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Archive | June, 2013
The rapidly-growing environmental movement, Save The Bays, gained more momentum today when a local group with 400 members and a history of grass roots activism joined the campaign.
“We are delighted to announce that yet another NGO, EARTHCARE, has joined Save The Bays,” said Fred Smith, QC, a director of Save The Bays. “When we initially proposed creating an independent non-profit organization that would be actively engaged in seeing that the coral reefs of Clifton Bay were rescued and restored to the majestic beauty that made them world famous, we got tremendous support. But the values that attracted supporters to Clifton Bay and the western bays were greater than a single body of water and the movement has been growing beyond our wildest expectations. It has mushroomed overnight, now reaching waters in Bimini, Abaco, Andros, Eleuthera and Grand Bahama.” The destruction to the Clifton Bay barrier reefs due to ongoing oil leaks and other development at Clifton’s industrial area wasn’t the only reason environmental education NGO EARTHCARE joined forces with Save The Bays in a nationwide effort to protect marine ecosystems, but it was certainly an accelerating factor, said its founder.
“We are particularly excited about the organization’s future plans for Bimini, which I have been involved with for years said Gail Woon, Founder and Executive Director of the educational organization. Woon recently received her Diploma in International Environmental Law from the United Nations Institute of Training and Research. “In joining with the Coalition, I hope to be able to utilize this new training in order to assist the group to have an Environmental Protection Act passed as well as a Freedom of Information Act. EARTHCARE will continue our environmental education efforts on fisheries, habitat, water quality, pollution, invasive species, wetlands, and any topics that teachers need through our outreach efforts. We are excited to be a part of the team.”
EARTHCARE was formed in 1988 when Woon was asked by teachers to speak to their students on environmental issues affecting The Bahamas. Funded in part by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Foundation for the Caribbean and The Ocean Conservancy, a quarter of a century later, more than 400 members have signed up to volunteer by visiting schools to raise awareness about issues affecting the environment.
“Having EARTHCARE join our team opens the door to a whole new set of opportunities and objectives involving environmental education,” said Save The Bays Director Smith. “Gail Woon is a veteran environmentalist and her two-and-a-half decades of activism will surely strengthen the overall plans of our collaboration.”
EARTHCARE has been actively involved with International Coastal Cleanup Day for the past 25 years, was instrumental in the Coalition to Ban Longline Fishing in 1993, and has supported the Save Bimini project to minimize the impact of a mega-resort development on North Bimini among many other projects over the years. The organization’s efforts — including school visits to raise awareness — helped in the overall effort that led to a ban on harvesting sea turtles in The Bahamas in September 2009.
Accusing the Bahamas government of allowing Blackbeard’s Cay to overlook important legal and regulatory requirements, environmental group reEarth called on the developers to produce the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment.
The group called for an immediate halt to the development and the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act to bring transparency to it and similar projects.
According to reEarth, no public meeting was held concerning the project, nor was any public consultation organised – despite these being requirements of the Planning and Subdivision Act, sections 14 and 15.
Developer Samir Andrawos was contacted last night, but refused to comment on the claims.
The statement by reEarth read: “It is unthinkable that a foreigner is allowed to march into our country and set up a development without going through the same processes, and, being subject to the same regulations, as a Bahamian national.”
Asking whether an EIA was ever conducted for the project, and if so, why it was never made public, the group added: “What government agency would approve such a venture with no Environmental Impact Assessment or Environmental Management Plan?
“The very fact that this venture has managed to proceed to the point that it has, without the consultation of any animal welfare group, retards our government processes by 30 years.”
Calls placed to Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe and Minister of Marine Resources V Alfred Gray were not returned up to press time.
Last week, a prominent local entrepreneur called on the government to release the full business plan for Blackbeard’s Cay saying the move would serve the public interest.
Urging the government to seriously investigate the terms and conditions of the multi-million dollar deal, businessman Al Collie said he is concerned that the development is still “shrouded in secrecy.”
The development has also come under heavy scrutiny by animal rights activists, who have criticised the plans for a dolphin enclosure, saying the government should not approve another marine mammal facility due to the detrimental affects on the animals.
Forty local and international activist groups have joined forces to oppose the creation of dolphin enclosures, and the environmental group said it had 3,000 signatures on a petition to oppose this venture.
In its statement, reEarth also said facilities at Blackbeard Cay could be in breach of the Animal Protection and Control Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Regulations due to inadequate shelter and depth.
The reEarth statement read: “We would remind government officials that Blackbeards Cay is still a part of the Bahamas and must be subject to all the rules and regulations that a Bahamian would have to adhere to, not by Government officials to do with as they please and as such we have a voice in how it is used and what business is conducted there. We have a right to know what is happening to our land, to our coastlines and we should not be subject to the “Old Boy Networks” of government that only profits a few of its own.
“We vehemently oppose this development and demand that it be stopped immediately.”
By: Dana Smith
The Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay has won a court ruling halting construction works in the Clifton Bay area by Peter Nygard.
They were also successful in their Supreme Court application to require any dealings between the government, Mr Nygard and Keod Smith regarding Clifton Bay to be made public.
The court documents halt works in the Bay area by Mr Nygard and Mr Smith “acting directly or through (their) employees or agents.”
Filed before Justice Rhonda Bain, documents say Prime Minister Perry Christie, Deputy Prime Minister Philip ‘Brave’ Davis, and Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin must provide the coalition with ‘full and frank disclosure’ of several items.
These include copies of any applications or grants of permits, approvals, or leases made by Mr Nygard and Mr Smith in the Clifton Bay area.
The Queen and Mr Christie are named as the first respondents, Mr Davis as the second, Ms Hanna-Martin as the third, the Town Planning Committee is listed as the fourth, Mr Nygard as the fifth, and Mr Smith as the sixth. The coalition is the applicant.
The fourth paragraph of the court documents say: “The first to fourth respondents must forthwith provide the applicant with full and frank disclosure of the following to the extent that they are within their possession and control:
“Copies of all applications (if any) made by the fifth and sixth respondents for permits, approvals, or leases in respect of the works and properties referred to in paragraphs two and three herein;
“And copies of all permits, approvals or leases (if any) that have been granted to the fifth and sixth respondent together with, in each case, copies of all the documents that were before the relevant respondent when it reached the decision to grant such permits, approvals, or leases and the reasons for such decisions and the conditions (if any) upon which is may have been made.”
The works and properties referred to in paragraphs two and three, involve various construction works in the Clifton Bay area.
The second paragraph says: “Until judgement in the judicial review proceedings or until further order of the court, the fifth respondent, (acting directly or through his employees and agents) be and is hereby enjoined from proceeding with or continuing to undertake” the construction of a groyne on the seabed of Simms Point/Nygard Cay or north of Clifton Bay, as well as the dredging of the sea bed in that same area.
The third paragraph says: “Until judgement in the judicial review proceedings or until further order of the court, the sixth respondent (acting directly or through his employees or agents) be and is hereby enjoined from proceeding with or continuing to undertake the demolition of the old dock, the construction of a new dock on the sea bed and beach and the placement of large boulders on the western edge of the concrete ramp all at Jaws Beach, south east of Clifton Bay.”
Court documents also note a penal notice to the first, second, third, and fourth respondents if they neglect to obey the court’s order for full disclosure.
“If you, the within named first, second, third, or fourth respondents, neglect to obey paragraph four of this order, you may be held to be in contempt of court and liable to imprisonment at Her Majesty’s Prison, or a fine or the sequestration of your assets,” court documents say.
A penal notice is also listed for Mr Nygard if he neglects to obey the court’s order regarding constructions, north of Clifton Bay.
“If you, the within named fifth Respondent, neglect to obey paragraph two of this order, you may be held to be in contempt of Court and liable to imprisonment at Her Majesty’s Prison, or a fine or the sequestration of your assets.”
A similar penal notice is listed for Mr Smith.
“If you, the within named sixth respondent, neglect to obey paragraph three of this order, you may be held to be in contempt of Court and liable to imprisonment at Her Majesty’s Prison, or a fine or the sequestration of your assets.”
By: Caleb Oberst
CAPE ELEUTHERA, THE BAHAMAS – Saturday, June 8 marked the 29th Research Symposium held at the Cape Eleuthera Island School. It was the culmination of a semester’s worth of research work undertaken by students at The Island School in collaboration with scientists at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. Held at The Island School campus on Cape Eleuthera, the symposium featured student presentations of research in areas including sea turtles, conch population, lionfish abundance, patch reef fish ecology, climate change, shark physiology and mangrove flats. Attendees included guest scientists, local community members and representatives of the Save The Bays group. In addition to the scientific presentations, the event included speeches given by Dr. Mark Hixon and Dr. John Tiedemann, a poster session with students and a cheque presentation ceremony.
The symposium is an opportunity for guests to learn from the work being done by Island School students at CEI, work that embodies CEI’s core principles of research, education and outreach. Following the presentations, guests were invited to visit booths where students displayed scientific posters of their studies, demonstrated their research techniques, further explained their results and answered questions about the work. The posters, created by Island School students, are published, peer-reviewed documents, an accomplishment recognized by Dr. Tiedeman in his remarks to the students, noting both the quality and significance of the work.
Following the morning presentations, there was a ceremony, in which the Save The Bays group pledged $25,000 towards the Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholarship (BESS) programme, research internships for Bahamian students at CEI and student teacher internship opportunities for Bahamian teachers at the first green flag school in the Bahamas, Deep Creek Middle School. Save The Bays is an environmental group committed to protecting natural marine and terrestrial areas from development and degradation. They are currently engaged in projects throughout The Bahamas to stop development of environmentally important areas. “Fellow Director, Joseph Darville, and I were absolutely amazed and astounded by the wonderful work that the Cape Eleuthera Island School is doing,” said Fred Smith, Save The Bays Director who visited the island for the day to present the donation from the coalition. “We are very glad that the Island School is a community partner with Save The Bays and that they can contribute their learning and educational resources to promoting sustainable environmental living in The Bahamas.”
The afternoon sessions concluded with two addresses. Dr. Mark Hixon of the University of Hawaii, spoke to the students and gathered audience, encouraging them to continue their work and commitment towards making a difference in the world. Dr. Tiedeman also spoke, commending the high standards to which the students worked and congratulated them on the experiences they gained by working beyond the classroom and in the field. Symposia are held every June and December at The Island School campus in Cape Eleuthera. For more information about CEI and the ongoing research being conducted there, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 334.8551.
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and the major oil companies were yesterday warned they may face legal action related to ongoing oil spills and environmental issues at Clifton Bay area, a well-known QC accusing them of maintaining “a fortress mentality”.
Fred Smith QC, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner who acts for the Save the Bays coalition, said the state-owned monopoly energy provider, plus FOCOL (Shell), Esso and Rubis (Texaco), had failed to reply to the group’s request for ‘co-operation’ in tackling the issues at Clifton Bay.
Noting that he had first written to the companies two months ago, Mr Smith told Tribune Business their failure to reply was “unhelpful and counterproductive”, the only response to Save the Bays having come from BISX-listed Commonwealth Brewery.
Praising the Brewery for its engagement, Mr Smith warned that the continuing silence from BEC and the oil companies, coupled with the recent “dramatic oil spill” at Clifton Bay, might force the environmental coalition to take legal action against them for alleged “nuisance or negligence”.
Emphasising that he was not blaming any of these companies for the latest oil spill, Mr Smith told Tribune Business that Save the Bays was investigating to determine the source and who was responsible.
And he warned that the persistent oil spillages, which were being carried in waters beyond Clifton Bay, were threatening the annual $76 million tourist diving market off southwestern New Providence, the attraction of Lyford Cay and the wider eco-tourism market.
“There has been a dramatic oil spill at Clifton Bay,” Mr Smith said, referring to the spillage covered in yesterday’s Tribune. “Exactly who is responsible is something Save the Bays is investigating.”
Recalling the April 4, 2013, letters that sought co-operation in developing a plan that will enable them to “harmoniously co-exist” with other users of the Clifton Bay area, Mr Smith told this newspaper: “We have written to all the industrial companies in the Clifton Bay area, and none of the oil-related companies have responded.”
The only response to-date has been received from Commonwealth Brewery, whose managing director, Nico Pinotsis, said on May 7: “It goes without saying that we comply with existing legislation and make sure that we obtain all necessary licences and required permits, and have them renewed when due.”
Mr Smith contrasted the Brewery’s engagement with all other Clifton-based industrial operators. And he warned that legal action may also be taken, as it had Nygard Cay, to force the Government to apply the environmental legislation and regulations at its disposal.
“I think it is unhelpful and counterproductive for the oil companies and other industry [BEC} to ignore us,” Mr Smith told Tribune Business.
“We have reached out in the spirit of co-operation, but as with the Judicial Review complaint we have launched against the Government in relation to Nygard Cay, if the oil companies and BEC continue to maintain a fortress mentality, then we will have to bring legal action against them for nuisance or negligence.”
And Mr Smith added: “We also urge the relevant government authorities under the Health and Safety Act, and other legislation, to bring action against the various companies.
‘The pollution must stop, and controls must be put in place. We cannot have the most affluent second home project in the Bahamas, the Clifton Heritage Park, and the eco-tourism industry in the Bahamas subject to obvious and drastic oil pollution.
“It’s bad for the image of the Bahamas. We are promoting second home tourism, eco-tourism, dive exploration, a beautiful marine environment, and it is unfortunate that divers, boaters and others that use the recreational facilities be exposed to sticky, messy oil pollution.”
Mr Smith urged BEC and the oil companies to work with Save the Bays in building “harmonious interaction” between the tourism, industrial and cultural, recreational and marine sectors that use Clifton Bay.
While not blaming any of Clifton’s industrial players for the latest spill, Mr Smith said Save the Bays was “shocked” by it.
“We are told by others that although the recent oil spill is dramatically in excess of what has been going on recently, oil spillage has become an almost daily occurrence at Clifton Bay,” Mr Smith told Tribune Business.
“I have personally, in recent months, flown over inspecting the area. I have seen oil streaks that extend for miles around the Clifton Bay area.”
Noting that oil spillages were spreading beyond Clifton Bay, the QC reiterated: “It is going to affect, and is affecting, the dive and tourism economy, it is affecting recreational facilities, and it is affecting marine life.
“If it continues, it will kill-off marine life, and known coral and marine growth.”
Mr Smith urged the Government to pass both a Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Protection Act, arguing that the latter would “impose recognised standards by which BEC and the others oil companies will be held to.
“BEC, being a government corporation, will be obliged to produce copies of their environmental reports, their safety and pollution reports, and information related to their clean up of oil, toxic and hazardous waste.”
The importance of the Clifton Bay area cannot be overstated. A report produced for the Bahamas National Trust showed diving activities off southwestern New Providence have generated a $376 million economic impact over the past five years, attracting 70,000 visitors annually.
Focusing on the work and economic benefits created by Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas, which has been using the area for film-making over the past 30 years, the BNT study said: “The worldwide publicity generated by these productions is nearly immeasurable, as the world has associated the waters off Nassau with healthy and abundant coral reefs and marine life.
“The economic impact of the film and TV production businesses alone on New Providence is estimated at over $5 million a year in direct expenditures in hotel room nights, food and beverage, transportation and other services rendered by local Bahamians for these production companies.”
Noting that Stuart Cove directly employed 125 Bahamian and international staff, the BNT report added: “These employees spend their payroll on local apartments, houses, at the grocery store, pubs, restaurants, etc, creating a yearly estimated economic impact of another $5.9 million from staff and the company’s expenditures locally.
“Furthermore, when the tourist expenditures are calculated, given almost 70,000 tourists either dive or snorkel the reefs off south-west New Providence, the direct expenditures of these tourists in the local hotels and restaurants are calculated at $64.3 million dollars a year (hotel, food and beverage, plus other vacation expenditures).”
Using figures generated by an economic impact study conducted by Cline Group, the BNT paper said the direct economic impact from Stuart Cove’s activities off south-west New Providence was $75.176 million per annum.
Developers behind the $5 million Blackbeard’s Cay project yesterday vehemently rejected claims by environmental activists that it lacked the required government approvals and permits, saying: “Everything is in order.”
They were responding after reEarth director, Sam Duncombe, alleged that Blackbeard’s Cay was an example of “unregulated development”, charging that her inquiries of government departments had unearthed none of the necessary approvals.
But, in response, Charles Carter, the former PLP MP and Cabinet Minister, who is one of Blackbeard’s Cay’s principals, told Tribune Business it would be impossible to conduct a project of such magnitude and visibility without all the permits being in place.
“There’s no way that project can get going without them,” he said. “I’ve never been involved in anything illegal in my life, and don’t intend to start now.”
He declined to comment further. Mr Carter’s position, though, was backed by other contacts close to the $5 million project, who said it had already obtained its full occupancy certificate from the Ministry of Works.
“They have permits for every single thing the have done,” one source close to Blackbeard’s Cay said. “I can confirm that everything is in order. They’ve got all the permits they need.
That is unlikely to satisfy Ms Duncombe, who said her inquiries of the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission, Port Department and Department of Physical Planning had produced no results.
“No one seems to have any documents on that facility,” she said. “I’ve asked if any applications were put forward to do some dredging, put dolphin pens in, and no on can find anything to do with Blackbeard’s Cay.
“That’s what they’ve said. We don’t have anything in writing from them [government agencies], and that’s part of the problem. No one wants to put their name to anything.
“This is ridiculous now. If any permits exist, they need to show them to the public, because the pens are up. It has implications for development, lack of transparency.”
The Blackbeard’s Cay project has been subjected to great scrutiny in recent weeks, with the developers believing this has largely resulted from “misinformation” being circulated about the development.
Initial concerns stemmed from Bay Street retailers, worried that Blackbeard’s Cay would suck away hundreds of cruise passengers – principally Carnival customers – from downtown Nassau. And this has been followed by Ms Duncombe and environmental concerns – especially over the dolphin attraction.
“We oppose the introduction of a fourth captive dolphin facility in the Bahamas when so many countries around the world are shutting their doors to this archaic industry,” she said yesterday.
“This creates negative publicity for the Bahamas, and potentially affects our tourism market as so much of that market is now turning its head to more environmentally sustainable excursions.”
Setting out her concerns in a May 27 letter to V. Alfred Gray, minister of agriculture and marine resources, Ms Duncombe said: “We seek governmental support in preventing any future dolphin facilities in the Bahamas.
“We have recently become aware that approval has been granted by the National Economic Council for a marine mammal facility to be built at Blackbeard’s Cay. We have also been informed that preliminary approval has been granted for a similar facility in the eastern end of Grand Bahama.”
Ms Duncombe said neither proposal had been made public, and subject to consultation.
Arguing that these projects were moving the Bahamas in the “wrong” direction, Ms Duncombe said there were currently three dolphin attractions in the Bahamas – 30 dolphins at Atlantis; 18 at Dolphin Encounters; and over 30 at UNEXSO in Freeport.
She argued that, rather than acting as scientific and educational institutions, “these facilities are more about perpetuating a multi-million dollar industry benefiting from inefficient legislative control in the Bahamas”.
Legendary actor and long-time Bahamas resident Sir Sean Connery this week added his voice to the growing numbers supporting Save The Bays, a national movement to protect and preserve marine resources and quash unregulated development that threatens the waters and marine life of the country.
“As a longtime resident of the Bahamas, a country whose beautiful waters and beaches have been featured in a number of my films, I am proud to be a supporting member of Save The Bays, and to urge all Bahamians, citizens and residents, to support our effort to defend Clifton Bay along with all the natural resources of this country,” said Connery.
The actor who earned a singular place in the annals of spy thrillers with his early portrayal of secret agent 007 James Bond, the consummate connoisseur of all things action-packed, dangerous and beautiful, has called Lyford Cay in The Bahamas his home for many years. It’s a neighbourhood surrounded on three sides by Clifton Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, waters once brimming with majestic coral reefs, storey-tall sea fans, colourful tropical and deepwater fish that attracted divers and film producers from around the world. The bay and surrounding waters have been stressed by industrial and commercial oil spills ever since Connery parked his golf bags and awards inside the door of his somewhat modest home not far from the shore. More recently, the waters have been affected by unregulated development, one of the platforms that gave rise to Save The Bays. In the few months since its establishment, Save The Bays has gained the support of hundreds, won more than 5,000 Facebook friends and fans and is garnering signatures by the hour on its petition to the Bahamian government to pass a Freedom of Information Act, require accountability for oil spills, stop unauthorised or unregulated development and pass an Environment Protection Act. The organisation has also filed court action requesting a judicial review of matters it says have led to the threatened marine environment conditions.
“In the movies, you may get a second chance,” said Save The Bays Director Fred Smith, QC, referring to the first Bond movie shot on Bahamian soil and in Bahamian waters, You Only Live Twice (1967). “In real life, we have to make this happen now, we have to save the bays for our children before it is too late and we have depleted the fish, conch and crawfish stock as other countries in the Caribbean have. This is the fight of our generation and adding the unmistakable voice of one of the greatest actors and heroes of our age, Sir Sean Connery, to the effort demonstrates the breadth, depth and urgency of the cause.”
Six Bond movies have been shot in The Bahamas with the first one, Thunderball, starting in 1965 and while Connery has earned an Academy Award, two BAFTA Awards and three Golden Globes, none were for the role that positioned him as the dashing, daring, not-to-be-distracted superman. Connery won an Oscar for best supporting actor in The Untouchables.