Archive | April, 2014

‘Reef Destroyer’ arrives in Bimini Environmentalists say pristine dive sites set to be destroyed in defiance of senior judge’s warning

Machavelli Dredger_OffBiminiHarbor_29Apr2014a (1000x667)

REEF DESTROYER – The Niccolo Machiavelli dredger anchored off the coast of Bimini. The mammoth 450-foot vessel is to be used as part of the controversial construction of a 1,000 foot pier and ferry terminal by Resorts World Bimini. A top judge has warned that continuing to work on the project while it is being challenged in the courts could have serious implications for the rule of law in the Bahamas.

A mammoth seafloor dredger, dubbed ‘The Reef Destroyer’ by local environmentalists, has arrived in Bimini as developers forge ahead with construction of a controversial ferry terminal despite a top judge’s stern warning.

The 450-foot, 1,200 ton Niccolo Machiavelli is a specialized cutter-suction dredger designed to break up hard material which standard dredgers cannot remove. It is among the most powerful machines of its kind, and is set to be unleashed on one of the most pristine and significant marine ecosystems in the world, environmentalists say.

“That monster dredger cannot be allowed to tear up the seabed off the coast of North Bimini,” said Fred Smith, QC, attorney and one of the directors of fast-growing environmental movement Save The Bays. “There are 14 world-class dive sites and some of the most sensitive and important reef systems on earth there – many of them directly in the developers’ intended path of destruction.

“Resorts World Bimini is being allowed to move full speed ahead by a government that has failed in its mandate to act in the interest of Bahamians – and this despite a strong warning from one of the country’s top judges.”

Last month, Court of Appeal Justice Abdulai Conteh told lawyers for the government and Resorts World Bimini that construction should not be allowed to progress while the project is being challenged in the courts.

Tribune Bimini

“In a democracy, no self-respecting government would do anything to jeopardize proceedings before the court. When there is a contested issue, one should not change the facts on the ground until a decision is made,” the judge said. “It’s more than a precept, and it is applicable in the Bahamas – it’s about the rule of law.”

Justice Conteh’s comments came as part of the ongoing appeal by Save The Bays and the Bimini Blue Coalition against a Supreme Court’s ruling that unless Smith’s clients pay a collective $650,000 ‘security for costs’ to the government and Resorts World Bimini, their judicial review action would be dismissed.

“Clearly, this administration has no self-respect,” Smith said yesterday. “The justice spoke to the grave implications if work continues, but the government has obviously given carte blanche to the developers, and they are racing ahead to get the work done before justice can run its course.

REEF DESTROYER - The Niccolo Machiavelli dredger anchored off the coast of Bimini. The mammoth 450-foot vessel is to be used as part of the controversial construction of a 1,000 foot pier and ferry terminal by Resorts World Bimini. A top judge has warned that continuing to work on the project while it is being challenged in the courts could have serious implications for the rule of law in the Bahamas.

“This is always the way in the Wild West development show that this country has become. By the time a court can decide if a project is being undertaken according to the law, it is already a fait accompli, the environment has already been irreparably damaged, and local communities have already been overwhelmed or displaced.”

Smith noted that following Justice Conteh’s remarks, the attorney for Resorts World Bimini promised the Court of Appeal his clients would do nothing without the appropriate permits.

“The responsibility for this falls squarely in the lap of the government,” Smith said. “If work is continuing it is because they are allowing it to continue. They continually bow to the will of wealthy developers and the Bahamian people are always the losers in the end.”

On April 25, Smith wrote to the Attorney General’s Office urging the government not to do anything to jeopardize the Bimini judicial review proceedings.

“We would be grateful if you could urgently revert with confirmation that your respective clients will maintain the status quo (by which we mean, not carry out or allow the carrying out of any further changes to the development site including construction or pre-construction operations” the letter said.

In a letter to Resorts World Bimini, sent on the same day, Smith asked the company to confirm whether the government had granted any permits, licenses or approvals in respect to the development.

Smith said there has been no response to either letter to date.

Meanwhile, a recent presentation by marine biologist Dr. Kristine Stump demonstrated that under successive developers, the Bimini project has already had serious negative effects on the marine environment.

The results of her study showed declines in several important fish species that occurred after mangrove deforestation.

“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 an international conference in Nassau.

The waters around Bimini are home to a plethora rare and important marine species, including the endangered small-toothed sawfish.

The Niccolo Machiavelli is a cutter-suction dredger equipped with a rotating cutter head for breaking through hard materials such as compacted sediment and stone. The material is then sucked out by dredge pumps. The vessel can dredge to a depth of 35 meters and exerts a cutting power of 7,000 kW.

It is named for the 15th century Italian thinker whose notoriously cynical political theories gave rise to the expression “The ends justify the means.”

Top lawyer argues that Blackbeard’s Cay development was granted approvals in contravention of key legislation

Smith: laws being disregarded at the whim of ministers

Top lawyer argues that Blackbeard’s Cay development was granted approvals in contravention of key legislation

DEFENDING THE LAW – Fred Smith, QC, and his Callendars & Co. team leaving court. Presenting the case for judicial review of the Blackbeard’s Cay development, Smith said the evidence pointed to a “tsunami of disregard” for due process and the rule of law as civil servants simply rubber-stamped approvals for the project at the behest of their superiors.

DEFENDING THE LAW – Fred Smith, QC, and his Callendars & Co. team leaving court. Presenting the case for judicial review of the Blackbeard’s Cay development, Smith said the evidence pointed to a “tsunami of disregard” for due process and the rule of law as civil servants simply rubber-stamped approvals for the project at the behest of their superiors.

Bahamian law has been repeatedly ignored to the benefit of wealthy developers thanks to a “culture of subservience” among civil servants, attorney Fred Smith, QC, told the Supreme Court.

Presenting the case for judicial review of the Blackbeard’s Cay development, Smith said the evidence pointed to a “tsunami of disregard” for due process and the rule of law as civil servants simply rubber-stamped approvals for the project at the behest of their superiors.

“The facts of the case evidence what I could term an endemic subservience, an institutional subservience entrenched in the civil service, to cater to ministerial dictate,” he said. “The Cabinet and the minister are regarded as the extreme authority on what should happen, regardless of what parliament has legislated.”

According to Smith, the Blackbeard’s Cay project moved forward in the absence of necessary site approvals, environmental studies, public hearings and proof of the developer’s compliance with mandated conditions.

In allowing this to happen, he said, the government contravened the provisions of the Planning and Subdivisions Act (PSA), the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act (CLPA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

“The development has been carried out, and continues to be carried out, unlawfully,” he said.

Smith urged the court to view the application for judicial review as a “seminal opportunity to reestablish the rule of law and bring an end to ministerial dictate.”

His clients, environmental watch group reEarth, are challenging, among other things, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries’ decision to grant licenses for the importation of eight dolphins from Honduras to be used as attractions at the development.

As an example of the arbitrary of power of ministers, Smith pointed to the “flurry of activity” that surrounded the granting of these licenses on July 19, 2013. In a single day, he said:

• Blue Illusions applied for the dolphin importation licenses
• Director of Marine Resources Michael Braynen sent a memo about the applications to the Minister, V Alfred Gray
• The minister considered and approved the applications, and communicated this to the permanent secretary and director
• The permanent secretary sent a memo to the director asking him to “urgently issue” the licenses
• The director issued the licenses
• Blue Illusions paid the license fee
• A receipt was issued
• The Ministry of Marine Resources issued an operator license to Blue Illusions
• Blue illusions paid a $10,000 fee for this license and was issued with a receipt

Smith argued that considering the slow pace at which the civil service usually moves, the activities of July 19 represent an unusual level of haste and coordination.

Either the documents produced by the government are inauthentic, he said, or there must have been a good reason for the rush.

Noting that a health permit allowing the dolphins to be exported from Honduras was due to expire just five days later, Smith suggested that the developer’s concern was the source of the government’s sudden urgency, and led to the procedures mandated by law being ignored in the haste.

“The only consideration taken into account was the developer’s need to beat the deadline,” he said.
Government officials have maintained that Blackbeard’s Cay and its developer, St Maarten businessman, Samir Andrawos, possess all the required planning and marine mammal approvals to operate the project.

Craig Delancy, the Ministry of Works’ building control officer, said in an affidavit: “In all the circumstances, Balmoral Island and/or Blue Illusions [Mr Andrawos’s company] have met all the requirements, and have in their possession, all the requisite permits from the Ministry of Public Works and Urban Development for Blackbeard’s Cay, the Welcome Centre at Balmoral, and the Water Park, restaurant and bar and gift and souvenir shop at Balmoral Island.”

But Smith countered that the government has not produced evidence to support this assertion, having failed to comply with a Supreme Court order that all relevant licenses, leases and permits – and the documents upon which they were based – be provided.

In particular, it is claimed that the dolphin import permits were issued to an unlicensed facility and in the absence of evidence that the importation was necessary for the preservation of the dolphins, for scientific research or for educational purposes, as mandated by the MMPA.

“You can’t just import dolphins for the entertainment of cruise ship passengers, or anyone else,” Smith told the court.

According to affidavits filed by reEarth’s Sam Duncombe and Sonya Alvino, the dolphin attraction is being conducted on 2.47 acres of Crown Land seabed, even though the terms of the lease state specifically that the area can only be used for a stingray attraction.

Smith told the court that the dolphin importation should never have been approved because the facility is exposed to adverse environmental factors that will not only affect the wellbeing of the marine mammals but also the island and its environment. He said the location is “unsuitable in almost every respect” according to the stipulations of the MMPA.

In visits to the island in June and September of last year, Duncombe and Alvino claim they noticed that the facility lacks the ability to quarantine animals properly and thereby prevent the spread of disease.

They said the dolphins are exposed to high levels of ocean noise which can deafen them, that the facility has no protection from hurricanes, ocean surges, or the sun, and that the water depth is insufficient.

Duncombe and Alvino claim that despite frequent letters, phone calls and emails requesting information on the project, they were stonewalled by an array of government officials.

Responding to applicant’s case, Gary Francis from the Attorney General’s office denied that there had been any attempt to circumvent the law.

He argued that although his office had not produced documentary evidence reflecting every stage of the approvals process, this does not mean the process was unlawful.

“They didn’t give approval in a vacuum,” he said.

However, Justice Stephen Isaacs, who is presiding over the case, pointed out that based on the documents before the court, that remains unclear.

“In the absence of something, there is nothing,” he told the attorney.

“We produced the documents we could find,” Francis explained.

He said that without evidence to the contrary, there must be a “presumption of regularity” on the part of government.

He added: “If it was granted, and there was the authority to grant it, it was not unlawful.”

In response, Smith’s colleague Dawson Malone reminded that court of its order that all relevant documents be produced, asking the court to assume that any document not provided does not exist.

“No evidence has been put before the court which explains the process by which these decisions were made,” he emphasized.

Justice Isaacs adjourned to consider his ruling.

Save The Bays Lauds Nature Conservancy’s Coral Reef Farming Program, Renews Support

A.cervicornis coral fragment at 3 months - Image by Eddy Raphael

A.cervicornis coral fragment at 3 months – Image by Eddy Raphael

A program aimed at replenishing coral reefs by undersea farming and forestry won plaudits this week from the national environmental movement Save The Bays which renewed its pledge to support its creator, The Nature Conservancy.

“Cooperative community partnerships are key to bringing attention, awareness and progress to the environmental protection and preservation movement,” said Lindsey McCoy, Save The Bays CEO. “That’s why Save The Bays seeks to involve other non-governmental organisations in the broad scope of work that runs the gamut from rebuilding reefs to filing legal action, from funding renewable energy research to monitoring development for sustainability.”

When The Nature Conservancy applied for a partnership that would include funding and assistance with public awareness of its reef forestation project, McCoy said Save The Bays was very impressed.

“The scope of the project – planting coral trees and immature forests of coral along the southwest coast of New Providence and in Andros and out planting to other restoration sites which will increase coral cover in the country, has great potential not only for The Bahamas but eventually for wherever reefs in the region are threatened,” she noted.

A.palmata coral propagation unit in New Providence - Image by Kemit Amon Lewis

A.palmata coral propagation unit in New Providence – Image by Kemit Amon Lewis

“This was about action and they had the equivalent of a business plan with every detail accounted for.” Funding was announced nearly one year ago and the project launched.

And less than a year later, results are so promising that Save The Bays renewed its support. Although there was a 15% mortality rate off New Providence, the rate was much lower, 2%, in Andros. Scientists are also measuring connectivity and diversity within the coral nurseries.

The community partnership grant helped fund the purchase of a boat used to place coral propagation units and monitor their development. It also helped in the production of brochures and information to share with other scientists as well as to the lay public, including visitors who dive or snorkel on the sites filled with promise.

Stuart Cove Dive, a long-standing marine environmental caretaker according to McCoy, provided free dockage for the vessel.

Next up with the new funding is expanding the coral nurseries in Andros and New Providence, bringing the total number of coral fragments to 10,000. Funds will also support training of volunteers and partners, and at the end of the year, perform genetic analysis of all donor coral. According to The Nature Conservancy, coral can grow up to 300% times faster in the nursery under optimum conditions than in the wild. Once it reaches a size where it can be outplanted, it is transported to a carefully selected reef that would benefit from the infusion of fresh coral, helping to build the reef’s resilientce to climate change and other factors. The Nature Conservancy already presented the findings of its initial program to a wide gathering of scientists, marine biologists, coastal engineers and environmentalists at a meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas, where the response to the program in The Bahamas was highly positive.

A.cervicornis coral propagation unit - Image by Ellison Gomez

A.cervicornis coral propagation unit – Image by Ellison Gomez

“We are very grateful to Save The Bays for helping to make the reforestation of coral reefs project a reality,” said Eleanor Phillips, Director of The Nature Conservancy Northern Caribbean Program. “This project literally has the capability of breathing new life into our undersea world.”

Announcement of the renewal of the community partnership pledge coincided with Earth Day 2014. Information about Save The Bays is available on www.savethebays.bs and on its popular Facebook page with nearly 14,000 friends and fans. Information on The Nature Conservancy’s work is available through its Facebook page and blog.

KB Making Music to Save the Environment, 250+ Show up for Save The Bays Marsh Harbour Concert, More on Schedule

CHORUS FOR A CAUSE – More than 250 people turned out for a Save The Bays concert in Marsh Harbour this weekend with musical giant Kirkland ‘KB’ Bodie, left, and Save The Bays Education Director Joseph Darville. The organization that celebrates its first anniversary this month has attracted nearly 14,000 friends and fans on Facebook.

CHORUS FOR A CAUSE – More than 250 people turned out for a Save The Bays concert in Marsh Harbour this weekend with musical giant Kirkland ‘KB’ Bodie, left, and Save The Bays Education Director Joseph Darville. The organization that celebrates its first anniversary this month has attracted nearly 14,000 friends and fans on Facebook.

Kirkland ‘KB’ Bodie, The Bahamas’ best-selling musician, is drawing crowds belting out a chorus with a cause at a series of concerts around the country.

Sponsored by Save The Bahamas, the concerts kicked off in late December in Nassau and hit Abaco last weekend where the second event in Marsh Harbour drew more than 250 people.

Long a proponent of protecting the environment, KB has recorded videos with a beach backdrop and written several environmentally-themed pieces, including Save The Bays with the popular refrain, “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.”

According to Save The Bays CEO Lindsey McCoy, who helped organize the Abaco concerts April 11 and 12, the concerts helped deliver a ‘powerful, positive message about how important the environment is to every Bahamian.’

“KB and all the entertainers put their heart into it and we had almost 100 people in Hope Town and around 250 people in MH signing petitions, signing up for memberships and buying t shirts,” said McCoy. “There was a great energy. People were excited about the entertainment and supportive of the environment theme.”

KB is on tap for additional performances as the environmental group launched one year ago this month has exploded into a national movement with nearly 14,000 Facebook fans and more than 5,500 signatures on a petition urging passage of an environmental protection act, a freedom of information act and an end to unregulated development. Its legal team has filed several court actions and education director Joseph Darville has taken the facts about a threatened environment and steps to protect it from classrooms to beach sessions to a weekly radio show Mondays at 5 pm on Love 97.5.

Summer camp partnership to highlight the environment Save The Bays teams up with local library to inspire the next generation of conservationists

INSPIRING THE YOUTH – Joseph Darville, education director for Save The Bays, announced that the fast-growing advocacy group will bring its environmental protection message to 60 youngsters as part of a new summer camp partnership.

INSPIRING THE YOUTH – Joseph Darville, education director for Save The Bays, announced that the fast-growing advocacy group will bring its environmental protection message to 60 youngsters as part of a new summer camp partnership.

Fast-growing advocacy group Save The Bays will share its conservation message with dozens of youngsters during a much anticipated summer camp in Grand Bahama.

The annual Sir Charles Hayward Children’s Library Summer Camp, now in its 19th installment, will run from June 30 to August 1 this year under the theme ‘It’s all about skills’.

“For the first time, the skills taught will include how to protect our vital natural resources,” said Save The Bays education director Joseph Darville.

“It will be an extraordinary camp featuring a multitude of activities. It is an excellent opportunity for us to further our mission of inspiring the next generation of environmental warriors.”

Darville said he and other seasoned Save The Bays education facilitators will conduct a series of environmental awareness sessions, placing particular emphasis on the importance of conservation to the future prosperity of the Bahamas.

The veteran educator and retired principal will also oversee the drug education component of the camp, along with several Bahamas National Drug Council drug-free ambassadors.

“I am very excited about this camp as it gives us the opportunity to carry on our critical mission through the entire year,” said Darville. “We have already made incredible progress among young Bahamians, and this new partnership will give our efforts a huge boost.”

In its first year of existence, Save The Bays has reached 2,500 children around the Bahamas with its message that protecting the terrestrial and marine environment from unregulated development is critical to the social and economic future of the country.

In that short time, the burgeoning group has attracted more than 500 registered members and 14,000 friends and followers on Facebook.

A Save The Bays petition calling for an Environmental Protection Act, a Freedom of Information Act and an end to unregulated development has been signed by nearly 6,000 people to date.

The Sir Charles Hayward Children’s Library Summer Camp aims to help students enhance essential day-to-day skills necessary for them to learn and grow both academically and socially.

“Our aim is to cultivate within each child, a lifelong love for learning, but we want to provide this in a fun and unpressured environment, which is how most children learn best and express their creative abilities,” said library curator Geneva Rutherford.

Treasure Cay Environmental Damage ‘Irreparable, Heartbreaking,’ Abaco Chief Councilor Says

Before and after photos of acres of wetlands in Treasure Cay, Abaco.  Left photo shows the wetlands in pristine condition while the right photo shows the destruction of acres of wetlands, slashed by heavy equipment on a site being developed under expansion plans by a resort known as Treasure Sands despite a cease and desist order by government.

Before and after photos of acres of wetlands in Treasure Cay, Abaco. Left photo shows the wetlands in pristine condition while the right photo shows the destruction of acres of wetlands, slashed by heavy equipment on a site being developed under expansion plans by a resort known as Treasure Sands despite a cease and desist order by government.

Abaco’s Chief Councilor today labelled as “heartbreaking” the destruction of acres of wetlands, slashed by heavy equipment on a site being developed under expansion plans by a resort known as Treasure Sands despite a cease and desist order by government.

“I don’t blame the developer,” says North Abaco Chief Councilor Gary Smith. “Nor do I blame the government in Nassau. The Minister of Finance for Investments Khaalis Rolle did the proper and honourable thing and we are very grateful to him for recognizing that protecting the environment and proceeding with the right permits is important for the long-term sustainable growth and development of any community.”

But something thwarted the delivery of the cease and desist order once it got to Abaco, he said, and an investigation is ongoing to learn why it was not presented to the developer for some three weeks after it arrived, enough time for centuries of mangrove, wetlands and hardwood forests to be mowed down. The Abaco Council and two environmental groups, Abaco Defenders and Save The Bays, are trying to get to the bottom of the delay.

“In the three weeks between when the cease and desist order was signed and when it was actually presented to the developer, irreparable damage was done to the wetlands in Treasure Cay,” said Smith. “Before, this place was a haven — a sanctuary for birds and bonefish. You could see the nurse sharks coming in and the baby nurse sharks. The wetlands were the nursery for all sorts of species.” The Bahamas National Trust had plans to turn the area into a national park. Today, the scarfed land is a stark reminder, said Smith, of how quickly something that took centuries to form can be wiped out.

He also worries that eradication of the wetlands and dredging can increase flooding. “If I lived nearby I would be very worried because of the tidal effect,” said Smith. “Since the area was denuded, it can flood with a high tide of 3-4 feet instead of 11-12 feet and there is a church right across the street. Residents should be very afraid.”
North Abaco’s chief councilor is not alone in his concerns over what the development is doing to a beach that is commonly referred to as one of the ten best in the world.

“When Treasure Sands Bar and Spa first opened, we were all excited and delighted,” said resident Fiona Bootle. Like others in the quiet area, she thought the new development would add to the social scene offerings for locals and visitors and provide employment.

“Unfortunately,” she said, “the excitement was short-lived and we were most definitely not prepared for the destruction that would take place to our home.” Nor, she said, were residents prepared for what they felt was “abandonment” from government, including the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC).

“The AMMC which is supposed to protect the cultural and historically sensitive areas of the Bahamas, refuses to believe that the land being destroyed was part of Abaco’s first Loyalist settlement of Carleton. The AMMC disregarded the opinion of world renowned archeologist Robert Carr who first helped find the site 30 years ago. To date, the AMMC have decided not to come over and take a look themselves.”

However, the BEST (Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology) Commission did visit in February. To date, the group known as Abaco Defenders has not received word of the commission’s findings.

“It’s very sad,” says the chief councilor Smith. “Heartbreaking. If they had issued that order when it came out in October, this area could have been saved.” Meantime, the local board that manages port development and issued a permit after work had begun has been shut down at least temporarily and the developer says the only work that at this time is the construction of a shed.

But, say other local residents the request to build the shed came after it was constructed and they call that the least offensive of the four issues they plan to raise at a meeting this month. The other they allege are the request to place a building/s on illegally reclaimed land without proof of ownership of newly filled land, misuse of a permit which was granted to build a dock, which in turn was used illegally to dredge the Sand Bank Creek, thus deceiving the public, and what they say is illegal dredging of the channel without proper permit.

Through its partnership with Save The Bays, Abaco Defenders is going beyond governmental agencies and taking its case to court, hoping for relief. Concerned residents say their message is reaching some ears — dredging which churned up wetlands has stopped, though clearing, according to witnesses on site, continues.

This is the fourth legal action that Save The Bays has lent support to in an effort to protect the environment of The Bahamas since it was established in April, 2013. Its petition on www.savethebays.bs has garnered nearly 6,000 signatures calling for, among other things, an environmental protection act and a freedom of information act and the movement has nearly 14,000 Facebook friends and followers. The prime minister has pledged his commitment to a freedom of information act.

While the residents of Treasure Cay lament the loss of natural habitat that may have taken hundreds of years to form, they praise an unexpected outcome.

“It is a disgrace that our home is being destroyed by unregulated building and dredging. But with all bad comes some good because now both locals and second homeowner have come together as a unified group. We have forged new friendships and will continue to educate other about the importance of protecting our environment and history.”

Sustainable development is good for business Ferreira tells Chamber of Commerce stronger environmental policies will lead to lower operating costs

 

NATURAL PARTNERS – Environmental attorney and Save The Bays director Romi Ferreira told the Chamber of Commerce’ national conclave that commercial and environmental interests go hand in hand. Ferreira is pictured speaking during a panel discussion with Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle (centre) and Minister of State for Financial Services Ryan Pinder.

NATURAL PARTNERS – Environmental attorney and Save The Bays director Romi Ferreira told the Chamber of Commerce’ national conclave that commercial and environmental interests go hand in hand. Ferreira is pictured speaking during a panel discussion with Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle (centre) and Minister of State for Financial Services Ryan Pinder.

The cost of doing business in the Bahamas would be greatly reduced by the adoption of environmentally progressive national policies, a Chamber of Commerce director says.

Reporting to the chamber’s national conclave, environmental attorney Romi Ferreira cited complaints about the high electricity costs, which he said, are the result of poor planning, a lack of maintenance and the use of expensive, pollutant-heavy fuel by the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC).

“The price of energy is too high, and its impeding business,” said Ferreira, who serves as the Chamber’s director of energy and environment. “A sustainable action plan is needed to transform the electricity sector, and that would mean a great difference in the bottom line of every single business.”

He noted that BEC produces no energy from renewable resources – not even on remote islands like Acklins, Crooked Island and Long Cay, where there is ample sun and wind.

Ferreira, who is also a director of the fast-growing environmental movement Save The Bays, said every forward-thinking businessperson in the Bahamas should be concerned about protecting the environment, particularly in light of the threat posed to economically vital natural resources by the rise of unregulated development.

“We are not opposed to development,” he told the conference. “What we really want is sustainable development, so that your children, your grandchildren will have the same opportunities to prosper to that you had.

“Every single island in this country has an example of a failed development. Once the environment has been impacted in this way, you cannot get it back to how it was. It is prudent for us to manage our resources because our number one asset is coast. That is the why developments come here – access to coast.”

Ferreira said developers, both local and foreign, would benefit from the enactment of a single, overarching Environmental Protection Act as advocated by Save The Bays.

“As it stands, as an investor, you have a literal minefield of legislation to wade through to figure out what you have to comply with.

“We need regulations that are specific for industry and that encourage industry, and encourage it to be sustainable over time,” he said.

In addition to an Environmental Protection Act, Save The Bays is calling for a Freedom of Information Act to facilitate citizen access to government information, which Mr Ferreira said is key to ensuring all laws and regulations are properly enforced.

Since its formation a year ago, the organisation has taken the Bahamas by storm, becoming the fastest growing environmental group in the country’s history with 500 registered members, 14,000 Facebook friends and nearly 6,000 signatures on its petition for legislative reforms.

Humane Treatment of Animals was the topic for the Final Session of the EARTHCARE/Save The Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme.

L-RJensen Farquharson, Rashema Ingraham,YEA Facilitotors, Gail Woon, EARTHCARE, Save The Bays, Havana Gibson, Joseph Darville--

The topic on April 5th, 2014 for the EARTHCARE/Save The Bays Saturday Environmental Education Programme was “Humane Treatment of Animals”. Gail Woon, Founder of EARTHCARE and a Director of Save The Bays, “This was our last session for the 2013/2014 school year. We discussed various types of animals, how to best maintain pets, and the implications for wild animals that become entangled in improperly disposed of waste. Our Phase 1 Youth Environmental Ambassadors have learned about mangroves, pollution, habitat destruction, sustainable fisheries, climate change, invasive species and today, the humane treatment of animals. Today, I shared my experiences as a Dolphin Trainer on Grand Bahama and the many reasons why I am now an anti-captivity advocate. Dolphins in the wild can travel up to 40 miles a day, dive as deep at 30 feet or more and most live in family units that remain together for a life time. The world wide thirst to see dolphins and whales in tanks has caused these self aware beings to have to live under inhumane conditions as “slaves” to make their “owners” large sums of money. The Taiji drive hunt that is featured in the Oscar winning film, “The Cove” has made the world aware of the captive industry’s “dirty little secret”and the newest film, “Blackfish” has enlightened many more. Students were shown the Save The Bays Investigates YouTube film on the newest captive facility, Blackbeard’s Cay, now the subject of litigation in our court system for proceeding without the proper permits in place.

George Johnson, Ol' Freetown Farm owner, teaches the students about chicken husbandry

EARTHCARE and Save The Bays would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all of our guest speakers and the entities that made this programme possible including but not limited to Mary Star of the Sea School, H. Forbes Charter & Tours, Sunrise Resort & Marina, Lucayan National Park, Sanitation Services Landfill, Paradise Cove Beach Resort, The Reef Ball Foundation, Reef Tours, Pizza Hut, Showoff T Shirts & Graphics, Bethel Books & Stationers, Ol’ Freetown Farm, the parents, guardians and teachers.”

Students were led in discussion by Javan Junt and Jensen Farquharson, YEA Facilitators, who covered the links between animal cruelty and family violence. They shared an edited story about a famous American serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, who had began his criminal career by doing unspeakable things to animals first before he moved on to do terrible crimes on humans. Javan and Jensen passionately advocated the need for everyone to be kind to animals in their daily lives.

At the Ol’ Free Town Farm, the students learned about the many animals there. Owner, George Johnson, a veteran farmer, gave an educational tour, during which the students were allowed to feed the goats, Inagua donkeys, a cow, chickens and geese. George explained their natural horsefly trap which is pesticide free and uses the sun’s heat to keep the horseflies away so they don’t irritate the animals and the people. The students were amazed by the many animals on the farm including a pot bellied pig named Patches who was hand raised as a family pet, Eclectus parrot, many different varieties of chickens, turkeys, peacocks, rabbits, guinea pigs, iguanas and Abaco boars. George’s wife, Sissel Mosvold-Johnson orchestrated the pony rides which the majority of our students tried, many for the first time. Horseback riding lessons are available at the Farm. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are committed to the proper treatment of animals and firmly believe that educating our children on their methods of farming, that our youth will be mindful of practices that are environmentally and animal friendly when making choices about what they eat and how they treat animals.

Gail Woon, EARTHCARE & Save The Bays, teaching Humane Treatment of Animals Phot by Candice Woon

As an extra treat, Erik Mosvold brought out an iguana and Candice Woon brought out a corn snake for the students to touch and see up close. During the pony rides, excitement erupted. It turned out the pregnant goat was giving birth right then and there! Everyone went to see the miracle of birth, even the ZNS News crew who had come to interview our Certified Phase 1 Youth Environmental Ambassadors.

At Ol’ Freetown Farm fresh organic eggs from free range chickens are available. No hormones or artificial ingredients are used in the chicken feed. The farm grows organic greens and vegetables including bok choy, parsley, beans, broccoli, dill and tomatoes, to name few.

After the incredible experiences at Ol’ Freetown Farm, our students received their Phase One  Youth Environmental Ambassador Certifications while proud parents looked on. Havana Gibson was awarded her cash prize for winning the competition to design the official T shirt for this year’s programme.

Director of Education for Save The Bays, Joseph Darville with a baby goat

Save The Bays Director of Education, Joseph Darvillewas elated, “Phase One of EARTHCARE/Save The Bays Youth Environmental Ambassadors educational program came to a roaring, exciting and successful conclusion on Saturday, after a lesson in best practices in animal husbandry and a visit at the Ole Freeport Farm.

In Phase One, forty-eight junior high students successfully completed a three month course in environmental fundamentals in five specific domains, each session being followed by a related field trip. It was a tremendous joy, to witness them receive their very attractive Phase One certificates in the presence of their parents.

In September, they will commence the second phase which will comprise practical application of environmental matters, involving leadership and personal development training. When completed, the students will receive a Phase Two YEA Certification. This would include a number of facilitator assisted presentations to various groups and classes.

Additionally, another Phase One program will commence in the fall as well.

Phase Three, the advanced Youth Environmental Ambassador program will include the continuation of the fine tuning of their environmental skills with dynamic presentations with facilitator assistance. This phase would be completed with at least one non-assisted public presentation (with instructor and or facilitator present, but not assisting). At this stage they should be required to write a detailed presentation on their own, to be only fine tuned by a facilitator or instructor. At this level the candidate would be eligible to receive the third or advanced YEA Certification.

In the final analysis, when they reach and complete Phase Three, about the end of grade 10/11, we should be able to recommend them for environmental scholarship consideration.”

“Human beings, animals, and the environment are all created by the Divine. The master plan seems to me, was for these entities to blend in harmony, thus they all should be treated with respect and dignity. To violate any disrupts the intended grand plan and is an insult to the creator. Our country has fallen well short in all three areas, resulting in all the manifested social ills.

All is not lost, organizations such as EARTHCARE, Save The Bays, The Humane Society of Grand Bahama, and The Grand Bahama Human Rights Association are fighting the good fight”, remarked Jensen Farquharson, YEA Facilitator.
Javan Hunt, YEA Facilitator, added, “Every creature under the sun has a purpose. Just because we don’t understand that purpose is no reason to enslave it or kill it…except mosquitoes (laughs) you can swat those!”

Solutions:-
What you can do
Be kind to animals.
Learn about the proper care and attention that a pet needs, then if you and your family have the time and the resources to properly care for and love a pet, consider adopting a rescue animal from the Humane Society.
Take classes that are animal friendly such as a bird watching class.
If you see an animal being mistreated report it to the Humane Society.
Volunteer at the Humane Society, at a veterinarian’s office or a farm.
After you have educated yourself, spread the word and, teach your friends.
Don’t buy a ticket to captive marine mammal shows.
Write letters to Government if you have concerns about what our Government is doing with regard to the Humane Treatment of Animals in the Bahamas.
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.

Attorney: unregulated development is a social justice issue Ferreira calls on students to join the fight to preserve the Bahamas for their own grandchildren

THE GOOD FIGHT – Environmental attorney Romi Ferreira tells C.V. Bethel students that the fight to preserve the country’s natural heritage is also a struggle to protect the rights of every Bahamian. (Photo by Derek Smith Jr. for DPA)

THE GOOD FIGHT – Environmental attorney Romi Ferreira tells C.V. Bethel students that the fight to preserve the country’s natural heritage is also a struggle to protect the rights of every Bahamian. (Photo by Derek Smith Jr. for DPA)

The fight to protect the environment from the scourge of unregulated development is ultimately a struggle to defend the rights of each and every Bahamian, a top environmental attorney told C.V. Bethel students.

Romi Ferreira told members of the school’s Young Marine Explorers club that while the lack of environmental protection laws is an obvious cause for concern ecologically speaking, it is also a question of social justice.
“We are being pushed inland,” he said. “Bahamians are being denied access to their own shoreline.

“Once the coast is developed, you can’t go there unless you can pay. The average Bahamian can’t afford the two or three million it costs to live on the water.”

Ferreira, a director of the fast-growing advocacy group Save The Bays, said this phenomenon is being driven by unregulated development.

“It is cheaper and easier to build resorts and gated communities without an Environmental Protection Act, without a Freedom of Information Act allowing us to find out what is being done in secret,” he said.

“But only certain people will be able to afford to enjoy the results. Meanwhile, at some point, our ecosystems will be destroyed beyond their capacity to regenerate.

“This is what Save The Bays is really trying to prevent. You ought to be able to enjoy your country’s natural beauty when you are old.

“You deserve the chance to show it to your grandchildren. You are the future – this is your fight,” he told the students.

Save The Bays is currently celebrating its first anniversary and the fact that in so short a time, it has managed to attract more than 500 full members and nearly 14,000 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.

The group’s new radio talk show – ‘Voice of the Bays: The Environment Speaks’ – airs every Monday at 5pm on Love 97 FM.