Archive | March, 2014

Top judge warns against permits for Bimini developer Justice Conteh: “No self-respecting government” would give the green light to construction while the matter is still before the courts

One of the country's top judges has warned of implications for the rule of law if the controversial Bimini Bay development is allowed to forge ahead while still subject to judicial challenge. Pictured is the bulldozing of mangroves as part of earlier resort construction, which environmentalists say is damaging the island’s crucially important marine and terrestrial ecology. Photo by Gail Woon of EARTHCARE.

One of the country’s top judges has warned of implications for the rule of law if the controversial Bimini Bay development is allowed to forge ahead while still subject to judicial challenge. Pictured is the bulldozing of mangroves as part of earlier resort construction, which environmentalists say is damaging the island’s crucially important marine and terrestrial ecology. Photo by Gail Woon of EARTHCARE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the country’s top judges has warned of implications for the rule of law if the controversial Bimini Bay development is allowed to forge ahead while still subject to judicial challenge.

Court of Appeal Justice Abdulai Conteh told lawyers for the government and Resorts World Bimini that any construction at the resort site could put the entire case at risk.

“In a democracy, no self-respecting government would do anything to jeopardize proceedings before the court,” he said.

“When there is a contested issue, one should not change the facts on the ground until a decision is made.”

Justice Conteh’s comments came as the appeal, lodged by environmental groups Bimini Blue Coalition and Save The Bays, was again adjourned – this time to June 2.

When the new date was announced, lead lawyer for the environmentalists Fred Smith, QC, expressed concern that construction would be allowed to advance in the meantime.

“Development continues, dredging continues,” the Callenders & Co attorney and partner said.

Pointing to other resort developments contested on the grounds of environmental damage, Smith said: “The government continued to give permits in secret, without disclosure to the appellants. By the time the trial came, it was a fait accompli, and a total waste of time.”

Turning to the lawyer for Resorts World, John Wilson of McKinney, Bancroft and Hughes, Smith asked the court: “Will he give an undertaking not to dredge?”.

But Wilson would only say that his client will give a commitment not dredge unless it has the appropriate permits.
When asked directly if any permits had in fact been granted, he said he did not know.

Justice Conteh intervened, saying he believes Smith’s concern “goes to the heart of the matter” as it speaks to whether there is respect for the legal process.

“It’s more than a precept, and it is applicable in the Bahamas – it’s about the rule of law,” he said.

The judge then asked the government’s lawyer, David Higgins of the Attorney General’s office, “Can’t you say, ‘I will advise my client to hold the status quo’?”

Higgins said he would have to take instructions before answering, while Wilson said the developer would object to any such declaration, as it would lead to “demobilization, at considerable costs”.

For his part, Smith said he was glad to hear Justice Conteh’s statements, adding that he “would come back on that” as the proceedings continue.

A veteran environmental and human rights campaigner, Smith has described the Bimini case as fundamental to regulation and orderly development in the Bahamas.

“The time has come when the Bahamas is no longer the Wild West development show,” he said.

The current appeal was brought against the Supreme Court’s ruling that unless Smith’s clients pay a collective $650,000 ‘security for costs’ to the government and Resorts World Bimini, the Judicial Review action would be dismissed.

Climate Change and Invasive Species were the topics for the Fifth Session of the EARTHCARE/Save The Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme

Photo by Jenneva Russell EARTHCARE Save The Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme March 22nd, 2014

On March 22nd, 2014, the EARTHCARE/Save The Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme shared two serious topics with our Youth Environment Ambassadors, “Global Climate Change ” and also “Invasive Species in the Bahamas” presented visually by Gail Woon, Founder of EARTHCARE and a Director of Save the Bays.

Ms. Woon commented, “This is our second to last session for the 2013/2014 school year. We are combining 2 important topics. Global Climate Change affects all of us. Our students are putting the pieces together. We previously covered Pollution and Habitat Destruction, both of which contribute to Global Climate Change. The Bahamas will be one of the top 5 countries, including the Maldives, to be the first to be negatively affected by sea level rise that is the result of climate change. Pollution caused by human activities has changed the chemistry of our atmosphere. The protective layer surrounding our earth that filters out the harmful sun’s rays has changed due to all of the pollutants released into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil. On top of that we have deforested major areas of the globe and our Bahamas. In doing so, we have made the effects of climate change worse. Scientists estimate that forest loss and other changes to the use of land account for around 23% of current man-made CO2 emissions and this equates to 17% of the 100-year warming impact of all current greenhouse gas emission. Further hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes have become more intense and frequent. On Grand Bahama, we have felt the impact of more intense hurricanes such as Hurricane Frances in 2004. Diseases such as Dengue Fever are also on the increase as the vectors that carry them thrive in the new hotter climate conditions. Sea level rise caused by climate change is a threat to Small Island States. In the Maldives, they held a meeting of their Government representatives underwater with the participants using scuba diving equipment. This was done to illustrate to the rest of the world the very real threat that the Maldives are facing when sea level rises.”

Photo by Gail Woon Ben Rose, Underwater Naturalist speaks to YEA participants

Ms. Woon continued, “Invasive species are legally defined as, “An alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health…‘Alien species’ means, with respect to a particular ecosystem, any species…that is not native to that ecosystem.” We have many invasive species in our country: 35 Plant species, 4 Bird species, 18 Terrestrial Animal species and 20 Aquatic species. Our students discussed the impacts of many of these invaders, including the Australian Pine (Casuarina) – impact on beach erosion, Rock Doves (pigeons), Lionfish, Mellaleuca, Shiny Cowbird, Raccoons, Tilapia, Brazilian Pepper, House Sparrows, Norway Rats, Ship Rats, Mice and Cane Toads to name a few.”

Joseph Darville said, “As we approach the closing of this first cycle of our Youth Environmental Ambassadors training, projects and field trips, our junior high students are becoming more and more enthusiastic about and deeply involved in this critical work. This powerful learning experience in the recognition, conservation and preservation of our delicate and unique ecosystem will be imbedded into their hearts and minds for their entire lives. Already feedback from their parents and teachers has indicated the impact this program is having on their peers and siblings as they become the guardians of our God-gifted and precious environment. More and more students are clamoring to become part of this journey to be trained as the team to hold in sacred trust their heritage patrimony. In the new school year, 2014/2015, we look forward to being able to accommodate even greater numbers in this life-changing program. We will also be adding leadership and character development training as significant components to further enhance their public delivery of this mission and message.

Photo by Jenneva Russell Gail Woon teaches about healthy mangrove forests and Climate Change

We begin another phase of celebrating these Youth Environmental Ambassadors this Monday, March 24, when we bring the first group of four on our radio program: “Voice of The Bays” (The Environment Speaks) on Love 97 FM between 5 and 6 PM. Part of their training is to be the voices for our glorious environment.”

At the Lucayan National Park, the students learned about the cave system and were able to meet Ben Rose, the discoverer of “Ben’s Cave”. Ben invited the students to learn how to scuba dive so that he could show them the underwater beauty of our Bahamas. They even saw a few invasive species in the form of raccoons and a cat. Candice Woon showed the students some of the smaller native inhabitants of the coastal area, tiny Sargassum Shrimp, Ghost Crab and delicate burrowing worms. It was the first time that many of the students had seen these creatures up close.

Organization and System Change Agent, Sharon Glover accompanied the group. “I am relieved that there is a strong group of young leaders who are caretakers of our precious Bahamas. We are in good hands!”
“The more I interact with these young people, the more I have hope that the Bahamas’ future will be in good hands”, remarked Jensen Farquharson, YEA Facilitator.

Photo by Jenneva Russell EARTHCARE Save The Bays YEA students exploring the caves

Javan Hunt, YEA Facilitator, added, “Sometimes we take this Bahamaland for granted and we dismiss the effects of Climate Change and ignore the negative effects of the various Invasive Species. Save The Bays and EARTHCARE are teaching our children how to care for, protect and fight for our natural flora and fauna. Knowledge is Power!”
Solutions:-

What you can do

– Change your light bulbs to the most energy efficient.
– Heat and cool smartly.
– Seal and insulate your home.
– Reduce, reuse and recycle.
– Purchase green power.
– Use a fuel efficient, low greenhouse gas vehicle.
– Learn as much as you can about Climate Science and Invasive Species. Volunteer to help as a “Citizen Scientist”.
– After you have educated yourself, spread the word and, teach your friends.
– Write letters to Government if you have concerns about what our Government is doing with regard to Climate Change and Invasive Species.
– Start or sign a petition about your issue.
– Join an environmental NGO (Non Governmental Organization) such as Save the Bays, EARTHCARE, Bahamas National Trust, Friends of the Environment, BREEF and many others.

The final session of the EARTHCARE/Save The Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme meets on April 5th, promptly at 9:00 a.m. at the Mary Star of the Sea Auditorium. For more information contact: “Joseph Darville” jdarville3003@hotmail.com, “EARTHCARE”<earthcare.bahamas@yahoo.com, call 727-0797 or 727-0212.

Marine Biologist: Research Shows Significant Effects of Bimini Development on Marine Environment

An excavator digs near mangroves in Bimini as mega-resort construction continues.  A 14-year study has revealed startling mangrove and marine degradation over the course of the development, including loss of nurseries for fish, conch and crawfish and a survival rate of newborn lemon sharks that plummeted to 26%, according to a well-known marine biologist. Dr. Kristine Stump presented the findings at the recent Bahamas Natural History Conference in Nassau. Photo by Dr. Kristine Stump

An excavator digs near mangroves in Bimini as mega-resort construction continues. A 14-year study has revealed startling mangrove and marine degradation over the course of the development, including loss of nurseries for fish, conch and crawfish and a survival rate of newborn lemon sharks that plummeted to 26%, according to a well-known marine biologist. Dr. Kristine Stump presented the findings at the recent Bahamas Natural History Conference in Nassau.
Photo by Dr. Kristine Stump

Research from a long-term study reveals that the year mega-resort construction in Bimini deforested almost half of a lagoon’s mangrove shorelines, the survival rate of newborn lemon sharks plummeted to only 26%. The startling statistic was revealed during a presentation on the closing day of last week’s Bahamas Natural History Conference in Nassau.

During the presentation, marine biologist Dr. Kristine Stump demonstrated that successive developers of the ongoing project, currently operated by Resorts World Bimini, have failed to use mitigation measures such as silt curtains while dredging and filling, sending plumes of dangerous silt into the lagoon, an important nursery ground for sharks, conch and lobster. The loss of important submerged mangrove habitat and accompanying siltation can have negative effects on the marine community, and results from her study showed declines in several important fish species that occurred after mangrove deforestation.

Local environmental advocate Joseph Darville, education officer for the fast-growing Save The Bays environmental advocacy movement, said he was overwhelmed by Stump’s presentation.

“Save The Bays has been saying this all along. And now we have the proof, now we have the science. There can be no backtracking from here,” he said.

Save The Bays has been a strong advocate for the creation of several additional marine protected areas around the Bahamas, including a North Bimini Marine Reserve.

A wide swath of mangrove forest cleared on the north side. Save The Bays has been urging the declaration of a marine protected area for northern Bimini to preserve remaining mangrove habitats and some of the most treasured coral reefs in the world. Photo by Dr. Kristine Stump

A wide swath of mangrove forest cleared on the north side. Save The Bays has been urging the declaration of a marine protected area for northern Bimini to preserve remaining mangrove habitats and some of the most treasured coral reefs in the world.
Photo by Dr. Kristine Stump

“The most important step now is to prevent further loss by finalizing the long-awaited North Bimini Marine Reserve,” said Stump. “By protecting what remains, there is hope that the lagoon can still function ecologically as a nursery for resources critical to the Bahamian economy.”

Darville could not agree more.

“The country has already lost significantly in Bimini, one of the most delicate and valuable ecosystems in the world,” he said.

The research presented by Dr. Stump used data on Bimini’s marine environment going back over 14 years to investigate the effects of habitat loss through mangrove deforestation. It compared data before the development, originally known as Bimini Bay, to newly collected post-development information.

The findings indicated that due to the threat of predation outside the lagoon, juvenile lemon sharks remained in the nursery where they were born, despite severe environmental degradation and a drastic decline in available resources, including a more than 50% drop in their preferred prey. In addition, there was a significant drop in species richness, a measure of biodiversity, after the development.

“We found acute and chronic effects on not only the sharks, but also the entire marine community following the development within the lagoon,” Stump told the dozens of scientists and conservationists attending the conference.

Mega-resort policy branded a threat to Family Island way of life Save The Bays director says governments must stop siding with foreign-owned developments at the expense of local communities

NOT JUST TREES AND FISH – Fred Smith, QC, Save The Bays Director of Legal Affairs, said the group is fighting not just to protect the environment, but also to prevent the culture and identity of island communities from being destroyed by unregulated development. Smith (left) discusses Save The Bays’ aims and objectives with Love 97 radio host Wendell Jones on Monday as the fast-growing environmental advocacy group celebrates its first anniversary.

NOT JUST TREES AND FISH – Fred Smith, QC, Save The Bays Director of Legal Affairs, said the group is fighting not just to protect the environment, but also to prevent the culture and identity of island communities from being destroyed by unregulated development. Smith (left) discusses Save The Bays’ aims and objectives with Love 97 radio host Wendell Jones on Monday as the fast-growing environmental advocacy group celebrates its first anniversary.

Mega-resorts are being allowed to threaten the culture, society and identity of small island communities around the Bahamas, a veteran social and environmental campaigner warned.

Fred Smith, QC, director of legal affairs for Save The Bays, said successive governments have shielded the developers of mammoth ‘Anchor Projects’ from scrutiny at the expense of both the environment and local populations.
“Governments have been taken in by the glossy brochures, by the jewels and trinkets put in front of them by the foreigners,” he said.

“The result is that developments which destroy the environment, and overwhelm local society and culture, have been imposed from above on small communities in a way that shows a profound lack of respect for those who live there.”

Smith said this arrangement works well for both the developers, who are granted numerous concessions to build in the Bahamas, and the politicians, who can announce that they have created jobs. It is only the country’s natural and cultural heritage that suffers.

“And then, every time a grass roots group brings a judicial review of one of these projects, the government sides with the developer. They use taxpayer money to do this, and the result is that the details of all these projects remain secret, and nobody knows what’s going on.”

Using the example of Malaysia-based Genting’s ongoing mammoth resort construction in Bimini, Mr. Smith said: “Bimini is renowned for its natural reserves and its cultural heritage. Even the environmental impact assessment done by the developer’s own consultants says that the population of 1,700 is going to be overwhelmed by the infusion – or the invasion – of nearly 600,000 people a year there.

“There will be no more Bahamian culture, society, environment, ethnicity – nothing left of the Bahamas to see when you go to Bimini.”

As Save The Bays celebrates its first anniversary, Smith told Love 97 Radio listeners on Monday that the group is fighting not just to preserve the country’s flora and fauna, but also the distinctive identity of each island.
A crucial part of that fight, he said, is the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which was passed by the former FNM government but never brought into force.

“Freedom of Information is fundamental. If you want to protect local rights, political rights, environmental rights, you must have access to information about what government and developers are secretly doing – without that, you can’t get off first base,” he said.

Others key objectives of Save The Bays include an Environmental Protection Act, the creation of a protected sea park at Clifton Bay to complement the existing land park, laws prohibiting oil pollution and holding polluters accountable, and an end to unregulated development.

“We have nothing against development,” Smith said. “We want development everywhere, but it must be organic, it must be in proportion to the capacity of the environment and the local community.”

In just one short year, Smith said, the group’s message is spreading like wildfire, with more than 500 members signed up and 13,000 followers on Facebook.

A Save The Bays petition calling for a Freedom of Information Act, an Environmental Protection Act and an end to unregulated development has garnered nearly 6,000 signatures. It is available at www.savethebays.bs.

New Radio Show to Tackle Environmental Issues

NEW ROLE, NEW SHOW – Popular radio show guest Joseph Darville is taking on a new role as radio host on the new national show about the environment. ‘Voice of the Bays: The Environment Speaks’ airs every Monday on Love 97 Radio, starting March 17 at 5pm. Along with co-hosts Gail Woon, founder of EARTHCARE Bahamas, and youth ambassador for the environment Nikie Severe, Save The Bays Director of Education Darville will tackle pressing issues in environmental protection while fostering responsible development.

NEW ROLE, NEW SHOW – Popular radio show guest Joseph Darville is taking on a new role as radio host on the new national show about the environment. ‘Voice of the Bays: The Environment Speaks’ airs every Monday on Love 97 Radio, starting March 17 at 5pm. Along with co-hosts Gail Woon, founder of EARTHCARE Bahamas, and youth ambassador for the environment Nikie Severe, Save The Bays Director of Education Darville will tackle pressing issues in environmental protection while fostering responsible development.

A new radio show will be take on uncharted territory for call-in talk shows this week when Love 97 launches ‘Voice of the Bays: The Environment Speaks’ Monday March 17 at 5pm with three hosts who plan to touch on everything from the undersea world to responsible development.

The show features the familiar voices of environmentalists Joseph Darville, Save The Bays Director of Education; Gail Woon, founder of EARTHCARE Bahamas; and Nikie Severe, Youth Environmental Ambassadors. Its airing, said Darville, is made possible through a grant from Save The Bays, the people’s environmental movement sweeping the nation, while other sponsors will come on board as the show gains popularity, he believes.

“This is a great opportunity and we are very appreciative to both Save The Bays and Jones Communications for recognizing the need to bring greater awareness to the critical issues about the environment,” said Darville, a well-known human rights and environmental advocate. “We will open up for discussion a wide range of issues – the urgent need for an Environmental Protection Act as well as a Freedom of Information Act. We will discuss sustainable development with critical sensitivity to the preservation of our pristine marine and costal environments, the necessity to teach present and future generations their personal role in understanding and protecting the unique and amazingly beautiful God-gifted archipelagic nation of ours. Its stewardship is a sacred responsibility as we are borrowing this heritage patrimony from our children, grandchildren and all generations to come after us.”
Call-in numbers for ‘The Environment Speaks’ are 326-8255 in Nassau and 351-6175 in Freeport. The show also streams live online.

Save The Bays has also launched its school-based programme on Saturdays in Grand Bahama, providing students with hands-on experiences. A Save The Bays petition calling for a Freedom of Information Act, an Environmental Protection Act and an end to unregulated development has garnered nearly 6,000 signatures. It is available at www.savethebays.bs.

EARTHCARE / Save the Bays Saturday Environmental Programme

The EARTHCARE/Save the Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme continued on February 8th, 2014. Students from various schools on Grand Bahama gathered in the Mary Star of the Sea Auditorium to learn about three types of Pollution: Air, Water and Ground. Gail Woon, Founder of EARTHCARE and a director of Save the Bays gave the students an overview of Pollution and its ramifications for our country.

“Pollution is a very serious problem in the Bahamas. With the porous nature of our ground, when pollutants are dumped on the ground they seep into the limestone substrate and into the freshwater lens that is used for drinking water.”

“Air pollution is an issue as well. Fortunately we have steady winds and much of the air pollution is moved. The unfortunate thing is that our air pollution contributes to climate change which will eventually have very detrimental effect s on our Bahamian islands, such as sea level rise. In places like Nassau, and Pinder’s Point on Grand Bahama the air pollution can be so bad at times that people suffer ill health effects such as asthma, breathing difficulties and other adverse health effects such as cancer. Water pollution is a huge issue especially now that we have oil exploration looming on our doorstep.”

“We have oil spills regularly. I have had reports of sweetwater trucks dumping raw sewage into the canals of Grand Bahama at night in years past. Runoff from the land also contributes to polluting our waters. This runoff can include the chemicals used in inorganic fertilizers from farms and golf courses. A good example of where NOT to build a golf course, is Baker’s Bay. The coral reef scientists predicted that the nitrates and phosphates running off from the golf course on the beach, would cause eutrophication. The algae that are indicators of nutrient pollution are proliferating now in the shallow water on the beach by the golf course at Baker’s Bay,” said Gail Woon.

Rashema Ingraham, Youth Environment Ambassador Facilitator and Saturday Programme Administrator, led the group in hands on activities to illustrate the effects of pollution on our environment, leading the students in a lively, animated discussion. Following this engaging activity, students were taken by bus to the State of the Art Landfill on Grand Bahama Highway. Jason Albury, Manager of the Pine Ridge Landfill, graciously led a tour of the facility which is a model for the Caribbean region. Vehicle tires are shredded, the shreds are sent to be recycled into new materials such as asphalt. Oil is recycled at the Landfill. Jason explained how the landfill cells are set up and operated. The Landfill is lined by 3 layers of protection to keep the wastes deposited from leaking into the water table. Liquid leachate (“garbage juice”) is drawn off and evaporated in a collecting pool. Methane gas is removed from the landfill and burned. Students were given the opportunity to look through a viewfinder to see the methane flame. The students were amazed at the lack of smell. Our landfill is the “State of the Art” for not just the Bahamas but the entire region. There are 2 fish ponds at the entrance and goats graze the perimeter of the property. The students were very enthused after this part of the field trip.

Joe Darville, Education Director for Save the Bays, remarked, “Another day of joy and celebration working with our Youth Environmental Ambassadors, as we opened their eyes, awareness and hearts to additional aspects of our delicate environment which need repair, protection and conservation. The visit to the Freeport Landfill site was impressive in many ways, the extent of the operation, its meticulous management, the state of the art manner in which every type of disposal is delicately handled. That facility, the only one of its kind in this region should be the model for the entire Caribbean area, including Nassau and our family of islands. We congratulate the Grand Bahama Port Authority for establishing such a modern waste management system. Its dedicated, learned and professional staff members deserves the highest adulation. It was indeed a shining example for our young ambassadors to admire how that plan, operates in full harmony with the environment, in a symbiotic and sustainable manner ,” said Darville.

Our young people had another eye-opening experience as they toured the areas around the industrial companies, where they were meticulously informed of past, present and on-going problems related to air, water and ground pollution. The historical reasons for the removal of schools from that area, as well as the critical necessity now to relocate all residents from the surrounding communities, left an indelible impression on them.

Nikie Severe, Youth Environment Ambassador Facilitator, Joseph Darville, Education Director of Save the Bays and Jensen Farquharson, Youth Environment Ambassador Facilitator gave the students an education about the history of the Pinder’s Point Area as it relates to Pollution issues. Nikie grew up in Pinder’s Point and explained her experiences and why she is dedicated to teaching the public about the dangers and consequences of pollution on our island.

Solutions: Do not dump pollutants on the ground. Educate persons about pollution. Keep your car tuned so that it does not emit noxious fumes that will contribute to climate change. Report to authorities if you see an industry creating excessive air/water or ground pollution. Report situations where the water is polluted by oil or other chemicals. Sign the Save the Bays Petition to put Environmental Protection legislation in place so that there will be stiff penalties if a polluter pollutes.

‘Unsustainable Habitat Destruction vs. Artificial Reef Construction’ topic of third EARTHCARE/Save the Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme

paradise cove

On February 22nd, 2014, the EARTHCARE/Save the Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme continued with the largest group of Youth Environment Ambassadors yet. The bus loaded up early and the Youth Environment Ambassadors headed to the day’s destination, Paradise Cove Beach Resort, Deadman’s Reef, Grand Bahama.

Gail Woon, Founder of EARTHCARE and a Director of Save the Bays gave the students a presentation on “Habitat Destruction” complete with visual examples from several Family Islands.

“Habitat Destruction is one of the 5 issues dealt with for Coastal Awareness. Sadly, we have examples of unsustainable habitat destruction on many of our islands. We have areas where our coral reefs have suffered the effects of manmade problems of nutrient pollution from land-based sources and are under threat of further destruction by unsustainable development.

“Caribbean pine forests that have been bulldozed for megaprojects that never materialized, extensive, valuable, healthy mangrove forests that have been destroyed for resort developments and precious blue holes that have been polluted and in some cases obliterated for various reasons.

“We were able to show the participants in pictures various examples of Habitat Destruction from Bimini, Abaco and Grand Bahama. Further we were able to illustrate solutions that are available to our Youth Environment Ambassadors empowering them to be proactive about their future and the future for their gandchildren.”

Reef Ball at Paradise Cove. (Photo by Joseph Darville)Michael Headberg and Dr. Catherine Jadot, both from the Reef Ball Foundation, explained how the Reef Balls work and answered all of the questions that the inquisitive students had. Reef Balls are used to increase biomass and biodiversity.

These Reef Balls are designed artificial reef units. Currently there are over 632,000 of these deployed in over 62 different countries. Reef balls help restore our natural reef systems; they protect our shoreline during storm events and help to nourish the direct marine environment.

Opportunities are available for individuals and the corporate community to become involved in this amazing programme.

Dr. Catherine Jadot and Michael Headberg show the Reef Ball to the students. (Photo by Gail Woon)Barry Smith, the owner of Paradise Cove, saw the gradual degradation of the reefs off shore of the property over time. He did the research and started the Reef Ball Project at Paradise Cove, the largest one of its kind in the country.

Michael took the students out to snorkel on the Reef Ball Reef that is now in place at Paradise Cove. The students were amazed to see the fish already living in the newly set out reef balls.

Gushing with joy, Joseph Darville, Education Director for Save the Bays, “It was like a monumental journey into the unknown, as groups of twelve YEA (Youth Environmental Ambassadors) adorned with colorful dive gear headed out into the crystal clear water to view these enormous reef balls.

“Some of them had never even put their heads under the sea before; however with quick and efficient instruction on how to use properly their goggles and snorkels, they enthusiastically behaved like pros, with life vests on, of course.

Elvis gives the Snorkling Safety briefing at Paradise Cove. (Photo by Gail Woon)“With the abundance of knowledge they are acquiring, and combined with practical experience events, these young people, with admiring hearts, minds and souls imbued with divine wisdom, they are our sacred and chosen guardians for our precious environment into the future. It gladdens our hearts to be so blessed and privileged to have the honor of opening up their awareness to the unique God-entrusted gifts of these islands, the ‘Gem of Mother Earth.’ We salute them, their parents, teachers and schools, who have encouraged them to go where no young Bahamian children have gone before.”

Paradise Cove owner, Barry Smith added, “It feels good to know that our youth are learning about the importance of the ocean and to see how they can make a difference. To me, that is the future for protecting our coral reefs and sustaining our future here in the Bahamas and even the world.”

“This installation presents unique opportunities for Bahamians to acquire skill sets, like artificial reef building or coral transplantation, which will become a valuable asset as the nation moves forward; protecting, restoring and repairing the damages we have inflicted to our beloved ocean,” Michael Headberg commented.

Brave Youth Environmental Ambassadors heading to the Reef Ball Reef. (Photo by Nikie Severe)According to Dr. Jadot, “During this month of February alone, over 100 children and about 40 adults came on site to learn about the reef ecosystem and the reef ball technology. It was really encouraging to see the younger generation be so enthusiastic about the environment and the role they could play to protect it.”

Paradise Cove, west of Freeport, is the chosen site for these programs due to the owners’ sponsoring abilities and the need of shore protection. Paradise Cove is a TripAdvisor top rated snorkeling destination for residents and tourists alike.

Nikie Severe, Jensen Farquharson and Javan Hunt, our Youth Environment Ambassador Facilitators worked hard to keep the students organized and all said that they learned a lot during this exciting field trip.

Solutions: What you can do …

Pay attention to current events.
Read the newspapers.
Question everything.
Learn as much as you can about our different habitats so that you understand what it is that we stand to lose by Unsustainable Habitat Destruction.
After you have educated yourself, spread the word and, teach your friends.
Make a project of restoring a wetland or other habitat.
Write letters to Government if you have concerns about any particular project.
Start or sign a petition about your issue.
Join an environmental NGO (Non Governmental Organization) such as Save the Bays, EARTHCARE, Bahamas National Trust, Friends of the Environment, BREEF and many others.
The next session of the EARTHCARE/Save the Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme meets on March 8th, promptly at 8:15 a.m. at the Mary Star of the Sea Auditorium. For more information contact: “Joseph Darville” jdarville3003@hotmail.com, “EARTHCARE”< earthcare.bahamas@yahoo.com, call 727-0797 or 727-0212.

Sustainable Fisheries was the topic for the Fourth Session of the EARTHCARE/Save the Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme

Sustainable Fishing, EARTHCARE, Save the Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme, Photo by Gail Woon

On March 8th, 2014, the EARTHCARE/Save The Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme tackled the complicated issue of “Sustainable Fisheries” in the Bahamas. Gail Woon, Founder of EARTHCARE and a Director of Save The Bays gave the students a historical video presentation on “the Longline Fishing Battle of 1993”.

According to Woon, “The industrial method of Longline Fishing was being proposed in 1993. Over 20 longline vessels were slated to start fishing Bahamian waters. Using news stories from ZNS, our students were shown, in chronological order how the story unfolded. The story began showing Pericles Maillis, then President of the Bahamas National Trust announcing the formation of a Coalition to Stop Longlining. More organizations joined the Coalition, such as the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, EARTHCARE, reEarth, Ocean Watch and the Freeport Fishermans Association, in calling for the destructive method of fishing to be made illegal. The video presentation showed a vessel with a longline reel that was 60 miles long and had 2 teaser lines each 4 miles long. Hooks were snapped on at 10 foot intervals. Sharks were being targeted for their high priced fins to be sold at the Asian Fish Market. ZNS aired a story on a group of Canadian divers who travelled from Canada to dive with sharks only to witness a longline vessel, “Kostakis” hauling the sharks in to have their fins cut off and the sharks thrown back into the water to die a slow death. Following this incident, the news stories covered 3 days of sustained demonstrations in Rawson Square. The students watched with interest as the then Prime Minister announced to the concerned Bahamian demonstrators that he would be reading legislation in the House of Assembly that would ban longline fishing in the Bahamas. Our students were enthralled by seeing the historic moments that affected Bahamian Fisheries before they were born”.

David Rose, Commercial Hardhat Diver and veteran Fisherman of 45 years, then spoke to the group about his experiences of becoming a commercial fisherman in his teens. David explained the various methods of fishing used in the Bahamas, and explained when the compressor/hookah rigs were made legal. He outlined how the vessels that were to be used in 1993, for longline fishing using hooks were retrofitted to become fish trap boats instead. These traps are still in use today, and if not tended properly or if lost can continue “ghost fishing”. The bait attracts new fish that eventually starve to death effectively rebaiting the trap. Ghost traps continue fishing for years. Rose shared that in his many years of fishing he has witnessed the decline of our Bahamian fisheries.

“Judging by my observation as a spearfisherman and underwater observer, I think there is possibly less than 10% of the grouper population that existed in the 60s. That could be a conservative estimate, in my opinion. I used to be able to shoot 40 groupers in a few hours and now I rarely see a grouper at all. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Nassau Grouper.” explained David Rose.

Joseph Darville, Director of Education for Save The Bays said, “The presentation to our Youth Environmental Ambassadors, by both Gail and her uncle, the renowned diver and fisherman, David Rose, gave those young and aspiring environmentalists a powerful and memorable perspective, historically and temporally on the state of fishing in our Bahamian waters. From the almost government sanctioned long-line fishing in the early nineties to the present day sanctioned long-line trapping with fish pots, they graphically demonstrated the ongoing and rapid depletion of our marine resources, due to over fishing. David decried the indiscriminate trapping, where for weeks pots can be left unchecked, creating a starving, dying and cannibalistic scenario (ghost fishing), resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of pounds of marine life every year in our ocean.

From that stark and worrisome presentation, our young people were treated to an exceptionally enjoyable two hour trip out over coral reefs and sea bed in a glass-bottom boat. For almost one hundred percent of them, it was a first time experience, and a joy, excitement and celebration to be forever remembered. Again it gives the Directors of EARTHCARE/Save The Bays tremendous satisfaction to inform and guide these eager students, opening their hearts and minds to the glorious and multitudinous gems of our God-gifted terrestrial and marine environment.”

During the Reef Tours, glass bottom boat cruise, Captain Henrick fed Caribbean Reef Sharks. One enthusiastic student exclaimed, “I feel like I am watching SyFy!!”

“It’s amazing how beautiful this underwater ecosystem is when we take the time to learn about it and explore it. It can all be gone very quickly if we overfish, damage reefs and nursery beds without care for the future,” added Javan Hunt, Youth Environmental Ambassador Facilitator.

Solutions:-
What you can do
Pay attention to the Fisheries regulations.
When buying conch, fish or crawfish be aware of the legal sizes. If you find a vendor that is selling undersized seafood, make a report to the nearest Fisheries Officer.

Learn as much as you can about scientific research being done in the Bahamas on our Fisheries Resources. Volunteer to help as a “Citizen Scientist”.

After you have educated yourself, spread the word and, teach your friends.

Write letters to Government if you have concerns about any particular Fisheries species and its management. Addresses of Government Officials are on the Save The Bays website: www.SaveTheBays.bs
Start or sign a petition about your issue.

Join an environmental NGO (Non Governmental Organization) such as Save The Bays, EARTHCARE, Bahamas National Trust, Friends of the Environment, BREEF and many others.

The next session of the EARTHCARE/Save The Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme meets on March 22nd, promptly at 9:00 a.m. at the Mary Star of the Sea Auditorium. For more information contact: Joseph Darville”jdarville3003@hotmail.com, “EARTHCARE”<earthcare.bahamas@yahoo.com, call 727-0797 or 727-0212.

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