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BIMINI COASTAL

As the only mangrove habitat on the western Great Bahama Bank, Bimini serves as critically important nursery habitat for everything from conch & lobster, to snapper and sharks. Flushed daily by the warm, rich waters of the Gulf Stream, Bimini’s marine habitats are some of the most important, and the most studied in all of the Bahamas. The mangroves & seagrass of Bimini’s North Sound lagoon provide habitat for over 370 species of fish and invertebrates.

About the Bimini Watershed

aThe small islands of Bimini (North and South Bimini) have long been revered by adventurers and explorers. The closest of the Bahamas islands to Florida, Bimini’s warm culture, rich ecology & a colorful history all blend to create a place that is a true paradise for visitors and locals alike and deserves preservation so the next generation of Bahamians and visitors can continue to enjoy all that it has to offer. The history of Bimini is abound with mysteries and legends, but what first truly put these islands on the map was the fish. Famed author Ernest Hemingway made Bimini his home in the early part of the 20th century, drawn to the island for its pristine beauty & abundant marine life. Over the years the waters around Bimini have produced a number of world record catches. Exotic coral reefs now play host to divers and underwater enthusiasts. Wild dolphins invite guests to join them in the crystal clear waters. A safe, friendly community continues to welcome everyone who arrives. And of course, the fishing is still fantastic.

Closer to shore the mangrove fringed lagoons, quiet beaches and welcoming palm trees all help create a landscape like no other. Drawn by the islands’ serene shallow water ecosystems, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Bimini numerous times, and even found inspiration for some of his famous speeches while touring the serene mangrove creeks. The islands of Bimini have drawn hundreds of scientific researchers over the last several decades, and served as host for both the Lerner Marine Laboratory and the Bimini Biological Field Station.

As the only mangrove habitat on the western Great Bahama Bank, Bimini serves as critically important nursery habitat for everything from conch & lobster, to snapper and sharks. Flushed daily by the warm, rich waters of the Gulf Stream, Bimini’s marine habitats are some of the most important, and the most studied in all of the Bahamas. The mangroves & seagrass of Bimini’s North Sound lagoon provide habitat for over 370 species of fish and invertebrates.

Recognizing the ecological & economic value of preserving the island’s marine life, the Government of the Bahamas declared Bimini the highest-priority site in the Bahamas for a proposed Marine Protected Area in the year 2000. The area selected for preservation was Bimini’s North Sound lagoon, perhaps the most studied marine nursery in the world. Over 20 years of scientific research has taken place in this one area of Bimini, and every study has consistently proven its importance as an ecosystem. This proposed Marine Reserve is supported by local Biminites, concerned tourists, and the scientific community.

In addition to the reefs, wetlands and fishing grounds Bimini is home to a variety of Protected, Threatened & Endangered Species including, but not limited to: Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus), Smalltooth Sawfish (Pristis pectinata), Hawksbill Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), Kirtland’s Warblers (Dendroica kirtlandii), Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta), Great Hammerhead Sharks (Sphyrna mokarran), and the endemic Bimini Boa (Chilabothrus strigilatus fosteri).

Threats to the Bimini Watershed

aDevelopment, and in some cases unregulated and illegal development, is the most serious threat currently facing Bimini, as it has been since the 1980s. It seems one developer is only replaced by the next. In recent times Bimini has been targeted by major developments that have expanded the northern island with dredged fill to build condos, a casino and hotels. It started with the Bimini Bay Resort and has continued with Resort World, owned by Genting, a Malayasian based corporation. They have plans for more hotels and condos, stressing Bimini’s already taxed infrastructure. Sewage and pollution resulting from the increase in homes and visitors are concerns for the fragile wetlands located adjacent to their property on the east and nearby reefs to the west. Testing of coastal water needs to be undertaken to determine the extent of the problem so a solution can be recommended. Resorts World Bimini is constructing a 1,000 foot long cruise ship pier directly though Bimini’s main dive sites off the northern island. To do so they brought in one of the world’s largest dredgers, aptly named the Machiavelli.

The majority of the work was done without proper permits, environmental mitigation and little to no community consultation. The dredging has caused siltation on nearby reefs and there is concern about the ongoing siltation that will be caused by cruise ships using the pier. Both Bimini Bay and now Resorts World Bimini have expressed a desire to install a golf course within the area that is designated as the proposed North Bimini Marine
Reserve.

Since 2003, sea grass beds nearest the development on North Bimini have decreased by over 46%, and the sea grass coverage in the whole North Sound has decreased almost 20%1. Those areas are home to commercially and ecologically important Queen Conch, Spiny Lobster and sea turtles.

In other areas of the Bahamas where mangrove nurseries have been removed, a significant loss of near-shore reef habitats near developed sites was also found (Neal Sealey, 2004). Given the scale of the Resort World development and its close proximity to many of Bimini’s reefs, a similar effect would be expected to be seen there in the future. Once the North Bimini Marine Reserve is established, it will be under the direction of the Department of Marine Resources, not the Bahamas National Trust. As the Department of Marine Resources’ (DMR) financial and human resources are already stretched beyond thin, it will fall to the Bimini Coastal Waterkeeper to ensure that regulations for the marine reserve are put in place and respected in partnership with DMR, or the reserve will exist in name only. Already, another marine reserve within the Bahamas saw its rules changed and size diminished as there was no one in place to advocate against the changes that were proposed by a new developer.


1 Jennings, D. The Ecological Effects of the Bimini Bay Resort Development on the Juvenile Lemon Shark Population of Bimini, Bahamas. Master’s Thesis, Roehampton University, UK.