Archive | May, 2014

Groups to unite for Freedom of Information rally

Activists, environmentalists and trade unions are set to come together on June 11 to call for the immediate implementation of a Freedom of Information Act.

Groups that have signed up for the “Stand Up for a Freedom of Information Act” rally so far include: Bahamas Against Crime, the Trade Union Congress, Bimini Blue Coalition, National Citizens Coalition, reEarth, Bahamas Against Sexual Violence and Child Abuse, and the Bahamas Humane Society. Several other groups have been invited.

The event is being organized by Save The Bays, the fast-growing national movement that has championed the cause of the public’s right to know. It will take place from 8am-2pm in Rawson Square.

“A Freedom of Information Act has been one of the goals of this organization since its inception,” said Save The Bays CEO, Lindsey McCoy. “Its one of the points in the petition we launched in the first days of our organization that now has over 5,500 signatures.”

When Save The Bays started discussing a rally to call attention to the need for such an Act, McCoy said it quickly became clear that many other advocacy groups in The Bahamas also felt there was an urgent need for increased government transparency and accountability.

“Although we original adopted FOI as one of the main tenets of our platform in connection with protecting the environment so people being affected could see what was being planned on ‘their behalf’ and be involved in consultation, we immediately came to recognize that Freedom of Information was essential for every aspect of a democracy.

“The response has been amazing,” she said. “Human rights groups, labour organizations, even many within the political class have shown their support and enthusiasm.

“We’re very pleased to see that others in the community share our passion and understand that the right to know is a basic right for all free people who want to participate in decisions affecting them and impacting future generations.”

“We have also extended invitations to the three major political parties: the PLP, DNA and FNM – we want to include every group that has a stake in this issue and, as opposition leader Hubert Minnis said when we spoke to him about the event, this goes beyond politics.”

The DNA has officially signed on as a sponsoring organization and leader Branville McCartney has agreed to appear on Voice of the Bays, the radio show sponsored by Save The Bays, next Monday from 5-6pm on Love97 to discuss his support for a Freedom of Information Act.

For its part, McCoy said Save The Bays sees its ongoing struggle against a controversial resort development in Bimini as a perfect example of why a Freedom of Information Act is so desperately needed.

“The developers grudgingly gave notice that they would dredge a huge area of seabed that includes some of the most pristine and ecologically significant reef systems in the world, which many Biminites and other Bahamians rely on for their livelihood and sustenance,” she said.

“We had to take them to court to find out that the huge target area for dredging suddenly quadrupled, seemingly overnight, with no consultation with the people of Bimini.”

McCoy said Save The Bays is working to enact the Freedom of Information law so that in future, concerned citizens or local communities don’t have to hire attorneys to find out what is happening outside their front door.

Currently 93 countries around the world have Freedom of Information legislation, seven of them in the Caribbean. The Bahamian legal system was inherited from English law, and England did not enact their own Freedom of Information Act until 2000.

“There seems to be a cultural of secrecy inherent in The Bahamas government, under all administrations, that needs to be changed so the people can participate in the governing of their country. We are hoping this rally will be the first step in this change,” said McCoy.

STB praised for role in ‘David versus Goliath’ fight to save Bimini’s reefs

bimini blue coalition logo

Anxiously awaiting the outcome of a Supreme Court hearing last night, concerned citizens who oppose the controversial cruise ship terminal project in Bimini issued a heartfelt statement of thanks to advocacy group Save The Bays (STB) for its crucial help and support.

Bimini Blue Coalition said there is no way it could have challenged an international conglomerate like Malaysia-based Genting for so long without the invaluable backing and advice of the fast-growing fellow NGO.

“We are a small organization and could not have fought this fight on our own,” said BBC in a statement. “This is truly a David versus Goliath fight and wanted to take this opportunity to thank the thousands around The Bahamas and the world who have given us support, and in particular Save The Bays, which threw its considerable influence, expertise and bravery behind out effort since day one.”

Since its launch just over a year ago, STB has catapulted into the role of champion of environmental causes and fledgling advocacy groups around the country.

It has enjoyed unprecedented growth for an NGO, attracting more than 500 registered members, 14,300 followers on Facebook and 6,000 signatures on its petition calling for a Freedom of Information Act, Environmental Protection Act and an end to unregulated development in The Bahamas.

Yesterday, as the Freeport Supreme court considered arguments for and against lifting an injunction on dredging in Bimini imposed by the London-based Privy Council, the BBC also issued a special thank-you to attorney and STB director Fred Smith, QC, who has volunteered his time and energy to lead the legal battle to bring dredging to a halt in Bimini.

“Fred Smith is a godsend. We don’t know what we would have done without him,” said the BBC statement. “He is both a brilliant and resourceful litigator, and a tireless defender of the environment.”

The order to stop all dredging activities, which went into effect immediately last week, was to stay in place until the developers, Genting-owned Resorts World Bimini (RWB), could demonstrate they have satisfied all the conditions for a the granting of a permit under the Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscape of the Bahamas Act (CPPLB).

Since the start of dredging last month, a number of environmental scientists and dive experts have said the cloud of silt seen trailing away from the mammoth dredger ‘Niccolo Machiavelli’ will settle on Bimini’s pristine coral reefs and suffocate the island’s rich underwater ecosystem, a cruicial nursery for some of the country’s most important fisheries and marine resources.

The developer has said its management plan will prevent environmental fallout, but BBC produced images purporting to show that the silt curtains erected to contain the sediment produced by the dredging have failed.
In giving its ruling, the Privy Council noted that the RWB development was a controversial one, and that the environmental aspects are not ideal.

Lawyers for BBC argued that the dredging was being carried out contrary to the provisions of the Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscape of The Bahamas Act. The position of the developers and government was that the dredging did not fall within the ambit of the Act, which refers to “excavation”.

The Privy Council ruled that contrary to the view of the Court of Appeal in Nassau, which rejected the injunction application on Monday, dredging does fall within the meaning of excavation outlined in the act, although not included in the primary definition.

The court also ruled that the approval given by the minister for lands and surveys (Prime Minister Christie) in his capacity as landowner on January 23, 2014, was not a valid permit under the Act.

The Law Lords noted that after asking for and being granted a day’s adjournment, lawyers for the government and developer yesterday produced a permit under the Act, dated the day before.

However, that permit can only be issued subject to certain conditions, and even if this were not the case, the court found, there would still be cause for concern.

The lords noted that before granting the permit, the Director of Physical Planning should have listened to objections and taken them into account. Given the last-minute nature of the document, and the lack of evidence as to whether there was compliance with the conditions, a question-mark hangs over its validity, they said.

The court also noted that although the developers only applied for a permit under the Act at the last minute, it can be said in their favor that up until then, Bahamian authorities had told them the document was unnecessary.
The ruling also took into consideration that BBC is not in a position to give an undertaking to pay damages should they lose, while the developer is facing considerable costs per day.

But, the court said, had the injunction not been granted, it would have undermined the underlying judicial review of the entire development, which is currently stayed in the Bahamas Supreme Court pending the outcome of an appeal concerning security costs.

The lords noted that the injunction is not unconnected with the underlying judicial review, and that BBC represents individuals who live and work in Bimini and will be affected by the development.

They also pointed out that Resorts World Bimini can be said to have begun the dredging with their eyes open and at their own risk, as the judicial review was already in place and the developers themselves gave an undertaking not to dredge without permits.

Bimini dredging halted by Privy Council

Concerned citizens say the cloud of silt seen trailing away from the mammoth dredger ‘Niccolo Machiavelli’ will settle on Bimini’s pristine coral reefs and suffocate the island’s rich marine ecosystem. The Privy Council in London has granted an injunction to halt the dredging until the developers show they have satisfied all the conditions for a permit stipulated by law.

Concerned citizens say the cloud of silt seen trailing away from the mammoth dredger ‘Niccolo Machiavelli’ will settle on Bimini’s pristine coral reefs and suffocate the island’s rich marine ecosystem. The Privy Council in London has granted an injunction to halt the dredging until the developers show they have satisfied all the conditions for a permit stipulated by law.

High court grants injunction to Bimini Blue Coalition; developers must demonstrate they have satisfied all conditions under the law

The controversial dredging operation in Bimini, which concerned citizens say is threatening some of the most pristine and ecologically significant reefs in the region, has been brought to a halt with the granting of an injunction by the Privy Council in London.

The order to stop all dredging activities, which went into effect immediately, will stay in place until the developers, Resorts World Bimini (RWB), can demonstrate they have satisfied all the conditions for a the granting of a permit under the Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscape of the Bahamas Act (CPPLB).

Declaring a major victory for advocacy group Bimini Blue Coalition (BBC), their lawyer Fred Smith, QC, said: “This is a significant step in the effort to save the vital natural resources of Bimini and defend the integrity of the rule of law in The Bahamas. Hopefully, political leaders will come to realize that they do not have the right to bypass the safeguards and protections built into our laws when granting approvals to developers. We are very happy with the court’s decision, and will continue to hold the government’s feet to the fire in an effort to protect the interests of Bimini’s unique community and precious environment.”

Since the start of dredging last month, a number of environmental scientists and dive experts have said the cloud of silt seen trailing away from the mammoth dredger ‘Niccolo Machiavelli’ will settle on Bimini’s pristine coral reefs and suffocate the island’s rich underwater ecosystem, a cruicial nursery for some of the country’s most important fisheries and marine resources.

The developer has said its management plan will prevent environmental fallout, but BBC produced images purporting to show that the silt curtains erected to contain the sediment produced by the dredging have failed.

In its ruling, the Privy Council noted that the RWB development was a controversial one, and that the environmental aspects are not ideal.

Lawyers for BBC argued that the dredging was being carried out contrary to the provisions of the CPPLB. The position of the developers and government was that the dredging did not fall within the ambit of the Act, which refers to “excavation”.

The Privy Council ruled that contrary to the view of the Court of Appeal in Nassau, which rejected an injunction application on Monday, dredging does fall within the meaning of excavation outlined in the act, although not included in the primary definition.

The court also ruled that the approval given by the minister for lands and surveys (Prime Minister Christie) in his capacity as landowner on January 23, 2014, was not a valid permit.

The Law Lords noted that after asking for and being granted a day’s adjournment, lawyers for the government and developer yesterday produced a permit under the Act, dated the day before.

However, that permit can only be issued subject to certain conditions, and even if this were not the case, the court found, there would still be cause for concern.

The Lords noted that before granting the permit, the Director of Physical Planning should have listened to objections and taken them into account. Given the last-minute nature of the document, and the lack of evidence as to whether there was compliance with the conditions, a question-mark hangs over its validity, they said.

The court also noted that although the developers only applied for a permit under the Act at the last minute, it can be said in their favor that up until then, Bahamian authorities had told them the document was unnecessary.

The ruling also took into consideration that BBC is not in a position to give an undertaking to pay damages should they lose, while the developer is facing considerable costs per day.

But, the court said, had the injunction not been granted, it would have undermined the underlying judicial review of the entire development, which is currently stayed in the Bahamas Supreme Court pending the outcome of an appeal concerning security costs.

The Lords noted that the injunction is not unconnected with the underlying judicial review, and that BBC represents individuals who live and work in Bimini and will be affected by the development.

They also pointed out that Resorts World Bimini can be said to have begun the dredging with their eyes open and at their own risk, as the judicial review was already in place and the developers themselves gave an undertaking not to dredge without permits.

Tough Lessons: Cayman Islands Looking at Bimini for What Not to Do

A leading dive hotelier in Cayman told a local TV station there Wednesday that Cayman officials and dive business operators were looking at Bimini in The Bahamas as an example of what not to do in pitting protection of fragile marine life and coral reefs against mass development.

Keith Sahm, General Manager of the world-famous Sunset House, and a lifelong diver and master instructor, said dredging in Bimini to make way for a cruise port are taking a toll on that island’s marine resources.

“Hopefully, we can learn from others’ mistakes and we won’t have that happening here in Cayman,” he said.

Mr. Sahm’s comments came in response to the signing of a $2.5 million contract for an environmental impact analysis related to a proposed cruise berthing in Cayman where along with marine resources, the study will examine traffic flow and other issues. The dredging required, Mr. Sahm said, would kick up enough sand and silt to suffocate corals, effectively wiping out Cayman’s main attraction and triggering a ripple effect that would impact the entire economy. “Once people start coming down here not to dive because everything’s washed out, dead, the taxi service, the hotels, everything will take a huge drastic hit,” he said. The widely circulated TV interview that has been circulated over the internet and among dive enthusiasts included mention of the mammoth suction cutter dredge, the 450-foot Niccolo Machiavelli, that is plowing through waters off North Bimini now even as the legal battle continues about whether or not proper permits were granted prior to work starting.

The reference to “learning from others’ mistakes” was the latest in an onslaught of criticism of the project that some maintain is simply too large for the island. Malaysian-based Genting Corp.’s Resorts World Bimini wants the cruise port in aid in driving business to its resort and casino. The company has revealed it wants to attract as many as 500,000 guests a year, disgorging cruise passengers onto an island that now has a population of about 1,700.

Warnings about the impact of dredging to accommodate cruise ships came originally in the company’s own commissioned Environmental Impact Assessment and lately, from all over the globe.

Last week, internationally respected marine artist and scientist Dr. Guy Harvey urged caution before Bimini’s reefs that some have called among the most magnificent in the world were destroyed.

“The islands of Bimini are an environmental gem and every step should be taken to conserve these resources,” Dr. Harvey said.

World record holder and TV celebrity Neal Watson expressed deep concern last week, calling the activity “a pending catastrophic event.”

“Having started the first recreational dive operation in Bimini in 1975 and still involved in promoting diving in Bimini, I am devastated by the pending catastrophic event about to occur in this diver’s paradise,” said Watson.

“This fragile ecosystem has already suffered a degree of degradation over the past 40 years, which has occurred throughout not only the Caribbean but also the entire world. However, this dredging project will cause more irreversible damage to the reefs in the next 30 days than would normally occur over the next 30 years.

“This is not just an environmental issue but an economic issue. In addition to the three top of class dive operations located in Bimini that generate millions of dollars in revenue for the hotels, marinas, restaurants, bars and merchants, Bimini is uniquely located 48 miles from South Florida, which has the largest number of registered boats as well as the largest concentration of divers in the Continental Unites States. Because of Bimini’s proximity to South Florida and its reputation as a world class dive destination it attracts hundreds of small boats that come to Bimini to dive Bimini’s incredible reefs and support the local hotels, marinas and merchants. All of this is in jeopardy,” said Watson, who holds the world record of the deepest compressed air dive, descending to 437 feet. He once swam 66 miles underwater in 19.5 hours from the Florida Keys to Miami, never surfacing. He’s been featured in People Magazine and Outside magazine, and on TV in many shows, including Inside Edition and The Today Show.

And the dive industry’s organization, DEMA, expressed similar outrage.

“A very real concern to DEMA and to all diving businesses – especially those based in nearby Florida ­– is the fact that any environmental degradation, especially of the magnitude being described in the North Bimini Ferry Terminal Project EIA and its addendum, is likely to have a negative impact on the perception of pristine diving which Bimini now holds in the minds of diving consumers,” said California-based DEMA president Tom Ingram.

“As a result of this project, it is possible that the number of divers visiting Bimini will decline dramatically as public perception develops regarding this project’s potential environmental impact.”

Thousands have signed a petition urging the government of The Bahamas to enact a Freedom of Information Act and an Environmental Protection Act that they say, had they been in place, would have allowed public consultation before a project of this proportion was undertaken and might very well have prevented dredging that is predicted to cause irreparable damage, according to the company’s own Environmental Impact Assessment.

US Ocean Engineer Adds Voice to Growing Concerns, Labels Bimini Dredging “Not Environmentally Compatible Operation in Pristine Waters”

Latest Concerns Over Bimini – A respected US-based ocean engineer with 35 years’ dredging experience said today Bimini’s world-renowned reefs and often photographed marine life will suffer immediate and long-term damage from the dredging taking place off the coast of the tiny island in the northern Bahamas. Threats, he said, could have been mitigated against by proper placement and securing of silt curtains. Instead, the curtains are scattered and not secured or weighted down at the bottom, allowing the stirred up sand to create turbidity, suffocating the reefs and fish that have not escaped.

Latest Concerns Over Bimini – A respected US-based ocean engineer with 35 years’ dredging experience said today Bimini’s world-renowned reefs and often photographed marine life will suffer immediate and long-term damage from the dredging taking place off the coast of the tiny island in the northern Bahamas. Threats, he said, could have been mitigated against by proper placement and securing of silt curtains. Instead, the curtains are scattered and not secured or weighted down at the bottom, allowing the stirred up sand to create turbidity, suffocating the reefs and fish that have not escaped.

A Florida-based ocean engineer with 35 years’ experience in port and beach dredging today said photos of the dredging operation off North Bimini show proper steps are not being taken to prevent silt from killing off marine life and some of the world’s best-known coral reefs.

Ronald J. Coddington, P.E., of Civil Construction Technologies, was the latest in a stream of experts to add his voice to the growing chorus of those calling for a halt to what has been labelled environmentally “devastating” dredging that would have immediate and long-term consequences.

Resorts World Bimini commissioned the dredging as part of its plan to build a 1,000-foot pier and turning basin to accommodate cruise ships delivering up to 500,000 guests a year to its casino and hotel on the tiny island in the northern Bahamas. Bimini currently has a population of less than 2,000 and residents have worried that the transient population explosion will overrun its island and forever alter its generations-old way of life built in part on the pride of being surrounded by crystal clear turquoise seas home to 14 of the most treasured and valuable coral reefs in the world. Those reefs attract divers from all over pumping a reported $80 million a year into the local economy. Resorts World Bimini, owned by Malaysian-based Genting, has said its investment will add jobs for Biminites, but many have expressed fears of what else it will bring that the small island may not be able to handle. And in recent days, the dive industry has issued strong warnings about the impact of the dredging and urged that it be halted before it was too late.

Meantime, as cameras roll catching the action and shooting it out through social media and all over the internet, the 450-foot suction cutter called the Niccolo Machiavelli continued to churn up the waters with what Mr. Coddington said late today was inadequate and detached screening. Had that screening been installed completely surrounding the plume and the bottoms of the curtains weighted down, it could have mitigated against some of the turbidity caused by the stirring up of the waters that will kill reefs and the fish that depend on them for life.

“To me, it is hard to understand what the dredge company is attempting to accomplish with the discontinuous pieces of turbidity curtain, except maybe just show they have some on site,” said Mr. Coddington. “The turbidity control devices are not installed in accordance with Best Management Practices for erosion and sediment control. This is not an environmentally compatible operation in pristine waters like exist on the Bimini coast. It puts large amounts of sediment and silt into suspension without producing any fill excavation.”

According to Mr. Coddingrton, turbidity curtains must be deployed as a circumference around the point source of the plume. However, photographs show a discontinuous piece of floating curtain which he said “is absolutely worthless in its current state as it has no ability to contain the turbid water until settlement takes place.”

Steel piling should have been driven into the ocean floor to hold the curtains in place, he said, buoyed by bottom anchors or weights to keep the bottom of the curtain from being swept or pushed by currents.

“In none of the photos, is there any indication that turbidity curtains are being deployed to actually attempt to mitigate and contain turbidity,” he said.

Yesterday, California-based DEMA, the dive industry’s leading voice, called for The Bahamas government to consider halting the dredging, saying it was threatening “a recreational diving jewel.”

Located 48 miles from Florida, Bimini has long enjoyed a reputation among American DEMA members as a pristine diving and fishing location and annually attracts more than 3,000 diving visitors to businesses which belong to the BDA, as well as more than 3,700 annual diving visitors who arrive in private vessels, Ingram noted. Together, they generate more than $19 million a year for the economy of The Bahamas. Add shark and other deep sea fishing and estimates go as high as $80 million.

“These diving visitors are in addition to the thousands of visitors each year who make the short journey by air or boat to fish in Bimini’s unspoiled waters. These tourists currently spend an annual average of almost $2,800 each on Bimini, including spending at diving operations, hotels, restaurants and other facilities on the island,” said Tom Ingram, executive director of the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA). And an article in the dredging industry’s trade journal stirred up additional concern.

Bimini – A Bahamian Businessman’s Perspective

Good Morning,

I have been following the situation in Bimini from both perspectives, as a businessman in construction and as a Bahamian who enjoys our beautiful environment.

I believe your actions to be reckless in authorizing such mass devastation to an area the size of Bimini for the profit of a foreign company (and realistically we all know who else is profiting, it’s not Bahamians in general but the select few).

Even based on the EIA and what the public knows, very little has been followed on their recommendations. What is the point in having an EIA done if you (the government) are going to ignore it and allow the developers to proceed as they want with overriding signatures by government officials?

http://www.best.bs/Webdocs/North%20Bimini%20Ferry%20Terminal%20EIA%20041013%2002.pdf

Now we learn, based off of the last court documents, that the area to be dredged is being expanded with no further impact assessment or concern with the environment in Bimini and the Bahamas?

Similar to how our poor family and education services in the Bahamas (Nassau in particular) have lead to the downfall in society, so too will destroying the spawning and nursery grounds for important fish, sharks, and other species in the ecosystem of the Bahamas.

One of my largest concerns as a businessman is the impact this project will have when (not if) it fails. Similar to other developments of this size throughout the Bahamas, the developers have based their investments off of imaginary visitors (if you build it they will come). This line of thinking has failed throught the Bahamas (Rum Cay, Ginn, South Ocean, the list goes on). Back in 2002, Bimini-based marine biologist Samuel Gruber, wrote in the Bahamas Journal of Science in 2002: “Vast plans for attracting large numbers of wealthy visitors to Bimini through large and ‘appealing’ resort complexes have ended in failure time and again. Bimini, like much of the Caribbean region, is littered with failed and uncompleted resort projects.” I can only imagine the widespread devastation to the social, environments, and economical aspects of society when this fails.

Forums for fishing and diving are littering with objections and disappointment. Here are some comments from a thread on a popular boating and fishing forum, The Hull Truth:

“nothing short of tragic.” – alacrity
“This is heartbreaking! I had hoped to take my daughter to Bimini this summer so she could see it before they ruined the water and reefs.” – Bluerudy
“That’s a shame.” – Jason5543
“Ever watch the Bahamas Parliament on their TV? They make our idiots look smart….” – Sykes

A simple internet search will show you the world is against this, and everyone understands the devastation except for our government leaders, who do not see that this is NOT in the best interest of the Bahamas. News articles across the US and the world are making us look like fools.

I urge you to halt the dredging. At minimum, you should halt the dredging and ensure all the recommendations of the EIA are followed and not allow the expansion without consideration for the Bahamian people, and not just the pockets of those involved.

Regards,

Lee McCoy
Nassau, Bahamas

Read on BahamaIslandsInfo.com

Now is the time for the people of Bimini to stand up

Dear Editor,

This message is for the people of Bimini:

Now is the time for you to STAND UP. Your island is being destroyed, your economy ruined and your culture lost.

No amount of court action, no amount of press coverage, no amount of international pressure will do anything without you, the Biminites, going up to Bimini Bay and putting a full stop to this situation. Period. That is proven.

The prime minister and Resorts World do not care what the rest of the country or the rest or the world says. They are going ahead regardless simply because Bimini has made it clear that they don’t care. “Do whatever,” the Biminites are saying.

But is that what you, the Biminites, are saying? You should be saying NO! You should be saying STOP! You should be saying GO HOME!

Now is the time for Bimini to stand up.

Is everyone on the island is afraid of the government? That’s what your leaders are counting on. They think that people in Bimini are sheep, cowards, pawns to be bought for hard cash.

These ‘leaders’ will lead the locals and their kids into poverty, just so the developers can get another bag of cash from the casino and get rich doing it. Filthy, stinking rich.

And if Bimini doesn’t stop them now, they will keep doing it.

If you stand up, the country stands behind you. The press stands behind you. The entire international dive industry stands behind you. The sport fishing industry stands behind you. The scientific community stands behind you. Brainville McCartney wants to stand with you. The FNM will stand with you. The anit-VAT community will stand with you. The Bahamian business community will stand with you. The labour boards will stand with you. The entire state of Florida is ready to stand behind you.

And what is Perry Christie to all of that? When he fails – which he will if you in Bimini stand up – all the PLP fails with him. There can be no political backlash if Bimini wins, because the losers will lose everything politically.

If Bimini stands up, physically and emotionally and with speech and action, this regime will fall. That will be the political fall out. A little backlash for Bimini? Quite possibly but unlikely. But even if so, it will be short lived because these people will lose the next election – if Bimini stands up now.

Bimini has nothing to lose from standing. But EVERYTHING to lose by not standing.

Bimini, you will lose your community, your businesses, your island.

You have already lost the confidence to speak. The right to know what is going on. The right to have a say. You may as well leave and find another island, maybe even another country.

Because if you, the locals, don’t not stand up, the entire country is lost. If Bimini goes down with our leaders gloating, there is nothing to stop them from destroying the rest of the country with mad glee in return for whatever it is they stand to gain.

But you, you proud Biminites, can stop them and save the country.

NOW IS THE TIME FOR BIMINI TO STAND UP!

– Matthew McCoy

DEMA: Dredging could devastate Bimini’s thriving dive industry

IMPOSING – The ferry pier and terminal will project 1,000 feet off the coast of North Bimini, directly into an area containing 14 of the country’s most pristine and ecologically significant dive sites. DEMA head Tom Ingraham warned that the project could ruin Bimini’s $19 million dive industry.

IMPOSING – The ferry pier and terminal will project 1,000 feet off the coast of North Bimini, directly into an area containing 14 of the country’s most pristine and ecologically significant dive sites. DEMA head Tom Ingraham warned that the project could ruin Bimini’s $19 million dive industry.

Top reputation among divers could be ruined by possible environmental degradation associated with the Resorts World Bimini pier terminal project, international NGO warns

As a hotly-opposed dredging operation got underway off the coast of Bimini this week despite legal challenge, a global non-profit warned that the associated environmental degradation could destroy the island’s extremely lucrative dive industry.

Tom Ingram, executive director of the California-based Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA), said the dredging of 220,000 cubic yards of seafloor at the heart of Bimini’s pristine reef system to accommodate a resort’s cruise ship ferry could ruin what is a “recreational diving jewel” of The Bahamas.

He strongly urged the government to look carefully at the project before allowing it to move forward, even as a 450-foot mammoth dredger began to excavate the seafloor this week.

“A very real concern to DEMA and to all diving businesses – especially those based in nearby Florida ­– is the fact that any environmental degradation, especially of the magnitude being described in the North Bimini Ferry Terminal Project EIA and its addendum, is likely to have a negative impact on the perception of pristine diving which Bimini now holds in the minds of diving consumers,” Ingram said.

“As a result of this project, it is possible that the number of divers visiting Bimini will decline dramatically as public perception develops regarding this project’s potential environmental impact.”

He said it is possible that this perception – and perhaps the reality – of the environmental impact will cause Bimini and The Bahamas to trade the affluent and sustainable diving consumer population for a population of less-affluent cruise and ferry consumers, with less-well-known demographic, life stage and economic characteristics.

“Such a trade of one population for another could have devastating impacts on the number of divers visiting Bimini, with a resulting economic impact on Bahamas Dive Association (BDA) members, DEMA members and the economy of Bimini,” Ingram said.

DEMA, based in San Diego, represents the business and consumer interests of the recreational scuba and snorkel diving industries around the world. DEMA’s mission is to promote sustainable growth in safe recreational scuba diving and snorkeling while protecting the underwater environment.

Located 48 miles from Florida, Bimini has long enjoyed a reputation among American DEMA members as a pristine diving and fishing location and annually attracts more than 3,000 diving visitors to businesses which belong to the BDA, as well as more than 3,700 annual diving visitors who arrive in private vessels, Ingram noted. Together, they generate more than $19 million a year for the economy of The Bahamas.

“These diving visitors are in addition to the thousands of visitors each year who make the short journey by air or boat to fish in Bimini’s unspoiled waters. These tourists currently spend an annual average of almost $2,800 each on Bimini, including spending at diving operations, hotels, restaurants and other facilities on the island,” he said.

“There is a strong possibility that any negative environmental impact could be long term in nature. Since underwater areas close to popular dive sites are being transformed to accommodate the North Bimini Ferry Terminal, even a partial failure to create the economic benefit projected will be devastating to the long term environmental and economic survival of Bimini.

“In our opinion, the potential economic upside of this project is inadequate when compared to the great risks involved with the potential for failure of this project to create positive economic benefit, and the long-term environmental risks involved.”

Guy Harvey: Bimini an “environmental gem” that must be protected

RARE JEWEL­ ­– Internationally acclaimed wildlife marine artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey has weighed in on the controversial cruise ship terminal project on Bimini, which is now underway despite a judicial challenge. Harvey stressed that the island is an “environmental gem” and must be protected.

RARE JEWEL­ ­– Internationally acclaimed wildlife marine artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey has weighed in on the controversial cruise ship terminal project on Bimini, which is now underway despite a judicial challenge. Harvey stressed that the island is an “environmental gem” and must be protected.

World renowned marine artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey has declared Bimini an “environmental gem” and urged Bahamians to do everything they can to protect it.

His statement came as concerned citizens fretted over the future of Bimini’s marine ecosystem as the 450-foot long cutter suction dredger, the Niccolo Machiavelli, began excavating the sea floor to accommodate a cruise ship delivering passengers to a resort and casino. The dredging, say opponents, will wipe out some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the undersea world.

“Tracking research done by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation shows that The Bahamas plays an important role in the lifecycle of Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean shark populations,” said Harvey. “Specifically, the Bimini mangrove ecosystem provides vital habitat for these juvenile sharks, as well as many other valuable fish species. As overfishing continues to reduce many fish populations locally and globally, this habitat in Bimini becomes even more crucial to the conservation of these species. The islands of Bimini are an environmental gem and every step should be taken to conserve these resources.”

Harvey has been interested in marine conservation his whole life and continues to speak on the subject at conferences and universities. He donates part of the proceeds from his extremely popular artwork to marine conservation efforts.

In 1999, he founded the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova’s Oceanographic Center in cooperation with Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The institute, which is funded in part by contributions from his charitable Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, conducts research on the ecology, genetics, behavior, physiology, and evolution of fish. Areas of focus include shark and stingray ecology and conservation, and artificial reef design and monitoring.

His work in the field of game fish conservation led to Harvey’s inclusion in the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame.

Harvey’s appeal comes just days after Guinness world record holder and president of the Bahamas Diving Association Neal Watson warned that dredging would be a “catastrophic” event for Bimini’s delicate environment.

“Bimini has attracted fishermen, boaters and divers since the days of Hemmingway,” said Watson. “The uniqueness, natural beauty, pristine clear waters, abundant marine life and incredible reefs are threatened.”

Malaysian-based Genting, which owns Resorts World Bimini (RWB), has said it needs to dredge the channel and build the pier to deliver up to 500,000 guests a year to the casino and hotel on the island that is now home to about 1,500 residents.

Concerned citizens who formed the Bimini Blue Coalition said they are worried about everything from destruction of their way of life to management of human waste, from lack of direct economic benefit to destruction of the reefs. Six of the world’s best, experts have said, lie in the path of the planned channel.

Despite mounting a legal challenge against the project, coalition members are now very concerned their efforts will be in vain as the dredging began on Thursday after lawyers for RWB produced what they purported to be permits from the Bahamas government – a claim the coalition has disputed.

The coalition is worried that the dredging will stir up so much silt and cause so much turbidity it will kill off Bimini’s rich fishing grounds that were immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream.

Another of the great writer’s Bimini-inspired stories, The Old Man & the Sea, was the subject of Harvey’s first artistic exhibition 1985. The positive response led to his decision to paint full time and produce custom work for the wide range of Guy Harvey-branded merchandise so prized by sport-fishermen, divers and marine environment enthusiasts.

Dr. Guy Harvey’s statement on Bimini

“Tracking research done by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation shows that the Bahamas play an important role in the lifecycle of Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean shark populations. Specifically, the Bimini mangrove ecosystem provides vital habitat for these juvenile sharks, as well as many other valuable fish species. As overfishing continues to reduce many fish populations locally and globally, this habitat in Bimini becomes even more crucial to the conservation of these species. The islands of Bimini are an environmental gem and every step should be taken to conserve these resources.”

– Dr. Guy Harvey, world renowned marine artist and conservationist

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