Archive | May, 2013

Blackbeard’s Cay plans for dolphin enclosure opposed

The Tribune

Khrisna Virgil

Forty local and international activist groups have joined forces to oppose the creation of dolphin enclosures at Blackbeard’s Cay off Cable Beach and East End, Grand Bahama.

Expressing their “complete and utter rejection” of the projects, the organisations said they also want legislators to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act to prohibit all new dolphin facilities and breeding programmes.

According to a statement issued by the environmental group reEarth, an online petition opposing the two dolphinariums attracted 1,450 signatures in just seven days.

They intend to present the document to government and insist the projects be stopped.

The statement said: “Research has shown how the natural behaviours of dolphins in the wild atrophy in captive facilities. Sonar abilities, natural feeding and mating behaviours are seriously affected and there is speculation over the affect that captivity has on dolphins’ complex communication skills.

“Despite a dolphin’s physical appearance to be ‘smiling’ and the general perception of these animals as ‘happy’, in their captive environment performing shows, it is important to consider the fact that they are fed only during shows and therefore are forced into submission by their owners.

“These show-time behaviours are not natural to them and they are unable to perform their natural behaviours as they would in the wild.”

In terms of the Cable Beach project, reEarth added: “With so much of the Blackbeard’s Cay venture banking on Carnival Cruise Line customers, we have to wonder how sustainable this model of revenue is. With dissention already visible in the Carnival group on captive dolphin facilities, it is wise of the Bahamas to allow a fourth facility based on their support into the future?”

The statement said that in 1995, the Ingraham administration promised there would be no further captures or exports of dolphins.

“Subsequent to this promise, the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed in 2005. While this was a baby step in the right direction, the legislation and regulations remain disappointing and do little to protect dolphins from ill treatment or safeguard the species in its biologically wild state afterwards.”

Re-earth criticised officials in the Bahamas for doing nothing to ban such facilities.

“Whilst other countries are moving towards a more enlightened treatment of animals, the Bahamas appears to be stuck in the past.

“Costa Rica, Australia, Hungary, Chile and India have all completely banned dolphinariums from their shores. In a landmark move just recently, India announced its decision to ban dolphinariums under the premise that dolphins should not be treated as ‘non-human persons’.”

The petition can be found at: www.the petitionsite.com/703/523/691/oppose-new-dolphin-swim-facilities-in-the-bahamas/

So far, the petition is supported by:

• Local

reEarth

The Bahamas Humane Society

BREEF

EARTHCARE

The Grand Bahamas Humane Society

Young Marine Explorers

Save Guana Cay

One Eleuthera

Andros Conservancy and Trust

• International

Dolphin Project

Cetacean Society International

NY Whale and Dolphin Action League

Earth Island Institute

Zoocheck Canada

California Gray Whale Coalition

Elsa Nature Conservancy

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (International)

No Whales in Captivity

Orca Conservancy

Orca Network

Marine Connection

Enlightened Animals

Captive Dolphin Awareness Foundation

Grupo de los Cien

Animal Fund

ABITPC Antigua

Marine Mammal Connection Society

Dauphins Libres

Animal Welfare Institute

Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali

Blue Voice

OrcaLab/Pacific Orca Society

Australians for Animals

Born Free Foundation

Animal Balance

Fins and Flukes

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Popular Bahamian Artist Backs Save the Bays with New Song

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KB PLEDGES HIS ALLEGIANCE TO THE BAYS: Prominent Bahamian singer and songwriter, KB, teams up with Save the Bays and is set to release a track to raise awareness about the plight to protect the Bahamian Bays.

 

Kirkland ‘KB’ Bodie, the number one selling recording Bahamian artist, has joined the fast-growing marine environmental movement, Save The Bays, writing, performing and producing a song by the same name to bring awareness to the fragile state of the country’s coral reefs and bays.

Save the Bays, written and sung by the artist who has produced more music than any living Bahamian, is set to premiere exclusively on the popular 100 Jamz morning show, Wake Up and Go with Special K and Leslie this Friday between 8:30 and 9 am. Immediately following that show, it will be released to all radio and online media outlets.

“You can clearly see the effects of the pollution in our waters,” KB said following a land tour at Clifton Bay and an aerial plane ride over a few Bahamian islands with Save the Bays Director environmental activist Joseph Darville. “We all have an integral role in saving our bays. This was the impetus which led me to write the track.” The song, just under four minutes, includes the chorus ‘Rise up, Bahamas, Let your voices blaze, Stand up, Bahamas, come on let’s Save The Bays, God gave us this land, and this land we must save, Stand up, Bahamas, come on let’s Save The Bays.

KB, whose fan favorites include Civil Servants and Bush Mechanic, is no stranger to creating songs to express his concern over national and environmental issues. In 2011, he produced the hit Dey Sellin’ voicing the frustration of the Bahamian people regarding the constant sale of Bahamian land resources.

A diligent supporter of Friends of the Environment, the Abaco-based non-profit organisation dedicated to protection and preservation of waters and wildlife in The Bahamas and careful development, KB works tirelessly to assist the group in its efforts. On the heels of his most recent studio project, KB and Friends Volume 4, KB has pledged part proceeds of the album sales to Friends of the Environment.

 

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Darville Advises Rotarians about the Devastation in Bimini & The Bahamas

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Human Rights and Environmental Activist, Joseph Darville addresses Freeport Sunrise Rotary Club in Grand Bahama on behalf of Save The Bays (photo: Barefoot Marketing)

Freeport Bahamas – Passionate human rights activist and Save The Bays Director Joseph Darville engaged the members of Rotary’s Grand Bahama Sunrise Club recently as he spoke about “Rape, Pillage & Wanton Destruction of Our Patrimony Heritage of Land & Sea.”

Having just returned from Bimini, Darville shared his findings and educated the Rotarians about Save The Bays, the rapidly-growing group seeking legislative, judicial and behavioural change to protect the Bahamas environment. The group (originally named The Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay) was established to fight the desecration of important marine environments in Nassau, particularly by private landowners and industry. Within months, it grew, joining forces with the support of other environmental groups and began an eco-partnership movement that has been nothing short of a groundswell. This led to the evolution of the name to Save The Bays to signify a spreading beyond Nassau to Bimini, Eleuthera and other threatened marina areas.

“Almost every island of The Bahamas faces potential damage due to development and lack of regulations,” said Darville, “and Save The Bays plans to visit them.” Darville told Rotarians he witnessed firsthand the destruction of seabeds in Bimini as a result of construction that created the Bimini Bay Resort, being developed by the Genting Group. “They have excavated millions of tons of the soft sea bed, endangering many species, all to create an embankment atop the narrow strip of sand and pine trees, all to build million dollar homes for second home owners,” claimed Darville.

In Bimini, the development in a sensitive mangrove area called Mosquito Point has devastated an area believed by Bahamians to be an important habitat for wildlife. While developers provided to the Government a private environmental impact study that claimed the area had no ecological value, scientists claim this particular area is reputed to be the most studied ecological system in the western hemisphere. Making it worse, all of this devastation has taken place without consultation by the native people.

This highlights the need for the government to create the Environmental Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act, so that Bahamian land is protected and the public is aware of what is being developed, Darville said. Several Rotarians expressed surprise that the country did not have such regulations in place.

Locals in Bimini have also learned that construction of a thousand foot dock jutting out into the water on the west side of North Bimini is planned to accommodate daily gambling visitors. This, Darville explained, would be built opposite of where local residents live, not opposite the Bimini Bay development itself. That dock will connect with a six acre man-made island with a basin to accommodate a cruise ship, he said. Developers will have to excavate through one of the most famous dive environments in the world, he noted.

“The Government has approved this without any knowledge or input from the residents of Bimini,” said Darville.

Save The Bays group’s objective is to cause the Government to implement laws and regulations, which will guarantee the responsible and accountable use of our land. These will protect the land and seas, and whatever is in, on or beneath them, including oil or natural gas.

Darville highlighted his presentation with photographs showing the illegal expansion of Crown Land and destruction of marine habitats in Nassau by Peter Nygard, and oil seeping into the water from BEC in Clifton Bay. Rotarians were shocked to see the graphic examples.

Acting President of the Rotary Club of Grand Bahama Sunrise, Wayne Russell, stated that he and many others in attendance were avid boaters and many of Rotary’s community projects were centered around the ocean.  They were then encouraged to sign the online petition (www.savethebays.bs), to assist in the mission to preserve The Bahamas.

 

 

 

 

 

Sandals Foundation Backs BNT On Conch

The Tribune

The Sandals Foundation is backing the C-FISH Fund as one of its commitment to the ‘Caribbean Challenge’, an initiative that calls for protected zones along the region’s coasts by 2020.

The C-FISH Fund is a private-public partnership, with the goal of providing sustainable financial support to fish sanctuaries in the Caribbean. The Sandals Foundation will partner with it by putting mechanisms in place to bring in sustainable funding through tourism for the C-FISH Fund.

These mechanisms will include tours of artificial reefs and the development of local craft to be sold in Sandals Resorts’ gift shops.

The Sandals Foundation has also committed to meeting the following objectives by 2017: Support effective management of the Boscobel and Whitehouse fish sanctuaries in Jamaica; provide financial and volunteer support for turtle conservation in Antigua and Jamaica; and continue to provide support for the Bahamas National Trust’s (BNT) conch conservation programme.

The second phase of the ‘Caribbean Challenge’ was announced at the Caribbean Summit of Political and Business Leaders on May 17—18, hosted by the Virgin Group of Companies chief executive, Richard Branson; British Virgin Islands Premier Orlando Smith; and Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell.

In attendance were delegations from nine Caribbean countries, representatives from resort companies and cruise lines, the World Bank, United Nations, foundations and environmental groups.

“The environmental sustainability of the region is everyone’s business, and the time has come for us all to step up to the plate. We completely support the ‘Caribbean Challenge’ and encourage the entire region to come on board,” said Adam Stewart, president of the Sandals Foundation, who attended the summit along with Heidi Clarke, the director of programmes of the Sandals Foundation.

The Sandals Foundation will be addressing the areas of marine and coastal protection; restoration of marine and coastal resources; sustainable tourism; sustainable fisheries; adaptation to climate change and marine pollution.

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Sharks and Science

Thanks to the Moore Bahamas Foundation students are able to participate is a shark research expedition with Stony Brook University’s Institute. See more details in the clipping below.

2013.05.25 Tribune - Sharks and Science

Save the Bays Files Legal Action Aimed at Reclaiming Crown Land

 

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Seeks temporary injunction to prevent further dredging

A leading environmental group representing hundreds of supporters has filed an action in the Supreme Court, seeking a judicial review process that could force government to shut down dredging at Nygard Cay and allow it to reclaim what it called Crown Land at Simms Point.

The debate over what has been called “unauthorised dredging of the seabed” at Simms Point, the residence of fashion mogul Peter Nygard, has brewed for some time and in 2010, the celebrity designer was ordered by the government to return the land to its original state. Tensions in the Lyford Cay community built as the Nygard property did, but this is the first time a legal action related to construction activities affecting the seabed has been filed against Nygard. The outcome of the action could cause the courts to decide what is to be done about what started out as a three-acre parcel that is now more than six acres with its expansion, detractors claiming, impacting Clifton Heritage Park, causing erosion and damaging the fragile coral reef that experts have said at one time was home to “the world’s most beautiful elk horn coral.”

The action was filed by Callenders law firm on behalf of Save the Bays (formerly Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay), the new umbrella organisation. Respondents include several government departments, the Town Planning Committee, Peter Nygard and Mr. Nygard’s associate, former ambassador to the environment Keod Smith.

“We are seeking a judicial review on the basis that Save the Bays represents the collective interests of persons committed to protecting Clifton Bay and other parts of The Bahamas of particular environmental interest,” said Fred Smith, QC, Callenders. In addition to judicial review, the action seeks an interim injunction restraining Nygard and Smith from continuing what it called “unauthorised construction and dredging.” It also alleges that Nygard and Smith are trespassing on Crown land. Specifically, it cites construction of a groyne, dredging of the seabed, demolition of an existing dock at Jaws Beach, construction of a new dock on the sea bed and beach and the placement of large boulders on the western edge of the public boat ramp at Jaws Beach. The alleged damage to the reef and seabed has been documented in more than one dozen independent studies, according to supporters of Save the Bays. The Lyford Cay Property Owners Association, representing more than 400 homeowners, has also gone on record opposing the activities at Nygard Cay.

“In a nutshell, the judicial review seeks to determine whether the rule of law applies in The Bahamas or not,” said Fred Smith.

Legal experts say the action asks Government to “exercise its statutory powers, given for the purposes of maintaining the environment in relation to the unlawful reclamation of Crown Land and unpermitted construction activities at Nygard Cay and Jaws Beach.” The suit alleges that the works being carried out “without the requisite permits and approvals constitute offences under the Planning and Subdivision Act, the Building and Regulation Act and the Coast Protection Act.”

Initially called the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay, the organisation announced its name change to Save the Bays in early May to avoid confusion with the original coalition to save the historic area east of Lyford Cay for the Bahamian public when it was the target of developers some 14 years ago. At that time, the coalition called for the creation of a land and sea park but only the land park was created. The original coalition continues to call for the sea park and has expressed concern about activities at Nygard Cay. With many of the same supporters in both organisations, Save the Bays is also urging passage of a Freedom of Information Act and an Environmental Protection Act.

Background Notes to Editors

Judicial Review proceedings issued on 17 May 2013

on behalf of Save The Bays

What the claim is about

In a nutshell, whether the rule of law applies in The Bahamas or not.

Save The Bays believes that for years Mr Nygard has carried out substantial unauthorised construction, dredging and land reclamation on his property, Nygard Cay, at the western tip of New Providence Island. In doing so he has trespassed on Crown land and caused damage to the coast and marine environment.

More recently, Save The Bays has become aware that dock works are being carried out at the behest of Mr Keod Smith, Mr Nygard’s lawyer, at Jaws Beach, south east of Clifton Bay, without permission. This is a further example of unauthorised and unregulated development on Crown land and the rule of law being flouted. Our concern is that the Government’s failure to act in respect of the events at Nygard Cay is breeding a dangerous sense of lawlessness, where private citizens do as they please on public land.

This is particularly disconcerting at a time when it has been said that The Bahamas is one memo away, we understand, from being on the dangerous places list for Americans to travel to. This is an opportunity for the leadership of the country to take a stance and let the people of the country know that no one is above the law and the rule of law will be enforced.

Save The Bays believes serious and irreversible damage is being done to the marine environment as a result of these unauthorised activities.

If members of the public are permitted to destroy public property and place permanent structures on Crown land without permission or environmental oversight or regulation, it could encourage others to treat Crown land held for the benefit of all Bahamians as their own private fiefdom and ignore concepts of property, due process and the rule of law.

Such behaviour could also deter financial investment in the Bahamian economy and deter second home owners from buying property in, and contributing to the economy of, The Bahamas.

We believe it is essential to hold the Government to account for its responsibility to safeguard the nation’s Crown land.

We have written numerous letters drawing the wrongdoing to the attention of the relevant Governmental departments but almost no action has been taken. The only notable exception is the Ministry of Works and Urban Development which has confirmed there is no building permit application for the dock work at Jaws Beach and Mr Smith is being issued with a “contravention letter”. This is a welcome development although doesn’t excuse the other Government departments’ lack of action or the Ministry of Works failure to respond or take action in relation to Mr Nygard’s activities.

So we have applied for leave to seek Judicial Review.

The purpose of the proceedings is to ensure that the Government exercise its statutory powers, given for the purposes of maintaining the environment, in relation to the unlawful reclamation of Crown land by Mr Nygard and unpermitted construction activities at Jaws Beach.

Parties 

The Judicial Review has been brought by the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay (under our new name ‘Save the Bays’), on the basis we represent the collective interests of persons committed to protecting Clifton Bay and other parts of The Bahamas of particular environmental interest. Our members include local residents and environmentalists whose interests and rights are affected by the activities of the Government.  Save the Bays is represented by Callenders and Co.

As well as Messrs. Nygard and Smith, the Respondents to the Judicial Review claim are:

  • The Prime Minister: as the Minster responsible for Crown Land;
  • The Deputy Prime Minister: as the Minister for Works and Urban Development and the Minister responsible for Building Regulation;
  • The Minister for Transport and Aviation: as Minister responsible for Ports and Harbours;
  • The Town Planning Committee: who has a mandatory duty to take action when an individual develops land without the appropriate approvals.

Remedies sought

Save The Bays is seeking the following remedies amongst others:

  1. Orders quashing the decisions of the Government to take no action against Messrs. Nygard and Smith.
  2. Orders requiring the government respondents to consider afresh – and properly – whether to take action.
  3. Declarations that Messrs. Nygard and Smith are trespassing on Crown land;  and
  4. Injunctions restraining Messrs. Nygard and Smith from continuing unauthorised construction and dredging work pending the determination of the Judicial Review.

Next-steps

  • The application for leave to seek Judicial Review was filed on Friday 17 May 2013. The Supreme Court will decide if permission is granted.
  • All Respondents will be afforded an opportunity to put forward their opposition to the application and a hearing will be listed in due course to determine whether interim injunctions should be granted.

For any enquiries relating to the proceedings, please contact Fred Smith QC at Callenders and Co on 242 352 7458 or fsmith@callenders.net and/or Coalition member and environmental lawyer, Romi Ferreira on 242 323 7019 or romi@ferreiraandco.com.

Still waiting for Freedom of Information

The Nassau Guardian

In October 2011, the long-awaited and long-promised Freedom of Information (FOI) Act was tabled in the House of Assembly, years after it was promised. It was supposed to be enforced by July 1 the following year. Parliament finally passed the FOIA near the end of the Ingraham administration’s term; however, the legislation did not have an enforcement date.

Nonetheless, we are still waiting.

Last month, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said the government wants to bring the Freedom of Information Act into force “as soon as possible”, but the law is now under review to ensure that the “proper mechanisms are in place to support it”.

“There are some aspects of it that actually need to be addressed,” Maynard told the media. “We don’t want a situation where we have actually brought something into force and it can’t work. When you want to make an application to get something and anybody is holding up, you want to have some redress if you don’t get it.”

We are all for ensuring that the laws of the land work as efficiently and are as effective as possible, and we trust that Maynard-Gibson means what she says.

Despite how close we are to having our very own FOI Act, we are sadly still not there yet, lagging behind other countries in the region.

Many other countries in the region are either in the process of drafting or have already implemented Freedom of Information laws. Around the world, more than 60 countries have enacted FOI acts.

Freedom of information has long been recognized as a foundational human right ever since the United Nations General Assembly declared in 1946 that, “Freedom of Information is a fundamental human right and a touchstone of all freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated.” Since then, the Organization of American States and the Commonwealth – The Bahamas being a member of both – have also endorsed minimum standards on the right of information.

A FOI law has the potential to promote greater transparency and accountability and also facilitates greater public participation in the government’s decision-making process. Empowering citizens with the legal right to access information of their government’s activities can strengthen democracy by making the government directly accountable to its citizens on a day-to-day basis rather than just at election time.

Legislation to provide more freedom or access to information is not an end in itself.

An outdated public service culture run by civil servants who would often prefer root canal surgery rather than press scrutiny will not quickly become more transparent because of the passage of a bill.

Moreover, a media culture that is often sloppy and lazy in its coverage of government and political affairs will also not suddenly become more enterprising. Still, such legislation is a means to various ends. It is a part of a framework of legislative tools that can help to promote a more accountable and transparent public service culture.

The enactment of and training in the details of such legislation may help spur politicians, civil servants and journalists to provide citizens with the freedom of information needed to make freer and more informed decisions.

Outlawing discrimination does not end prejudice. But it puts that prejudice on notice that discrimination is against the law. Legislation to ensure greater public access to information will not in itself ensure a more open public service culture. But it puts that culture on notice that such openness is an essential component in good and effective governance.

We trust that the government will live up to its word to enact the FOI act “as soon as possible”.

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Key Members of the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay Calling on Citizens to Value Their Birthright, Make a Change

During a radio interview today on Real Talk with Ortland Bodie, members of the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay challenged the citizens of The Bahamas to value their natural resources and embrace the opportunity to be on the right side of history by supporting the Coalition’s efforts. Environmentalist Samantha Duncombe and Bahamian environmental attorney Romi Ferreira charged the public to make a change by valuing the environment that sustains them.

A major component in affecting change relies heavily on the structuring of legislation.

“We don’t have the environmental regulations in place. If we had our Environmental Impact Assessment Act or the regulatory component to the Environmental Health Services Act, these things would effectively govern such activities,” said Ferreira. “Remember, dredging in and of itself is not a bad thing; it is very necessary for development. But it’s the manner in which it’s done, where it’s located and the environmental sensitivities that go along therewith. There is no piece of legislation that I know about to refer to and this is why the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay is calling for an Environmental Protection Act. This is a serious deficiency in our legislative landscape and we’re calling on the government to relinquish this power from the office of the Prime Minister, encapsulate it and enshrine it in legislation and empower every single citizen, resident and visitor of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas with the knowledge to protect its birthright.”

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.

For more information about the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay, visit the website at www.savethebays.bs. For press enquiries, please contact Fred Smith at fsmith@callenders.net or 242 727 5191.

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