Archive | March, 2015

Save The Bays congratulates Cassandra Q. Butts on commitment to help protect and conserve the environment; praises her stance on marine protected areas

Cassandra Q. Butts, the Obama administration’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas, testifies during her Senate confirmation hearing last week.

Cassandra Q. Butts, the Obama administration’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas, testifies during her Senate confirmation hearing last week.

Ambassador nominee a ‘welcome environmental ally’

Save The Bays today publicly congratulated U.S. ambassador nominee to The Bahamas, Cassandra Q. Butts, for her declared commitment to helping preserve the environment of The Bahamas. The organization pledged to work with her on issues ranging from pollution at Clifton Bay to expansion of marine protected areas.

During her confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate last week, the attorney and former White House policy advisor said: “If confirmed, I will work to assist The Bahamas in protecting and preserving for future generations the incredible natural beauty that makes it the vacation destination of choice for so many people, including by expanding marine protected areas.

“As part of this same effort, I will encourage The Bahamas to adopt cleaner technologies and build strong and resilient energy markets, which will not only provide a more secure and sustainable clean energy future and economic growth, but also limit the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.”

According to Save The Bays CEO Vanessa Haley-Benjamin, Ms. Butts’ testimony touched on a number of STB’s core issues, including environmental conservation, the importance of energy sector reform and the urgent need to expand the marine protected area (MPA) system.

“We look forward to bringing to her attention the case of the North Bimini Marine Reserve (NBMR), which the government of The Bahamas has promised to establish for the protection of that island’s unique ecological heritage and the local industries that have depended upon it for generations,” said Haley-Benjamin.

“The NBMR would protect mangrove forests that serve as a nursery for the abundant sea life that has attracted so many visitors to the island over the years, and are vital for the maintenance of our marine resources across the entire northern Bahamas. Yet, despite appeals from many Biminites and the island’s local council, the government has yet to make good on its commitment and we believe working with Ms. Butts will help to help elevate this most important issue to the level of national attention.”

The statement from Save The Bays notes the organization’s strong support for expansion of protected areas in line with The Bahamas’ commitment under the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI), the first conservation effort adopted by governments in the region to provide sustainable financing for the effective management of protected areas. Participating countries, including The Bahamas, have committed to protecting at least 20 percent of near‐shore marine and coastal environments by 2020, and creating a national conservation trust fund with a sustainable finance mechanism that is dedicated to management of these protected areas.

“We hope to further discuss the implementation of this plan with the government, Ms. Butts, and any other international partners willing to aid in the protection of our marine coastal environments,” said Haley-Benjamin.

“In terms of energy reform, we hope to bring to Ms. Butts’ attention the shocking problem of oil pollution at Clifton Bay, which many have attributed to endemic system failures at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Clifton plant.”

STB has repeatedly highlighted the Clifton case as an example of the dangers inherent in an approach to power generation that increasingly relies on heavy fuel burning generators to meet the ever-growing demand for electricity.

“We share the ambassador nominee’s view that The Bahamas must make exploring the use of cleaner technologies for power generation an urgent priority and we are pleased to see that the government is exploring alternative and renewable energy options,” she said.

“We are also delighted with Ms. Butts’ concern for the preservation of the environment as a strategy for ensuring the empowerment of future generations of Bahamians, STB is very eager to introduce her to our Youth Environmental Ambassadors (YEA) program,” added STB Education Director Joseph Darville. “In only in its second year in existence, YEA has already touched the lives of thousands of students, sparking a love for the beauty and diversity The Bahamian environment and a commitment to preserving it in the face of pollution, overfishing, unregulated development and other pressures.

“The program teaches students the importance of sustainable development, emphasizing the vital relationship between a healthy natural environment and thriving local communities.” The popular program offers hands-on opportunities with field trips and site explorations.

“STB thanks US Ambassador-nominee Cassandra Q. Butts for her interest in helping preserve the environment of The Bahamas, and we look forward to working with her on these and a number of other issues,” said Save The Bays in a press statement. “We regard her as a most welcome environmental ally.”

Save The Bays Youth Environment Ambassadors Experience Nature At its Finest

Joseph Darville, Save The Bays Youth Environment Ambassador Program Director, addresses parents at one of its Saturday sessions on February 14. Parents were able to communicate their leadership strengths with their children, an experience that left them hoping that it would not be their last invitation to partake in the environmental program. (Photo Courtesy: Mrs. Jenneva Russell, Photojournalist for The Freeport News.)

Joseph Darville, Save The Bays Youth Environment Ambassador Program Director, addresses parents at one of its Saturday sessions on February 14. Parents were able to communicate their leadership strengths with their children, an experience that left them hoping that it would not be their last invitation to partake in the environmental program. (Photo Courtesy: Mrs. Jenneva Russell, Photojournalist for The Freeport News.)

With chances to experience nature in its purest form becoming increasingly rare, students in Grand Bahama are being offered that opportunity twice a month, thanks to a popular program organised by the fast-growing environmental movement, Save The Bays.

More than 40 youngsters are participating in the classroom and field exploration program called Youth Environment Ambassadors.

In recent weeks, they’ve explored national parks, kayaked through mangroves and heard from experts involved in park management and eco-tours. They’ve met with environmentalists from the Lucayan National Park and from Grand Bahama Nature Tours. They’ve trekked through pine forests, and majestic mangroves, habitats and incubators for hundreds of species, an experience that left the junior high school students and all of the facilitators in awe.

Guides from Grand Bahama Nature Tours, one of the leading eco-tour companies, led members of YEA through a safari adventure through the Grand Bahama Lucayan National Park. The event was one of many arranged by environmental group, Save The Bays in an effort to educate the youth about preserving their surroundings. (Photo Courtesy: Mrs. Erika Gates, Grand Bahama Nature Tours)

Guides from Grand Bahama Nature Tours, one of the leading eco-tour companies, led members of YEA through a safari adventure through the Grand Bahama Lucayan National Park. The event was one of many arranged by environmental group, Save The Bays in an effort to educate the youth about preserving their surroundings. (Photo Courtesy: Mrs. Erika Gates, Grand Bahama Nature Tours)

“It was one of the most amazing experiences I have had to date with Save The Bays,” said Javan Hunt, STB YEA Program Facilitator. “Being part of Save The Bays has helped me learn so much about my Bahamas and I am happy to be here…”

That group was led by professional tour guides from Grand Bahama Tours, a leading eco-tour operator whose president, Mrs. Erika Gates, said the company that has opened the eyes of so many over its 20-year history was glad young people were being exposed to what Grand Bahama has to offer off the beaten path.

“It is especially important for us to introduce young Grand Bahamians to our natural treasures,” said Gates. “It’s completely necessary in order to conserve our beautiful environment.”

President of Grand Bahama Nature Tours Mrs. Erika Gates and her team of professional tour guides and Joseph Darville, STB YEA  Program Director enjoying a fun-filled day exploring the 6 Diverse Terrestrial Ecosystems at the Lucayan National Park educating ambassadors on environmental preservation. (Photo Courtesy: Rashema Ingraham)

President of Grand Bahama Nature Tours Mrs. Erika Gates and her team of professional tour guides and Joseph Darville, STB YEA Program Director enjoying a fun-filled day exploring the 6 Diverse Terrestrial Ecosystems at the Lucayan National Park educating ambassadors on environmental preservation. (Photo Courtesy: Rashema Ingraham)

In addition to the safari adventure, the young ambassadors received a preservation lesson from National Parks Manager of Grand Bahama National Trust, Lakeshia Anderson.

Anderson engaged students about the 30 national parks in The Bahamas, three of which sit on the island of Grand Bahama, and the important role they play in ensuring that nature is preserved.

Parents were invited to join in on the fun at a leadership session, giving them an opportunity to understand the popular program that is geared toward awakening interest in the environment and potentially opening their eyes toward careers in marine biology or other environmental sciences and study.

Youth Environmental Ambassadors enjoy a day in the sun paddling through the mangroves, a new experience for most.  (Photo Courtesy: Rashema Ingraham)

Youth Environmental Ambassadors enjoy a day in the sun paddling through the mangroves, a new experience for most. (Photo Courtesy: Rashema Ingraham)

“The parents immensely enjoyed the experience and wanted to know how soon they could be back for a visit,” said Joseph Darville YEA Program Director. “Some even expressed the desire to be invited to sit in on the regular sessions.”

Youth Environmental Ambassadors from the educational arm of popular environmental group, Save The Bays, visit Bahamas National Trust to learn about Bahamian national parks and the importance of preserving them to ensure enjoyment for future generations. (Photo Courtesy: Rashema Ingraham)

Youth Environmental Ambassadors from the educational arm of popular environmental group, Save The Bays, visit Bahamas National Trust to learn about Bahamian national parks and the importance of preserving them to ensure enjoyment for future generations. (Photo Courtesy: Rashema Ingraham)

The program that leads to certification serves as the educational arm of Save The Bays and is driven by funding from the organization that is partnering with more than a dozen community-based groups and associations aimed at protecting the physical and cultural heritage of The Bahamas.

In addition to its educational efforts, Save The Bays is committed to passage of a Freedom of Information act, environmental protection act, accountability for oil pollution, and an end to unregulated development. With more than 17,200 Facebook friends and nearly 7,000 signatures on its petition, the association is the fastest-growing NGO in The Bahamas.

Ms. Lakeshia Anderson, National Parks Manager of Grand Bahama National Trust speaks to Youth Environmental Ambassadors about importance of environmental preservation and the roles of the 30 national parks in the Bahamas. (Photo courtesy: Bahamas National Trust)

Ms. Lakeshia Anderson, National Parks Manager of Grand Bahama National Trust speaks to Youth Environmental Ambassadors about importance of environmental preservation and the roles of the 30 national parks in the Bahamas. (Photo courtesy: Bahamas National Trust)

Save The Bays Director Urges Government to Create EPA to Save Tourism Industry, Preserve Land, Waters for Generations

Romauld Ferreira, veteran ecologist, Save The Bays director and environmental attorney and consultant, called for urgent environmental protection legislation to protect fragile resources for future generations of Bahamians and ultimately to sustain the tourism industry. Ferreira  spoke at the 1st Annual Forestry Awareness Symposium opened by the Prime Minister and organized by the Forestry Unit of the Ministry of Environment and Housing.

Romauld Ferreira, veteran ecologist, Save The Bays director and environmental attorney and consultant, called for urgent environmental protection legislation to protect fragile resources for future generations of Bahamians and ultimately to sustain the tourism industry. Ferreira spoke at the 1st Annual Forestry Awareness Symposium opened by the Prime Minister and organized by the Forestry Unit of the Ministry of Environment and Housing.

A respected consultant and attorney this week reiterated his call for urgent passage of an environmental protection act, declaring The Bahamas was “nearing the brink of environmental catastrophe” and nothing short of comprehensive legislation would preserve fragile land and marine resources for future generations of Bahamians and ultimately safeguard the country’s tourism industry.

Romauld Ferreira, environmental attorney, consultant and a director of environmental group Save The Bays, made the plea at The 1st Annual Forestry Awareness Week Symposium hosted by the Forestry Unit of the Ministry of Environment & Housing. The March 18 event was held at The College of The Bahamas.

Ferreira compared the current state of attention to the environment in The Bahamas to the state the U.S. faced in 1969, a condition he called “nearing the brink of an environmental catastrophe,” when the depletion of ecosystems became too serious to ignore. The U.S. enacted an environmental protection act in late 1970.

“Rules must be placed to share it (the land) in an equitable manner,” said Ferreira.

His comments reinforced those made by Prime Minister Perry Christie who opened the conference, calling attention to the importance of natural resources.

“This Ministry of the Environment and Housing, Forestry Unit is working to raise the level of consciousness within our populace,” the Prime Minister said. “I salute them. We cannot put an accurate dollar figure to the priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits provided by forests, thus I will not attempt to do so.”

The call for protection of natural resources was a message repeated and reaffirmed by group after group, including several who are community partners of Save The Bays — the Bahamas National Trust, BREEF, the Andros Conservancy and Abaco-based Friends of the Environment.

Bahamian Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Perry G. Christie addressed the importance of protecting local resources for future generations to enjoy. His remarks came during the opening of the 1st Annual Forestry Awareness Week Symposium organized by the Forestry Unit of the Ministry of Environment and Housing and held at The College of The Bahamas. (Photograph by Joette Penn, courtesy of Ministry of Environment & Housing)

Bahamian Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Perry G. Christie addressed the importance of protecting local resources for future generations to enjoy. His remarks came during the opening of the 1st Annual Forestry Awareness Week Symposium organized by the Forestry Unit of the Ministry of Environment and Housing and held at The College of The Bahamas. (Photograph by Joette Penn, courtesy of Ministry of Environment & Housing)

This is not the first time Ferreira has called for an environmental protection act with regulations and penalties and again he linked the need for protective legislation to the right to know. Without freedom of information, he said, the public is too often left unaware of development plans and has no opportunity to help shape plans that may be as close as their back yard and certainly impacting their communities, both in pressure on resources and in culture and lifestyle.

“The commonwealth is the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” said the environmental consultant who is also a popular TV show host. “It’s a thing that we all own and that we all share together. You, the citizens of The Bahamas, have the right to know how your environment is being impacted. Developments of a certain size ought to include consultation with Bahamians before approval.”

Ferreira’s appeal for freedom of information and environmental protection are two of the main tenets of Save The Bays’ platform. The organization that is less than two years old has more than 17,200 Likes on Facebook and nearly 7,000 signatures on a petition that it plans to present to government this year.

In a country that depends upon tourism as its number one industry, preserving the sources of its appeal makes financial as well as ecological sense, said Ferreira.

“There is a tourism product that is out there that becomes unsustainable over time and depletes the natural resources and ecosystem,” he said.

Director of Forestry, Christopher Russell agrees that Ferreira’s bill goes hand in hand in with his department’s vision of thinking globally, but acting locally.

“Awareness is important,” he said. “Without it, you are going to have destruction.”

The symposium, according to the Forestry Director is one of the baby steps being taken by the 5-year-old unit to move toward its goal of preserving land in the Bahamian archipelago by establishing national parks. In carrying out its mandate, the agency will declare the National Forest Estate created under the 2014 Forestry Act which will comprise of three categories forest reserves, protected and conservation forests.

The symposium was one of a string events being held this week by the Ministry and will culminate on May 21, World Forestry Day with a documentary screening on the history of forestry and logging in The Bahamas at the Bahamas National Trust at 6 p.m.

Leading Environmental Group ‘Stunned’ at News ‘No Date for Freedom of Information Act’

No date for FOIA

Save The Bays, the fast-growing environmental movement, has expressed “disbelief and shock” following headlines in a recent Nassau daily revealing that the government has no date in mind for implementation of what was expected to be a revised freedom of information act.

“Freedom of information is the very bedrock of a democracy,” said Joseph Darville, Save The Bays Education Director. “It formalizes the people’s right to know what the government they elected is doing on their behalf, what deals they have signed, what contracts they are issuing, what developments are being approved, how they are spending our money.

“It is all about transparency and the news that the Minister of Education says the government has no date in mind for the introduction of what is supposed to be a revised freedom of information bill, was shocking and disappointing. We are stunned by the disregard and casual dismissal of all the efforts of so many thousands of people from every walk of life urging the introduction, enactment and implementation of something as basic to democracy as freedom of information.”

Similar concerns were echoed by Democratic National Alliance leader (DNA), Branville McCartney who declared that the government’s inability to act on Freedom of Information sends a strong negative message that it “DOES NOT WANT TO BE ACCOUNTABLE!”

“The only real way to ensure that rights of ALL BAHAMIANS are protected is to ensure that the transactions of those elected to lead are not concealed from the public,” McCartney said in a press release last week. “Freedom of Information is without question the first MAJOR step to ensuring that the systemic corruption that has plagued government agencies is reversed.”

The Bahamas Press Club also weighed in on the importance of the Act, saying that the issue has been unresolved for far too long. “We do not believe that it should take another two years to do that,” said the local group. “…freedom of information and a free press are critical to the preservation and deepening of our democracy.”

Save The Bays organized two rallies last year to call attention to the need for a freedom of information legislation. The first held in June drew a crowd of religious leaders, government workers, representatives of political parties, unions, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and other business and civic organizations to a massive peaceful demonstration in Rawson Square. The downpour that at times forced participants to seek cover under tents did little to dampen spirits and caught the attention of scores of tourists passing by from the public square near the cruise ship dock who paused to listen to speeches by the head of the FNM, the DNA and other prominent Bahamian organizations and churches. Several visitors said they were shocked that in a free country like The Bahamas, there was no freedom of information. In the end, many from abroad added their signatures to a petition calling on government to remedy the situation.

That petition now has nearly 7,000 signatures and is expected to be presented to government before the next budget is passed.

“This is the very same government that in 2012 shortly before the last national election criticized the FNM for failing to enact a freedom of information act. A currently sitting MP rose in the House of Assembly and delivered a moving and provocative speech declaring the people have a right to know,” said Save The Bays Chairman Fred Smith. “We had a right to know then and we have a right to know now. This is not something that is going to go away. How many callers who phone in to various talk radio shows are asking for freedom of information? It’s a daily mantra. We just hope the government is listening to the pleas of people who only want what is rightfully theirs, the right to know.”

The FNM did introduce a freedom of information bill shortly before the last election but it was never enacted. When the PLP was swept into office in May, 2012, it said the bill had so many flaws that it would be harder to re-draft than re-write.

“Nearly three years have passed while we awaited the re-writing of this bill,” Smith continued. “A lot has been accomplished in three years, but clearly freedom of information was not a top priority and we trust that through the continued pressure from so many persons in the community the Christie Administration will recognize how widespread the cry for the right to know has become.”

Proponents of freedom of information have repeatedly suggested that The Bahamas review and take the best from similar legislation in other countries, noting this is one of the last remaining nations not to have some type of freedom of information act. More than 100 countries including the U.S., England, China, Uganda, Nigeria and Jamaica have existing legislation and a platform for handling requests. When legislation is enacted in The Bahamas, responsibility for compliance with handling requests will rest with the Ministry of Education that maintains the official Archives and it was the words of the current Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald that sparked the “stunned” and “in shock and disbelief” comments from Save The Bays. According to the news story, Fitzgerald told Tribune staff reporter Ricardo Wells that while he now knows the monetary costs of implementing such an act, he has “no date in mind” for introducing it and plans to discuss with his colleagues before any further information is available to the public.

Freedom of information is one of several tenets Save The Bays is calling for. Among the others are an environmental protection act, an end to unregulated development, and accountability for the oil leakage and pollution at Clifton Bay. In less than two years, it has fought and won several costly legal battles, created a youth environmental ambassadors program in Grand Bahama that is so popular that has nearly doubled in size, produced an information-oriented radio show and maintained a steady stream of community and public relations efforts calling attention to the need to preserve and protect critical marine and land resources. Updated information on the organisation’s activities is available on its website, www.savethebays.bs and on its Facebook page which has drawn more than 17,200 likes.

Christie not the only one living in fear

Anonymous men wearing KKK style masks target Save The Bays chairman Fred Smith, QC, and others with aggressive, intimidating messages during the January 1, 2015 Junkanoo parade on Bay Street.

Anonymous men wearing KKK style masks target Save The Bays chairman
Fred Smith, QC, and others with aggressive, intimidating messages
during the January 1, 2015 Junkanoo parade on Bay Street.

STB members targeted by aggressive and intimidating demonstrations say they too feel under threat, call on prime minister to ensure they also have police protection

Save The Bays (STB) was saddened to learn that Prime Minister Perry Christie has become the target of threatening words, messages or actions, to such a degree that he felt obliged to increase his security detail.

We join with all right thinking Bahamians in lending our full support and encouragement to the nation’s leader as he faces this most distressing ordeal; an ordeal which no doubt caused him to fear for his own safety, as well as that of his family. We also denounce in the strongest possible terms anyone who would resort to such underhanded and cowardly tactics.

Having said that, STB must point out that Prime Minister Christie is not the only individual in The Bahamas facing threats and intimidation from of those who disagree with or oppose him. Indeed, our sympathy with his current plight is heightened by the fact that over the past several months, STB members, Fred Smith QC, Louis Bacon, Dianne Phillips, Joseph Darville, and Reverend CB Moss, of The Coalition To Save Clifton have been targeted and put in fear by a series of increasingly hostile and aggressive public demonstrations.

Like the prime minister, we know firsthand what it is like to live under a cloud of fear and uncertainty, to dread hearing that a loved one has been attacked or harmed because of their connection to us. We too know what it feels like to be targeted for doing work we believe to be vital to future generations of Bahamians.

Unlike the prime minister, however, we do not have the luxury of being able to call upon the police to ensure our safety. In fact, STB has been complaining of the brazen intimidation tactics used against our members since July of last year, however no one in law enforcement has stepped forward to offer any assistance.

The first malicious attack came in the form of a “Pro- Peter Nygard” march through Downtown Nassau in July 2014, which targeted myself, international philanthropist and STB supporter Louis Bacon and esteemed church leader Rev. Dr. CB Moss, referring to us as “frauds” and “liars” among other things.

A July 2014 march in which respected church leader Rev. CB Moss and others were targeted.

A July 2014 march in which respected church leader
Rev. CB Moss and others were targeted.

Then, on December 5, 2014, a group of masked men dressed in Ku Klux Klan (KKK) costume and carrying banners bearing a variety of threatening messages, attempted to hijack an event in support of the passage of a Freedom of Information Act, organized by STB.

On that day, targets included STB director Joseph Darville, a universally respected veteran educator, who served as principal of a Catholic High School in Grand Bahama for 20 years. Newly appointed director Diane Phillips was also singled out and made to feel threatened.

This spectacle was repeated during New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parade, where the shameless donning of white hoods and brandishing of burning crosses – the symbols of violence and oppression – were allowed to tarnish the country’s national cultural centerpiece. Both the Junkanoo Commission of New Providence and Culture Minister Daniel Johnson promised to investigate, but seem not to have followed through. Meanwhile, our members continue to live in fear.

The intent of these reprehensible displays was clearly to demonize and strike fear into the hearts of those advocating for greater individual rights, government transparency and respect for the rule of law. We urge the prime minister in the strongest of terms, not to let such heinous behavior go uninvestigated and unpunished.

Above all, we urge him to intervene immediately to ensure that our members enjoy the same level of safety, security and peace of mind that he, his colleagues in Parliament, and indeed any other member of this society deserves to enjoy.

• Fred Smith, QC, chairman of Save The Bays

Newly appointed CEO of Save The Bays to spearhead renewed focus on groundbreaking Youth Environmental Ambassadors program

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL – Vanessa Haley-Benjamin gets to know a baby bonefish while conducting academic fieldwork in Andros. The newly appointed Save The Bays CEO hopes to use educational programs to instill a fascination with the environment in thousands of Bahamian students.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL – Vanessa Haley-Benjamin gets to know a baby bonefish while conducting academic fieldwork in Andros. The newly appointed Save The Bays CEO hopes to use educational programs to instill a fascination with the environment in thousands of Bahamian students.

Inspiring a new generation of environmentalists

Newly appointed CEO of Save The Bays to spearhead renewed focus on groundbreaking Youth Environmental Ambassadors program

The effort to protect the environment is ultimately a struggle to preserve the country’s natural heritage for the benefit of future generations, according to Vanessa Haley-Benjamin.

That is why the newly appointed CEO of fast-growing social and environmental movement Save The Bays (STB), believes nothing could be more important than inspiring young Bahamians to take up the mantle of environmental stewardship.

“Save The Bays boasts a diverse range of priorities, from environmental protection, to freedom of information, to the rule of law,” Haley-Benjamin said. “Central to it all, though, is the ideal of protecting the rights and opportunities of today’s youth and generations unborn.

“One of my main areas of focus, therefore, will be expanding and diversifying the excellent work of STB’s Youth Environmental Ambassador’s program (YEA), already a pioneering effort in The Bahamas.”

YEA, only in its second year in existence, has already touched the lives of thousands of students, sparking a love for the beauty and diversity The Bahamian environment and a commitment to preserving it in the face of pollution, overfishing, unregulated development and other pressures.

“The program is about teaching students the importance of sustainable development, warning them of the many threats to our natural resources today, and emphasizing the vital relationship between a healthy natural environment and thriving local communities,” Haley-Benjamin said.

Vanessa

“Going forward, we want not only to expand the reach of YEA into more schools and summer programs around The Bahamas; we will also seek to broaden its scope to emphasize leadership and organizational skills, fundraising and social advocacy. STB wants to ensure that each participant is equipped with all the tools necessary to take their future into their own hands.”

Haley-Benjamin holds a Master’s of Science degree in Biology from Florida International University. She also holds graduate level certification in Geographical Informational Systems (GIS) and is a graduate fellow of the Kerzner Marine Foundation, a private non-profit that fosters the preservation and enhancement of global marine ecosystems through scientific research, education, and community outreach.

She has participated or led a number of local and international conservation projects, including coral reef restoration efforts and the scientific monitoring and evaluation of marine parks in The Bahamas and Belize.

Most recently, Haley-Benjamin served as director of science and policy at The Bahamas National Trust, where she was responsible for leading all of BNT’s scientific initiatives, the development and subsequent execution of fundraising programs and the implementation of policy initiatives.

bonefish skiff

“The environment and its protection has always been an integral part of my life,” she said. “Being raised to respect the environment for what it is and what it has to offer us has inspired me to pursue a career to work to protect it and ensure its sustainable use.

“I am very excited about this opportunity to work with Save The Bays, an organization I have long admired, and which I believe has a vital role to play in the future of environmental protection in The Bahamas through policy change, education, advocacy and legal action. I am committed to overseeing the strategic forward direction of STB and working together to achieve our mission.”

Haley-Benjamin praised the work of outgoing CEO Lindsey McCoy, who she said was able make monumental strides and position STB at the forefront of environmental advocacy movement, all within just a few short years.

For Her part, McCoy said the new CEO is the right person to take the helm at this time. “I truly believe STB has the power to make lasting positive change in The Bahamas and Vanessa will be able to help make that happen, she said.

Save The Bays chairman Fred Smith concurred, saying the group could not be more pleased with its choice of CEO.

“Vanessa is exactly what we were looking for – a passionate, articulate and accomplished environmental expert who can lead STB to the next level in terms of protecting the social and environmental rights of all those who live in The Bahamas.

“She brings to the table a wealth of experience and an unbounded enthusiasm for the cause. With her hand on the rudder, we are extremely optimistic about our prospects for the future.”

Founded just under two years ago, Save The Bays has taken The Bahamas by storm. The grassroots effort to protect ecologically significant areas of the archipelago from unregulated development has transformed into a broad-based coalition that is at the forefront of both social and environmental issues. The group is calling for comprehensive environmental protections, oil spill legislation, greater transparency in government and much needed ‘conchservation’ laws.

With more than 17,200 followers on Facebook, STB is the fastest growing, most popular non-profit, non-government organization in Bahamas history on social media. The group’s petition calling on the government to enact an Environmental Protection Act, a Freedom of Information Act, to stop unregulated development and to take a stance against oil pollution, is also climbing in numbers, with 6,384 signatures so far. To get involved, sign the petition or learn more, visit www.savethebays.bs.

Bacon: I Am In Fear Of My Life If I Return To The Bahamas

Originally Published in The Tribune

March 5th, 2015

By: Sancheska Brown

 

HEDGE FUND billionaire Louis Bacon claims he cannot return to the Bahamas, his home for many years, because he is in “fear for his life and the safety of his family”.

In court documents filed in New York yesterday, Mr Bacon said because of the “malicious campaign of harassment and intimidation” against him by Canadian fashion billionaire Peter Nygard, his family cannot return to the Bahamas for “fear of bodily harm”.

“The harassment campaign has intimidated Mr Bacon and his family such that they can no longer return to the Bahamas for fear of bodily harm,” the court documents said. “Mr Bacon married his wife in the Bahamas, schooled his children in the Bahamas; and, for many weeks and months each year, he and his family called the Bahamas their home. As a result of the harassment campaign, the Bahamas is no longer safe for Mr Bacon and his family.

“While Mr Bacon and/or his family resided in the Bahamas for a total of approximately 210 days in 2008 and 270 days in 2009, by 2013 and 2014, they resided in the Bahamas for only approximately 14 days and 7 days respectively. As a result of the harassment campaign Mr Bacon has not returned to the Bahamas since approximately April 2014.”

In the complaint, Mr Bacon alleges that the “harassment campaign” has caused him to “suffer severe emotional distress and mental pain and anguish, including, but not limited to, anxiety, stress, humiliation, embarrassment and ostracism, loss of sleep and exacerbation of other physical harms, deprivation of social and business relationships, and damage to his professional, social and philanthropic reputations.”

In January Mr Bacon sued Mr Nygard for $50m, alleging that the Canadian fashion mogul has waged an “obsessive and malicious” smear campaign against him in this country since 2010.

Mr Bacon and Mr Nygard own adjacent properties in Lyford Cay and have been feuding for years.

The lawsuit accused Mr Nygard of being a “ringleader of a conspiracy to inflict reputational and other harm on Mr Bacon through a variety of unlawful means”.

Mr Bacon claimed that Mr Nygard has “transmitted, conspired to transmit or aided and abetted the transmission of a variety of false information,” including that he murdered people who died under suspicious circumstances, that he is a white supremacist and member of the Ku Klux Klan, that he smuggled narcotics and fugitives, that he committed arson on Mr Nygard’s residence and that he bribed Bahamian officials.

In the 86-page document, Mr Bacon is also seeking damages of $15m from several Bahamians, including a former journalist, who he alleges perjured himself for Mr Nygard. Mr Bacon also requested that the former journalist be jailed as “a result of his false testimony”.

Read original article here

Full House at 1st Save The Bays Grand Bahama Fund Raiser

KB rocks the crowd on the dock and on the stage for his hit song 'Just Cause She Fat' to end the night's celebrations! (Photo Credit: Derek Carroll Photography)

KB rocks the crowd on the dock and on the stage for his hit song ‘Just Cause She Fat’ to end the night’s celebrations! (Photo Credit: Derek Carroll Photography)

Scores of people from every walk of life packed a concert this weekend hosted by Save The Bays, singing along with performers, dancing and helping to raise funds for the fast-growing environmental movement.

Organisers hailed the February 28 fundraiser, Chillin’ by the Dock of the Bay, a success.

Barry Malcolm, former GB Chamber president and his wife Linda (right), join well-known GB socialite Daisy Chan and her friend Marilyn Micheli, visiting from New Jersey. (Photo Credit: Derek Carroll Photography)

Barry Malcolm, former GB Chamber president and his wife Linda (right), join well-known GB socialite Daisy Chan and her friend Marilyn Micheli, visiting from New Jersey. (Photo Credit: Derek Carroll Photography)

The event was held at the popular Flying Fish Restaurant, home of Chef Tim Tibbitts, a Bahamian who returned to his roots after a successful performing career in Canada and is now ranked as one of the Caribbean’s 25 best chefs.

The concert brought five performers together with one common goal – protecting the waters of The Bahamas.

Musical artists included the jazzy Marina Gottlieb Sarles who performed with master guitarist Steve Persaud, Grand Bahama local favourites, Derek Gape,Tim Tibbitts, with the legendary Kirkland ‘KB’ Bodie headlining the event.

Guests were treated to an electrifying lineup. Sarles began the event with a smooth medley of songs, returning to the stage during Gape’s performance to sing her famous brother, Sir Cay Gottlieb’s song ‘Day Break’. Gape also had Tibbitts join him and Persaud on well-known ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ by the Eagles, before Tibbitts performed his own numbers, including crowd favourite, ‘Purple Rain’. The night’s highlight was a surprise duet by KB and Tibbitts singing the well-known ‘Journey’ song, ‘Faithfully’ shortly before guests hit the dancefloor to join KB to the tune of his hit, ‘Just Cause She Fat’.

Songstress Marina Gottlieb Sarles started off the concert, with master guitarist Steve Persaud. (Photo Credit: Derek Carroll Photography)

Songstress Marina Gottlieb Sarles started off the concert, with master guitarist Steve Persaud. (Photo Credit: Derek Carroll Photography)

“I am happy with the outcome and Grand Bahama will definitely see more events being put on by our organization,” said Save The Bays CEO Lindsey McCoy. “We want to do all that we can to raise awareness for our cause and I am happy that we were able to bring five passionate and talented persons to help relay that message.”

Funds raised will help defray educational, legal and operational costs of the organization that has filed several legal actions to hold environmental protection violators accountable and force remediation of damage caused by oil pollution or unregulated development.

“We wanted to host a fundraiser in Grand Bahama where Save The Bays’ impact, particularly in the education arena and among young Bahamians, has been so great,” said McCoy. “We did not want to do anything too formal or fancy, just something that represented what we are all about – preserving the waters for all of us to appreciate and for future generations to enjoy so what better place than on the waterfront.

Chef and singer Tim Tibbitts joins Persaud and Gape to sing a few Eagles and Clapton tunes - a real crowd delight! (Photo Credit: Derek Carroll Photography)

Chef and singer Tim Tibbitts joins Persaud and Gape to sing a few Eagles and Clapton tunes – a real crowd delight! (Photo Credit: Derek Carroll Photography)

“Every Bahamian should be aware of how important preserving and protecting our marine environment and our vast marine resources is,” said the Save The Bays CEO, “It’s the beauty of our waters that makes The Bahamas the amazing place it is.”

At the same time, Save The Bays has a need, she says, to raise funds to keep up the campaign, enhancing educational efforts and legal cases holding environmental best practices violators accountable.

Since its founding less than two years ago, the fast-growing Save The Bays organization has grown into a full-blown movement with the largest number of social media followers in Bahamian history.

More than 17,200 persons Like Save The Bays on Facebook and nearly 6,000 have signed a petition calling for a freedom of information act, an environmental protection act and an end to unregulated development among other tenets.

To connect with Save The Bays or sign the petition online, go to www.savethebays.bs