more needed to be answered.”

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Conchservation Campaign Launches Awareness Initiative

The Eleutheran
By Ashley Akerberg

Earth Day Celebrations were marked by the launch of The Bahamas National Conchservation Campaign whose ultimate goal is a sustainable queen conch (Strombus gigas) fishery in The Bahamas. The Bahamas National Trust, with support of conservation partners One Eleuthera, the Cape Eleuthera Institute, Community Conch, Friends of the Environment and Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Foundation (BREEF), officially launched the campaign throughout The Bahamas over the weekend.

Launch events on Eleuthera took place at the Earth Day Festival & Celebration at Ocean Hole Park in Rock Sound on April 27th.  “One Eleuthera is happy to partner with The Bahamas National Trust and the Cape Eleuthera Institute with the launch of Conchservation campaign 2013 on the island of Eleuthera,” said Robyn Curry of the One Eleuthera Foundation. “We will do our part in bringing awareness to the need of ‘ensuring that our resources are protected for future generations.’ I believe this can only be achieved through consistent and persistent education of our children and adults on the importance of “best practices” when collecting conch or any of our marine resources. We want to join the fisherman in their effort to ensure that we have conch 30 years from now.”

Organizers focused on conch education during the event. Researchers from the Cape Eleuthera Institute set up a booth with informational posters and demonstrations. Event attendants learned about different conch size and lip thickness factors which correlate to sexual maturation and reproduction. They displayed various sized conch with thinner and thicker lips, instructing participants how to correctly measure lip size.

“Do you watch when they crack your conch?” asked Aaron Shultz, Director of CEI, to a group of local youth at the event as they practiced measuring conch lips with calipers, a tool for measuring thickness. He went on to explain that harvesting of juvenile conch means that individuals have not yet had the opportunity to reproduce. In order to reach the goal of a sustainable queen conch fishery in The Bahamas, juvenile conch must be protected well into sexual maturity, indicated by a fully formed flared lip that is at least 15 mm thick.

CEI began conducting surveys of queen conch in South Eleuthera in 2003. In the last ten years, data has suggested a very high prevalence of the harvest of juvenile conch along with significant declines in the total number of conch, with only nine percent of surveyed areas hosting enough mature conch to support reproduction. Claire Thomas, Conch Research Manager of CEI stated that “the purpose of this launch is to gain the support of the community for queen conch conservation and educate local communities on the dangers of harvesting juveniles.” She added, “in the future, our partners in this campaign will work together to continue to hold outreach events aimed at educating the public, and eventually discuss potential management options to ensure that conch will be around in The Bahamas for future generations.”

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Waterkeeper Alliance partners with Bahamas

The Bahamas Investor

Waterkeeper Alliance, which has organizations and volunteers in 37 countries, announced its first partnership with The Bahamas this week to protect reefs in the Clifton Bay area of New Providence.

Freshwater and marine environment protection agency Waterkeeper Alliance has partnered with The Bahamas to initiate efforts to protect reefs in the Clifton Bay area of New Providence. Pictured: (Back row, left to right) Sam Duncombe, Re-earth, Save the Bays director; Robert F Kennedy, Jr president, Waterkeeper Alliance; Joseph Darville, GB Human Rights Association, vice president, Save the Bays director; Troy Albury from Save Guana Cay, Save the Bays director. (Front row) Fred Smith, QC, Save the Bays director.

Freshwater and marine environment protection agency Waterkeeper Alliance has partnered with The Bahamas to initiate efforts to protect reefs in the Clifton Bay area of New Providence. Pictured: (Back row, left to right) Sam Duncombe, Re-earth, Save the Bays director; Robert F Kennedy, Jr president, Waterkeeper Alliance; Joseph Darville, GB Human Rights Association, vice president, Save the Bays director; Troy Albury from Save Guana Cay, Save the Bays director. (Front row) Fred Smith, QC, Save the Bays director.

The group’s president, Robert F Kennedy Jr, announced the partnership after diving the reefs last weekend.

Waterkeeper Alliance is an environmental group that helps raise awareness of water pollution and initiates sustainable efforts to protect freshwater and marine environments.

The international volunteer organization has initiated projects around the world in such places as India, the US, Australia and Africa.

“Today we are proud to announce our first partnership project with The Bahamas,” said Kennedy.

“The vision of Waterkeeper Alliance is to ensure that water, all our water everywhere, is drinkable, swimmable, fishable.”

In the 13 years since he last dove the area, Kennedy said that some 70-80 per cent of the coral has been threatened in the Clifton Bay area on the southern side of New Providence, in part by algae and contamination from oil seepage and spills.

The ability to rescue, restore and preserve them is always present, he added.

“You have an incredible opportunity here in The Bahamas to protect what belongs to the Bahamian people and is enjoyed by your visitors and we hope that this partnership will be the first in an ongoing relationship.”

“You have a $50 million a year dive industry that exists because of the beauty of these reefs,” he continued.

“People all over the world hear of the reefs of The Bahamas.”

“I believe that when people come together and decide they are going to do something for the public good like saving and restoring these reefs, it can happen. It will happen. And Watermaker Alliance is proud to work with these dedicated people to make sure we do everything we can to make it happen. But this is a local effort and it will take local participation and dedication.”

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Kennedy to Return to Bahamas for Major Announcement

MAJOR WATERSHED:  Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of the world's fastest growing grassroots environmental movement, Waterkeeper Alliance, will be in Nassau this weekend for a major announcement.

MAJOR WATERSHED: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of the world’s fastest growing grassroots environmental movement, Waterkeeper Alliance, will be in Nassau this weekend for a major announcement.

Environmental activist, author and international figure Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., will arrive in Nassau April 27 to announce the first Waterkeeper program in The Bahamas — — a move that one environmental spokesman has already called “potentially the greatest boost the country has ever had in marine environmental protection.”

Kennedy, president of Waterkeeper Alliance, a non-profit environmental movement active on six continents, will unveil the Western Bays Waterkeeper, a community partner of the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay (CPCB).

According to environmentalist, senior attorney and Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay Director Fred Smith, QC, “The Coalition, an association of community leaders, concerned citizens and environmentalists, is honoured and excited about the partnership with Mr. Kennedy’s organization. Waterkeeper Alliance is a movement of more than 200 Waterkeeper organizations around the world. Together they patrol 1.5 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines on six continents. Imagine the strength that brings to our marine environmental efforts in The Bahamas. This has the potential to be the greatest boost the country has ever had in marine environmental protection.”

Waterkeeper Alliance said the decision to approve the Western Bays Waterkeeper was based on the treasures of the bays, their shoreline and a history of threats that have had the potential to destroy coral reefs that take thousands of years to grow, to harm the quality of the water and the marine life that depends on it and to damage reefs known around the world as unmatched for diving and snorkeling. The bays have also been the backdrop for heart-racing scenes from popular movies including Thunderball, Into the Blue, Cocoon, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean and the last Jaws film.

“Western Bays are home to a world famous reef system and seagrass beds that rival anything found elsewhere in the Bahamas or Caribbean,” the Waterkeeper Alliance report noted. “Western Bays Waterkeeper is committed to preserving and protecting the Western Bays and other common marine environments surrounding the western coast of New Providence.”

Kennedy, the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy and son of the late former attorney general of the United States Robert Kennedy, was in Nassau in January for the rededication of a plaque honouring his late uncle, President Kennedy. At that time, he met with environmentalists and paid a courtesy call on the Minister of the Environment. During his visit this weekend, he is expected to participate in Saturday’s Bahamas National Trust-sponsored Conchservation event at Arawak Cay. He and Coalition spokesman Fred Smith, QC, both experienced SCUBA divers, will dive the western bays waters with Stuart Cove, another  Coalition director and often-quoted source on the marine environment. The Coalition is also calling for passage of an Environmental Protection Act.

 

The Coalition Supports Saving Lighthouse Point

The Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay supports the One Eleuthera Foundation’s efforts to save Lighthouse Point. See their news release below.

One Eleuthera Foundation Press Release

For immediate Release as of April 22, 2013

Written by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
Photos: Azaleta Ishmael-Newry and the TNC

 

Why It Is Important to Save Lighthouse Point
It contains one of few un-spoilt ecosystems left on Earth

Nassau, Bahamas – Land disputes, protecting the environment, sustainable development and the future for Eleuthera are making headlines.  The Island of Eleuthera is becoming an important economic hub and the sale of a large parcel of land at the southern tip that is known as Lighthouse Point (LHP) requires close examination.  It has the one of the best beaches in the Bahamas and untouched land where habitats, important scientific research and artifacts lay.

The One Eleuthera Foundation’s petition to “Save Lighthouse Point” and its surrounding areas that make up 720 acres has gained local and international attention. The petition garnered 1600 signatures within one month on the One Eleuthera Foundation’s Facebook page. And, while Bahamian Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Perry Christie has mentioned the petition in the House of Parliament, more action needs to take place to save the land from the wrong kind of development like a gated community or mega resort.

Prominent Bahamians, ordinary citizens and foreigners have signed the LHP petition that states, “Archaeological and scientific findings have been significant and as reported this place is considered to be one of the most important, unexplored archaeological and scientific sites in The Bahamas.”  The nearby Millars Slave Plantation has artifacts that date back to the early 1780’s and traces of the Lucayans can be found in the ruins of old Bannerman town and at Lighthouse Point.

A group of scientists said that “The Bahamas is an ecological paradise on Earth and there are only a few ecosystems like this (Lighthouse Point) that remain.” The natural beauty of LHP is powerful and as one student said, she “Felt in touch with God” during her visit there.

Errol McPhee who hailed from nearby Bannerman Town and signed the petition said, “There were many major developments on Eleuthera and as economic hard times came upon us, the investors left.  It is time for eco-friendly investments that will include the residents and descendants of Eleuthera.”

Although the One Eleuthera Foundation is at the helm of this fight, it is The Eleuthera Land Conservancy (ELC), a non-profit organization that works towards the protection of Eleuthera’s terrestrial and marine resources that is raising money to purchase Lighthouse Point. Others that support the cause include The Nature Conservancy, The Bahamas National Trust, Island School, and BREEF.

“We want successful, sustainable and responsible development in Eleuthera and I think our Prime Minister understands this,” said Shaun Ingraham, the CEO and founder of the One Eleuthera Foundation. “We would also like a natural park established so that Bahamians and visitors can enjoy the space.  Much like Clifton, we should have a Lighthouse Point National Heritage Park.”

In 2009, Professor Pieter T. Vissher of the Marine Sciences Department at the University of Connecticut and a group of scientists wrote a letter to the former Government advising of the grave implications of misguided development.   Vissher along with other scientists from the US, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland have 60 years of research experience and authorship on several hundreds of scientific papers as well as over $20 million in combined research.

These are excerpts from Professor T. Vissher’s letter: “Lighthouse Point on Eleuthera could possibly turn into a construction site that will alter the surrounding coral reefs, beaches and perhaps most importantly, the hyper-saline lake (Big Pond) near Bannerman Town.  Granted economic development is critical in securing jobs, improving infrastructure, etc., but at what cost? We hope that a development can be designed using the unique ecological properties of Lighthouse Point while preserving the scientific integrity of Big Pond so that the Bahamian people will retain this for generations to come.”

“Big Pond harbors many answers about the origin of life, climate change (that is recorded in the layered sediments at Big Pond), and even offers windows in deeply routed medical research questions.  The ecosystems are similar to the earliest life forms we know on Earth, going back three billion years.  If ever we want to unlock the secrets of what happened to life, and to our planet over the billions of years that shaped it, we need systems like Big Pond.  Survival of the sediment ecosystems could lead to the discovery of new chemicals, potentially with medical applications like antibiotics. Space scientists at NASA also helped sponsor research at Big Pond and they believe that the mud of Big Pond will help in interpreting rocks on Mars and beyond.”

Another important commitment to preserving Lighthouse Point and the Big Pond area lies in the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) that the Bahamian Government signed committing to protect 20% of the marine and coastal habitats by 2020. The Nature Conservancy has invested $20 million dollars in return for a commitment from the 10 Caribbean countries to support and manage new and existing protected areas.

Under the CCI, The Bahamas expanded Andros West Side National Park from 185,032 acres to 1,288,167 acres to protect creek, mud flats, sand flats and mangrove forests that are important habitats used by elusive bone fish and tarpon during their life cycles.  (TNC website). There are still no designated conservation areas on Eleuthera.

On April 20, 2013, Executive Director of the Bahamas National Trust, Eric Carey tweeted, “BNT Council passes Resolution supporting protection of Lighthouse Point. Strong message. Hands off Mr unsustainable developer!”

The zoning bylaw for such land: “Prohibits any use of land and the erecting, locating or use of any buildings or structures on land (ii) that contains a sensitive ground water feature or a sensitive surface water feature; Prohibits any use of land and the erecting, location or use of any buildings or structures within any area defined as – (i) a significant wildlife habitat, wetland, woodland or area of natural or scientific interest or (iii) archaeological resource.”

Eleutheran, Shaun Ingraham reminds us, “Eleuthera is losing a lot of its recreational areas to construction and Lighthouse Point may be one of them.”  Once purchased and appropriate sites protected, development would follow the preservation, low impact and compact waterfront models presented in “A Shared Vision” (pages 44 to 75).

The plans include easy access for visitors, jobs for the local community. They would include work for construction persons, cooks, landscapers, scuba divers, fisherman, maids and tour guides. Other entrepreneurial opportunities would include those who partake in rentals for boats, bikes or scooters.  The site would also have local artisans and visitors would enjoy a true heritage tourism experience.

Suggestions to the Government of The Bahamas include: 1) Maintain the road as a crown road; 2) Maintain all public access to all beaches; 3) Protect Big Pond Under Section 23 (i) (e); (f) and (g) of the Planning and Sub-Division Act; 4) Declare a portion of the offshore areas as conservation area; and 5) Make a monetary contribution to purchase the land and establishing infrastructure.

The Island of Eleuthera is becoming an important destination for multi-million dollar development as is evident with the opening of the 25-acre Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve in Governor’s Harbour in 2012, and recently the refurbishing and reopening of The Cove Eleuthera.

On April 25, 2013, the Inaugural Business Outlook will be held in Governor’s Harbour followed by “A Celebration of Earth and Partnerships” on the 26th and 27th and during that time, more dialogue will take place.

The battle to save Lighthouse Point has heated up as the marketing for the proposed development at Lighthouse is becoming more aggressive.  Attention has peaked as well due to the land dispute between prominent Bahamian developer Franklyn Wilson and approximately 500 members from the Bannerman Town, Millers, John Millers and Eleuthera Association regarding ownership of 2000 acres of land in nearby Wemyss Bight.

The One Eleuthera Foundation, a non-profit established one year ago has completed many projects that improved healthcare, infrastructure on the Island and created jobs.  They recently secured a $25,000 grant that helped refurbish Ocean Hole in Rock Sound which will be rededicated this Earth day weekend and a $37,000 grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to help promote awareness of and testing of breast cancer.  Since their start, the OEF has received $500,000 in direct or pass through grants that benefit Eleuthera. More information on the One Eleuthera Foundation and their work is available on www.oneeluethera.org.

A view of the most southern tip of Lighthouse Point and it’s surrounding land. The lighthouse and Big Pond can be seen in the background. Photo provided by The Nature Conservancy

A view of the most southern tip of Lighthouse Point and it’s surrounding land. The
lighthouse and Big Pond can be seen in the background. Photo provided by The Nature
Conservancy A view of Lighthouse Point Beach in Southern Eleuthera. It is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in The Bahamas.  The One Eleuthera Foundation secured more than 1600 signatures for the “Save Lighthouse Point” petition. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-NewryA view of Lighthouse Point Beach in Southern Eleuthera. It is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in The Bahamas. The One Eleuthera Foundation secured more than 1600 signatures for the “Save Lighthouse Point” petition. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

One Eleuthera Foundation’s founder and CEO Shaun Ingraham took a group on a tour of Lighthouse Point in Southern Eleuthera in The Bahamas. They want responsible and sustainable development and not a gated community for the area.  Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

One Eleuthera Foundation’s founder and CEO Shaun Ingraham took a group on a tour of Lighthouse Point in Southern Eleuthera in The Bahamas. They want responsible and sustainable development and not a gated community for the area. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

Visitors explore the remains of the lighthouse at Lighthouse Point. Located at the southern tip of Eleuthera, it one considered a historic site that has Lucayan artifacts. The One Eleuthera Foundation has launched a petition, “Save Lighthouse Point” and would like to see the area made into a national park. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

Visitors explore the remains of the lighthouse at Lighthouse Point. Located at the southern tip of Eleuthera, it one considered a historic site that has Lucayan artifacts. The One Eleuthera Foundation has launched a petition, “Save Lighthouse Point” and would like to see the area made into a national park. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

The Big Pond area in Bannerman Town that is adjacent to Lighthouse Point is filled with a largely undisturbed rare hyper-saline lake that is researched for scientific purposes. In the background are ruins of a historic building. The One Eleuthera Foundation would like the land preserved as part of a National Park and historic site.  Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

The Big Pond area in Bannerman Town that is adjacent to Lighthouse Point is filled with a largely undisturbed rare hyper-saline lake that is researched for scientific purposes. In the background are ruins of a historic building. The One Eleuthera Foundation would like the land preserved as part of a National Park and historic site. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

Will Government Betray Lyford Cay Residents?

Bahamas Tribune
Editorial

In 1954, wealthy industrialist Eddie Taylor came to the Bahamas and bought a large tract of land at the undeveloped western end of New Providence. Over the years, Lyford Cay became known, not only as a place to relax, but also a secure hideaway for the rich and famous.

They came quietly, they enjoyed each others company, played golf, swam in some of the world’s most beautiful waters, and spent their evenings at the club. Here they were secure from the prying eyes of the world – particularly those of the press.

Among the early residents were Prince Rainier III of Monaco, the Greek shipping tycoons – Stavros Niarchos and George Livanos – author Arthur Hailey, Henry Ford II, the Aga Khan, Tony O’Riley and Sir John Templeton, to name but a handful of the world’s most famous names that became known as the Lyford Cay set. It was here in 1962 that the talks between US President John F Kennedy and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan took place, with the President living in Mr Taylor’s home. The Nassau Agreement resulted in the development of the UK Polaris programme. Over the years, many important talks were held and agreements signed behind those secure gates.

Over the next 59 years, many Lyford Cay residents extended a welcome to those outside the gates — including Bahamians — who eventually purchased Lyford Cay property and also settled in the residential area. Over the years, the closed gate was a convenient red flag for local politicians, who thrived on stirring up racial hatreds. They failed to realise that the gates were gradually opening to include successful black Bahamians, who also wanted to share in the amenities of Lyford Cay.

In their own quiet way, Lyford Cay residents found ways to thank Bahamians for their hospitality. In 2009, it was conservatively estimated that Lyford Cay’s economic foundation contributed $209 million a year to the Bahamas’ gross domestic product (GDP).

The Foundation’s resources have been directed principally to increasing the availability of higher education and technical training for Bahamians, and supporting local non-profit groups through financial contributions and volunteer initiatives.

The Foundation, thanks to the quiet generosity of its donors, is the largest educational and philanthropic organisation in the country.

It has donated more than $17.6 million in undergraduate, graduate, and technical training and vocational scholarships to Bahamians overseas; more than $3.7 million in scholarships to individuals studying at the College of the Bahamas; $16.6 million in grants and more than 3,500 volunteer man hours to local charities and civic groups. It also helped secure almost $13 million in scholarship awards for Bahamian students from the colleges and universities they attended.

In 1999, the five-year, $5 million COB Library Project Fundraising Campaign opened, resulting in the official opening of the Harry C Moore Library and Information Centre on April 6, 2011. In 2009, the Foundation celebrated its 40th anniversary.

All the residents asked in return was to be left in peace and quiet in their residential enclave.

But blown into their midst was a Canadian fashion designer, a tycoon in his own right, who obviously wanted to stir things up in the quiet community. Recently, he invited controversial Nation of Islam leader —Louis Farrakhan — to visit his pad. Immediately, Mr Farrakhan turned to his favourite enterprise – the stirring of the racial pot. “I was at the home of Mr (Peter) Nygard,” he said, “way out somewhere, a gated community, some black people can’t even go in there except as a servant, a cook, a butler, to care for the lawn… but Mr Nygard wanted them there on that piece of ground that most black people just keep on driving by, don’t even go that way.”

This is a lie. Obviously, this controversial visitor was not informed that not only did black people go there, but they lived there. They too are members of the exclusive Lyford Cay Club and are represented on the Lyford Cay board.

And now Mr Nygard is hell bent on turning this quiet community, zoned as a residential area, into a commercial centre. He has announced that he plans to invest between $25 to $30 million to construct a stem cell research-focused medical facility at his Lyford Cay home. Already, he has increased his 3.2 acre property to 6.1 acres by dredging the seabed and extending its shoreline. The former government denied him permission to do this. It went so far as to call the reclamation project illegal, and ordered him to restore the area to its original borders. But Mr Nygard kept on dredging and enlarging his beach front property.

And now the Christie government — we are told that Mr Nygard considers it “his government” — has informed the Lyford Cay Property Owners Association that Mr Nygard has applied to government to lease him the reclaimed land on which Nygard Cay now sits. The Lyford Cay Association was informed that government might be inclined to “accede” to Mr Nygard’s application.

Has government considered how public traffic is going to access this property to accommodate its commercial use? After all, the property owners have the right to keep their gates closed to their residential properties. Maybe Mr Nygard’s tourists seeking medical attention plan to arrive at Simms Point by boat. And as for parking? He’ll probably be applying next to dredge a marina to accommodate their boats.

It is wrong that one resident — and lately arrived at that — should be allowed to destroy an atmosphere developed over the years, and zoned as a residential area, to find that suddenly it has been turned commercial. It would be a betrayal on the part of the Christie government to this group of people who have been so generous to the Bahamas. In fact, the very thought is outrageous.

And now it is time for Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell to come forward and remind his government of their Bahamianisation policy.

Remember Bahamian Dr Conville Brown, who has established the Bahamas Heart Centre on Collins Avenue? Last year, he announced plans to construct a multi-million dollar stem cell centre on the third floor of his medical pavilion.

This was announced last October after he and a special team had successfully performed the first stem cardiac treatment in Nassau on a 62-year-old American man. This was Dr Brown’s first step to launch his dream of offering medical tourism in the Bahamas. It is known that his ambition is to attract the world’s best medical brains to help him create a niche to provide a service to people outside of the country.

In other words, he would not be competing with his own medical fraternity.

Why then, should this government make legal what a previous government has called illegal? How can a foreigner be allowed to enter into direct competition with a highly trained and skilled Bahamian?

If government’s Bahamianisation policy — as they interpret it — means anything, then here’s another reason why the Nygard scheme should be denied.

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Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay Applauds Move Toward Passage of Freedom of Information Act

Calling the right of the public to access information about the business of the government of The Bahamas “an essential and critical tool in a truly democratic society,” the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay today lauded the Christie administration’s announcement that it was close to passing a Freedom of Information Act.

The Coalition’s comments came in response to an article that appeared in a local daily Thursday  quoting a senior official stating that the proposed Freedom of Information Act was being reviewed by the Law Reform and Revision department in the office of the Attorney General.

“This is excellent news,” said the coalition of environmentalists which has urged passage of an act that would make the business of government more transparent. “Most countries around the globe have recognised the importance of allowing the public access to information and have, in one form or another, passed a Freedom of Information Act. Such acts allow citizens, journalists and interested parties access to information, an essential and critical tool in the maintenance of a truly democratic society. Not only does such an act provide information so that the business of governing is more transparent, it behooves those who govern by lifting the veil that could be seen as an attempt to conceal information even when not intended. Thus, it provides information for the public and frees those who govern of any suspicion that accompanies business done behind closed doors when there is no avenue to guarantee that information will be forthcoming.”

Though discussed in principle for more than a decade and urged by journalists, the Freedom of Information Act began to take shape under the previous administration. Last August, just a little more than three months after the PLP assumed office, Prime Minister Perry Christie pledged to make it a reality in this five-year term. Today, that pledge grew a step closer to reality, drawing the Coalition’s attention. Passage of the Freedom of Information Act was one of the main components of the environmental organisation’s platform.

“We laud the Government of The Bahamas on the progress of the Freedom of Information Act and urge that the momentum toward passage be maintained with the same commitment and enthusiasm that both the current government and the former administration recognise as essential to have in place for the maintenance of a modern, democratic society,” said the Coalition’s statement. “Once the Act becomes law, its success will depend upon strict enforcement. We believe that the government fully understands and is committed to the reality of this aspect of the process.”

The Coalition has gathered dozens of serious supporters and hundreds of signatures on a petition for the cause that led to its creation, a desire to save the fragile marine environment in Clifton Bay where divers have indentified some of the world’s most varied species of marine life.

The Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay is a licensed non-profit Bahamian corporation committed to preserving and protecting the delicate environmental, ecological and cultural balance of Clifton Bay and the surrounding community. Particular emphasis is given to encouraging effective land-use decisions and habitat restoration efforts that benefit the natural and human communities of the bay.