Archive | September, 2015

Why This and NOT This?

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Why is the government in a rush to take back Baha Mar and NOT the crown land that has been amassed by Peter Nygard?

Urgent action needed on Blackbeard’s Cay

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Dear Prime Minister Christie,

Save The Bays (STB) would hereby like to indicate its full support for the call by our civic partner, reEarth, for the immediate closure of the Blackbeard’s Cay development on Balmoral Island.

The Supreme Court has ruled emphatically that the facilitywas constructed in breach of the law and ordered that it be closed and the marine mammals housed there be removed immediately. STB therefore considers its continued operation to constitute an affront to the authority of the judiciary and a blow to respect for the rule of law as enshrined in the Bahamas Constitution.

In January of this year, the developer, Blue Illusions limited, was found by the court to have proceeded in the absence of necessary permits and approvals. The company’s dolphin import licenses and the site plan approval granted by the Town Planning committee were also quashed and it was ordered that the land be returned to its original use and condition.

To date, none of this has happened. Indeed, we understand that in defiance of the order, Blackbeard’s Cay continues to operate and market itself to cruise passengers stopping in The Bahamas.

This high profile flouting of the law could have serious implications for the good name of The Bahamas abroad, as reEarth has rightly pointed out. Aside from the increasing global opposition to marine mammal captivity, the abysmal handling of this matter has raised alarming questions about the state of governance in a country that depends on a reputation for stability and adherence to the law for its survival.

Reputable foreign investors seeking to undertake projects that have the potential to create considerable financial and employment opportunities for this country will no doubt be turned off by the impression that The Bahamas has become a ‘wild west’ where the rule of law means little to nothing in practice.

At the same time, a failure on your part to treat the court’s order with the respect it deserves will only signal to those wishing to engage in unregulated development, to the detriment of the interests of The Bahamian people, that the government has effectively given them a green light to do as they please.

STB has repeatedly spoken out against foreign developers engaging in unregulated development, damaging our environmental heritage and defying of our sovereign laws in the process. We call upon the government of The Bahamas, as the defender and guarantor of the public’s rights – and particularly on you, prime minister, who serves as the custodian of the nation’s patrimony – to take action on this matter immediately.

If the status quo persists, in due course, we intend to bring our concerns to the attention of the cruise ship industry, whose members would no doubt be considerably alarmed to learn that they may be contributing to a facility that has been deemed unlawful by the courts. We urge you to intervene and ensure that the law takes its course before such a step becomes necessary.

Sincerely,

Vanessa Haley-Benjamin

CEO, Save The Bays

 

A huge step forward’ in environmental protection

STB praises the government for approving 18 new marine protected areas; move is part of bid to preserve 20% of near shore environment by 2020

 

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The establishment of 18 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is being hailed as an important victory in the ongoing fight to protect the unique ecological heritage of The Bahamas.

Vanessa Haley-Benjamin, CEO of fast-growing social and environmental movement Save The Bays (STB), praised the Christie administration for fulfilling its promise to establish MPAs in environmentally significant areas around the country. She also highlighted the value of conservationists and government working together to preserve the country’s natural resources for the benefit of future generations.

“This is a huge step forward,” Haley-Benjamin said. “Save The Bays congratulates the government for living up to its commitments regarding MPAs and would like to thank Minister of Environment Kerned Dorsett in particular for spearheading this effort.”

An MPA is an offshore area where human activity is placed under clearly defined restrictions in order to protect the marine environment, and often any cultural or historical resources that may exist within its boundaries. With the addition of 18 new MPAs, there are now 50 marine and terrestrial reserves in The Bahamas.

Haley-Benjamin noted that the country has signed on to the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) a commitment to conserve at least 20% of the country’s near-shore marine environment in MPA systems by 2020.

“These new MPAs represent great leap forward in terms of fulfilling our international obligations and maintaining our position as a frontrunner in the region when it comes to conservation,” she said.

“We are particularly pleased by the announcement of the Southwest New Providence Marine Managed Area. STB has long campaigned for this ecologically significant and diverse area to be protected against the many threats it currently faces due to industrial pollution and unregulated development.”

STB is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a leading international NGO that coordinates more than 200 stewards of the marine environment, or Waterkeepers, who are assigned to rivers, bays, lakes and coastal areas around the world. Haley-Benjamin noted that a Waterkeeper license has already been granted for southwest New Providence – specifically the area known as Clifton Bay – and said she looks forward to working with the government to preserve the integrity of the new MPA.

“We also have a Waterkeeper license for Bimini and would encourage the government to add to this recent success by moving swiftly to establish the much-anticipated North Bimini Marine Reserve (NBMR), which was not included in the 18 MPAs announced,” she said.

The NMBR was another specific promise of the Christie administration and the ecological importance of north Bimini has been recognized by local and international environmentalists, with Waterkeeper referring to the area as “incredibly important”.

“Mangroves forests and spawning grounds that are vital to our national fisheries resources are currently under threat in north Bimini due to encroaching development,” Haley-Benjamin said. “We remain eager work with government to establish NMBR as soon as possible. In this case in particular, time is of the essence.”

Hard lessons from the Baha Mar tragedy

Save The Bays CEO: Bahamas should consider reevaluating its development model to focus on sustainability, protect workers’ interests and guard against future shocks

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Save The Bays CEO Vanessa Haley-Benjamin

The difficulties that have engulfed the much-anticipated Baha Mar project could be a sign that the time has come to reevaluate the country’s development model, Vanessa Haley-Benjamin said.

The CEO of fast-growing social and environmental movement Save The Bays said the project’s ongoing struggles suggest the need for a strategy that is more sustainable, environmentally sensitive and less vulnerable to large-scale shocks that affect thousands of workers.

Unemployment remains one of the most vexing challenges facing the country and Haley-Benjamin noted that foreign direct investment in large-scale resorts has provided thousands of jobs over they years with Tourism comprising about 51% of the Bahamas Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Any job is a good job when you are struggling to provide for your family,” she said. “I believe, however, that we have reached a crossroads as a nation and must ask ourselves whether a development model that can be subject to such profound shocks is the right course for us going forward.

“Times have changed and bigger may not necessarily be better. A sustainable model based on smaller resorts and taking advantage of emerging trends in ecotourism could generate more lucrative and secure careers for Bahamians. It could also open the door to Bahamian ownership in the industry, all while protecting the environment for the enjoyment and economic benefit of future generations.”

“The evidence suggests travellers are becoming less interested in the mega-resort experience, preferring the intimate boutique hotels, dive resorts, sport fishing lodges, etc. that facilitate up-close interaction with the environment and an authentic experience of local culture.”

Haley-Benjamin noted that economic valuations conducted within The Bahamas to date have revealed the potential value of our natural resources.

“Studies conducted between 2008 – 2011 have conservatively valued the recreational fishery and shark diving industry at $141 million and $78 million respectively. Additionally, a study on Andros Island in 2010, found that all nature-based tourism related activities contributed $43.6 million annually to the local economy. More investments in locally owned, small-scaled enterprises can prove profitable without compromising our coastal environment”.

Haley-Benjamin said travellers are adapting to a more environmentally conscious world. Island states are repositories of the planet’s biodiversity and this alluring, near pristine environment make The Bahamas the ideal destination. However, we must plan tourism development in harmony with the environment’s ability to regenerate and sustain economic activities in the long run.

At the Earth Summit in 1987, Norwegian Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland explained, “Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Mass tourism, generates income and employment but if not planned properly, can threaten the very same resources that makes our island unique. It is important to evaluate the distributional effects of proposed coastal developments and look beyond initial employment numbers but potential economic losses from environmental losses. The challenge remains for policymakers and resource managers to find the most suitable way to reap the economic benefits of coastal resources while preserving them for future generations.

“We have a whole world of untapped potential right at our fingertips, and it would be a terrible shame for it to go to waste because we have failed to protect it and use it intelligently. I believe The Bahamas can control its destiny moving forward, but only if we learn some hard lessons from the past.”

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