Bimini residents supported by an international flotilla of boats are expected to turn out for what they are promising will be the largest demonstration in Bimini’s history, a ‘Save Bimini’ march and peaceful demonstration this week to urge creation of a long-promised marine protected area and denial of any plans to allow a resort development to build a golf course.
The scheduled demonstration is the culmination of what organizers are calling “20 years of broken promises.” Their online petition has already garnered more than 750 signatures and respected names from Dr. Guy Harvey to the influential international dive association based in California have backed their pleas for a marine sanctuary.
“For 20 years we have been promised that Bimini would be protected. For 20 years, we have been promised that a North Bimini Marine Reserve would be legislated. Instead we all have gotten is more unfettered and wanton destruction of our fragile environment,” say those united under the title of Save Our Home, Bimini, an island in the northern Bahamas known for its spectacular dive sites and unparalleled fishing.
That diving and Bimini’s fishing were severely impacted in 2014 when Resorts World Bimini, despite protests from around the world and a legal action, began dredging, tearing up thousands of year-old coral reef formations to make way for a 1,000-foot pier. A little more than a year later, the pier was abandoned, the ferry it was built to accommodate no longer making the trip from Florida.
It was at the start of dredging the non-profit DEMA, Diving Equipment and Marketing Association, in San Diego, took notice and joined the voices urging government not to allow the dredging to take place. DEMA’s Executive Director Tom Ingram 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 the excavation.
“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.
At the same time, world renowned marine artist, scientist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey pleaded to protect Bimini’s marine resources, which he said his foundation’s research showed played an important role in the life cycle of the Atlantic Ocean.
“The islands of Bimini are an environmental gem and every step should be taken to conserve these resources,” Dr. Guy Harvey wrote.
His words also fell on deaf ears.
According to Save Our Home, Bimini, there are too many unanswered questions about why, they say, Bimini’s marine life was left unprotected when it was intended to be the top priority.
“With the establishment of 18 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) being hailed as an important victory in the ongoing fight to protect the unique ecological heritage of The Bahamas, why then, was one of the 19 proposed MPAs, specifically the North Bimini Marine Protected Area (NBMR), omitted from the designation?” the group asks.
“In January of 2000, North Bimini was listed as the “HIGHEST PRIORITY” site in the entire country for an MPA. North Bimini, along with 4 other sites, were deemed as the first 5 MPA’s to be established, and the goal was to have all 5 of these sites fully protected by 2002.
“In January of 2009, a Town Meeting was held at the Bimini All Age School to discuss Bimini’s MPA and the findings of the recently finished Black & Veatch report, which summarized the past and current scope of the Bimini Bay Project (now Resorts World Bimini). During this meeting, Phillip Weech from the BEST Commission announced to the people in attendance that the NBMR had been officially declared. There were over 100 people in attendance, and the meeting was widely publicized in national and international media outlets. The declaration of the NBMR was reported in media outlets ranging from National Geographic to the Washington Post, and many, many others. During this meeting, it was also clearly stated that a golf course would not be allowed to go forward. In discussing the golf course after the meeting, it was widely referred to as a “dead issue.”
The group said declaring the marine reserve was an important step, but meaningless unless it was enacted into legislation.
“From November, 2012 to the present, dozens and dozens of emails and letters have been sent to Minister (Obediah) Wilchcombe, Minister (Kenred) Dorsett, and Minister V. Alfred Gray concerning this matter, yet none of them have offered any information or answers in return. During this time, the golf course has also reappeared in the marketing for Resorts World Bimini and is said to have been given the “green light” to go ahead by the Government.
“The importance of the NBMR is something that has really never been doubted or in question. It not only will serve to replenish and maintain conch, lobster and fish stocks around Bimini and the Northern Bahamas, but it will also serve as the very foundation for Bimini’s entire tourism industry, which revolves around the island’s healthy waters and marine ecosystems.
“The rules of the NBMR have already been announced, and will allow for Catch-and-Release Bonefishing by Bimini’s Licensed Guides, and also the harvesting of Land Crabs in and around the East Bimini area. For all other fisheries products, the NBMR will be a “no take” zone. The NBMR will also help maintain the ecological integrity of Bimini’s reefs and surrounding waterways, and protect the habitats therein.”
Organizers also say the local district council supports the North Bimini Marine Reserve as do all but one of Bimini’s hotels.
“Unsurprisingly, only Resorts World Bimini has not officially stated their support,” they say.
“So why was the North Bimini Marine Protected Area the only MPA that was NOT approved for implementation by the Government of the Bahamas? Because RAV Bahamas and the new Resorts World Bimini development want to create a golf course on one of North Bimini’s last remaining mangrove wetlands, despite being explicitly told back in 2009 that this would not be allowed.
The previous Government refuses to stand up for the stakeholders here on Bimini, and has ignored all requests for information about the NBMR in recent months. Meanwhile, RWB has unleashed additional reckless development projects on the island, which include further