Archive | June, 2017

Bahamas Environment Takes Surprising Centre Stage at Global Conference

Leading environmental rights advocates l-r Fred Smith, QC, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Rashema Ingraham and Joe Darville in Utah at the 2017 global Waterkeepers Alliance Conference where the issues facing The Bahamas and attempts to resolve them stood out during the conference that drew delegates from as far away as China, Australia, Mexico, U.S., Bhutan and Senegal. Kennedy is president of Waterkeepers Alliance, an NGO with more than 270 affiliates on six continents dedicated to making the world’s waters swimmable, fishable and drinkable.

More than 300 environmental rights advocates, environmental organisations trustees, supporters and volunteers who monitor the world’s waters gathered for the 2017 Waterkeepers Alliance conference in Park City, Utah, earlier this month but it was one of the smallest countries of all that took centre stage – The Bahamas.

“We were completely surprised that so much of the spotlight was on The Bahamas,” said Joe Darville, chairman of Save The Bays. “There were so many countries represented — Australia, the U.S., Mexico, Asian nations like China and Bhutan and African nations like Senegal but the spotlight really shone on The Bahamas. I think it was because of the fragile nature of our coral reefs, the beauty of our waters and the very energetic legal battles we have launched in recent years to protect this rare gift from Mother Nature.”  

In fact, no other country was invited to make two presentations, only The Bahamas. The messages delivered were very different.

Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham spoke of engaging diverse communities to create awareness about the importance of the environment.

“Whether you are raising awareness with schoolchildren, bank presidents, the well-to-do or the person scraping to get by you need to make the environment real – that wetlands are not swamp to be trampled, they are the nurseries that serve as infant habitats for the fish you will catch and eat later. If they are gone, the fish will be, too. We are always about how the health of our waters and our wetlands impacts you in a very real way today and how what you do today  determines what you will leave for the Bahamians of tomorrow,” said Ingraham.

Save The Bays Director of Legal Affairs Fred Smith, QC, revealed the challenges of trying to protect the environment, fighting case after case for environmental rights in the face of a government that made secret deals for large developments without public consultation. Such projects, said Smith, disrupt life as it was known in a local community and may displace populations. They interrupt nature, paying no attention to what has allowed that community to survive for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and many of the projects outright destroy vast acres of precious natural resources, including coral reefs that protect many of the islands of The Bahamas from storm surge.

Waterkeepers Alliance grew out of an effort to restore the Hudson River in New York with now president of the largely volunteer non-profit organisation Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., then a professor of environmental law at Pace University, leading the legal charge. The goal of Waterkeepers around the world is to monitor and find means to improve the local waters to make them swimmable, fishable and drinkable. In The Bahamas, monitoring is now underway on three island coastlines.

Kennedy praised The Bahamas, Save The Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas highly.    

“We are thrilled that the dedicated water and human rights guardians from The Bahamas’ Save the Bays and Waterkeeper Bahamas Frederick R.M. Smith, QC., Rashema Ingraham and Joseph Darville brought the spirit of the islands to Waterkeeper Alliance’s annual conference at Deer Valley. Thank you, Fred, for acknowledging our longtime partnership in pursuit of ocean conservation and environmental justice during your group presentation about issues in the Bahamas,” said Kennedy.  

 

Camp Eco Explorer Registration Opens, Camps Set for Ages 7-11, 12-16

Registration opens this week for two local summer camps in Grand Bahama designed to bring youth and teens closer to — and smarter about — what exists in the natural world around them. 

The week-long camps sponsored by Save The Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas include field trips, indoor activities, team building, character development and making new friends, with activities ranging from soil composting to swimming with wild dolphins.

“This is our second year for Camp Eco-Explorer and at the end of last year’s sessions, even though they only lasted a week, kids told us it was the best experience they ever had. They never knew there was so much in the air, in the trees, in the ground and in the water right around them that they did not fully appreciate before,” said Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham.

Activities are age-related with some sessions including kayaking, cave tours, soil composting, bird watching, snorkeling and more. 

The first session, July 24-28, is for older students 12 – 16 from 9 am to 5 pm, with the following session August 7-11 for younger students ages 7 to 11 from 9 am to 3 pm. The $50 registration fee for the younger group and $100 fee for the teens includes lunch and all materials. Space is limited to 15 campers per session and Ingraham expects slots to fill quickly. To register, call 602-7531 or 373-7558 or e-mailprograms@savethebays.bs.  

Town Hall Meeting on Bimini Future Set for Thursday

Dozens of Biminites are expected to turn out for a town hall meeting Thursday, June 15 to review ongoing environmental concerns and map a way forward for the future of the island in the northern Bahamas.

The town hall, organized by Waterkeepers Bahamas in conjunction with environmental advocacy group Save The Bays, will feature several prominent presenters, including the Hon. Pakesia Parker Edgecombe, MP, West End and Bimini, Save The Bays director of legal affairs Fred Smith, QC, Dive-master Neal Watson II, and representatives from both the Ministry of Environment and Resorts World Bimini.

The meeting, open to the public, is set for Louise McDonald High School at 7 pm and will include light refreshments.

Concerns about Bimini’s environment surfaced in 2014 when RAV and Resorts World Bimini (RWB) brought in massive dredging equipment that observers said destroyed some of the world’s most famous coral reefs to make way for a ferry dock to deliver guests from a Florida port right to RWB’s door.

Spokespersons for the resort said the development would provide jobs and boost the Bimini economy. Environmentalists said the destruction of reefs once teeming with tropical fish was irreparable and the resort could have been built with more attention to Bimini’s famous fishing grounds. 

“We have always said you do not have to choose between the environment and the economy,” said Joe Darville, chairman of Save The Bays. “You can develop with care and by preserving the environment that made that destination desirable to begin with, you can enhance the beauty that nature provided and preserve it for future generations. We are very eager to hear what the good people of Bimini have to say and we are going into this town hall meeting with an open mind and a willingness to assist in compiling ideas and developing a strategy for how best to move this little island with so much underwater beauty forward.”

The town hall will also feature a short video and a public brainstorming session.