Archive | Marine Protected Areas

Save The Bays Youth Environment Ambassadors Study Paradise Cove’s Coral Reef Regeneration

On a recent Saturday, off a stretch of beach with sand so fine and waters so sparkling it  could be the iconic Instagram image, dozens of young Bahamians were hard at work.

Barry Smith, left, shows participants in Youth Environment Ambassadors how reef balls work to attract marine life. Smith is with Paradise Cove in Grand Bahama which spearheaded the island’s adopt-a-reef program. Hundreds of thousands of reef balls are deployed off the coasts of some 70 countries and are believed to be the best and most effective artificial reef design. Funding for the program also provides the means to dissect sections of endangered reefs and replant them in protected areas.

Barry Smith, left, shows participants in Youth Environment Ambassadors how reef balls work to attract marine life. Smith is with Paradise Cove in Grand Bahama which spearheaded the island’s adopt-a-reef program. Hundreds of thousands of reef balls are deployed off the coasts of some 70 countries and are believed to be the best and most effective artificial reef design. Funding for the program also provides the means to dissect sections of endangered reefs and replant them in protected areas.

Members of the Youth Environment Ambassadors (YEA), a program funded and operated by Save The Bays, were learning that sometimes what man takes away, humankind can make good again – they were witnessing that even with fragile coral reefs, there can be new life.

The YEA’s were learning about and observing the Reef Ball initiative at Paradise Cove Beach Resort, Grand Bahama. Reef balls, made of a highly porous concrete and silica, are the most effective design module for artificial reefs and provide a safe, eco-friendly home for sustainable marine life. Hundreds of thousands of reef balls, each capable of producing up to 500 pounds of biomass a year, are deployed in 70 countries, not only attracting marine life they were designed for, but the adoption programs funding the regrowth of endangered corals.

Barry Smith, who spearheads the Grand Bahama reef ball project, told the youth environment ambassadors that thanks to funding through the adopt-a-reef initiative, the local program has entered its second phase, rescuing and, where practical or feasible, replanting endangered reefs.

“This is all about coral rescue and replanting and requires harvesting imperiled coral that would be at risk of death within the next 12 months and planting them in a cement plug and transplanting the coral on the reef balls so that they can grow and flourish,” he said.

YEA Coordinator Rashema Ingraham said seeing something that faced destruction but could be saved and regenerated inspired hope on many levels.

“Over the past three years, the YEA program has exposed young Bahamians to the good, the bad and the ugly of the environment,” Ingraham said. “But of all the projects we have seen, studied or helped, the reef ball program is likely the most exciting because it demonstrates that even as we watch our own reefs get swallowed up by dredging that should never be allowed, or by careless anchoring by boaters or as reefs die off from natural causes, there is hope. We humans have a role to play in creating artificial reefs and funding removal of endangered reefs and replanting. It’s long, it’s tedious but it works and that is what is critical. Learning that you really can create a living artificial reef that attracts hundreds of marine animals and where they can thrive has to be the very top of the top of the good.”

The YEA program is so popular that the demand to participate far outweighs the number of spots available. Classes are held every other Saturday for four months with academics followed by field studies and hands-on experiences.

“Since its inception, the YEA program has opened the eyes of more than 200 young Bahamians. They have trekked through wetlands, studied industrial waste management, learned about renewable energy and spent hours exploring underwater life,” said Save The Bays Chairman Joe Darville. “These young men and women have the awesome task of becoming the future stewards of our environment and this program has sensitized them to how delicate the balance is and what it will take to ensure the beauty and majesty of this country is preserved for future generations.”

Founded in 2013, Save The Bays has emerged as a leading voice in the protection of the environment and human rights through education, advocacy and legal action. The civil society organization has more than

Class Act – Youth Environment Ambassadors, a program funded and operated by Save The Bays, includes formal academics and hands-on experiences. YEAs meet every other Saturday for four months and those who qualify in knowledge and leadership at the end of each series graduate with a certificate in environmental stewardship.

Class Act – Youth Environment Ambassadors, a program funded and operated by Save The Bays, includes formal academics and hands-on experiences. YEAs meet every other Saturday for four months and those who qualify in knowledge and leadership at the end of each series graduate with a certificate in environmental stewardship.

20,000 Facebook friends and has amassed nearly 7,000 signatures on a complex petition calling for, among other items, comprehensive environmental protection legislation and an end to unregulated development. Its pressure for freedom of information contributed to the recent debate and passage of the Freedom of Information Act 2016 in the House of Assembly. The bill still faces debate in the Senate whose members are reportedly studying several amendments recommended by 21 civil society groups.

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.”

Save The Bays, Bahamas Waterkeeper Join Forces to Commend BREEF on Undersea Sculpture Garden

Save The Bays commends BREEF on the commission and installation of undersea sculpture garden in the waters off Southwestern New Providence. (Photo credit: Jason deCaires Taylor)

Save The Bays commends BREEF on the commission and installation of undersea sculpture
garden in the waters off Southwestern New Providence. (Photo credit: Jason deCaires Taylor)

Two major marine environmental voices today joined forces to congratulate the Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Foundation (BREEF) for commissioning and installing an underwater sculpture garden off New Providence’s southwestern shore, calling the work “a stunning example of why it is so important to draw attention to the need to protect and preserve the marine assets of The Bahamas.”

Praise came from the newest local entry in the growing clamour to protect Bahamian waters, Bahamas Waterkeeper, and from the fast-growing environmental movement that has gathered more than 6,000 signatures on a petition (www.savethebays.bs) calling for an environmental protection act, Save The Bays.

“The living art gallery funded by BREEF adds yet another dimension to the amazing underwater environment of the waters off Clifton, home to stunning coral reefs and one of the most popular and frequently filmed dive sites throughout the Caribbean region,” said attorney and environmental consultant Romi Ferreira, a Save The Bays director and member of its legal team.

“But because of the contrast of the beauty and what is happening not that far away with ongoing oil pollution along the shores of Clifton Bay, we need to look at this as the tipping point and act on it now, not tomorrow, now.”

BREEF created the Coral Reef Sculpture Garden as “a one-of-a-kind snorkeling and scuba diving experience for Bahamians and visitors that serves as a multi-purpose hub for the marine environment.”

The underwater garden is intended to be “a perfect fusion of art, education and marine conservation, provide a habitat for fish, corals and other marine organisms, create an exceptional outdoor classroom for environmental education and keep divers and snorkelers away from threatened reefs, giving those reefs a chance to rejuvenate naturally.”

BREEF is a community partner of Save The Bays, the organization that has hit a chord with those concerned that unregulated development and oil pollution are threatening marine life, including fragile organisms that make up coral reefs that sustain conch, crawfish and fish populations.

“This could be the tipping point because government can no longer ignore what is happening in the waters off Clifton,” said Ferreira, an authority whose expertise was recognized when he was selected by CARICOM to help develop a legal framework for the energy sector in eight countries in the Caribbean.

“In the last weeks with divers sending selfies around the world of themselves and their dive gear covered with oil from diving in an area that is supposed to be one of the world’s finest dive destinations, The Bahamas’ image stands to be tarnished and action must be taken. At the same time, we have this beautiful new sea garden drawing more attention to the area nearby and we just hope it will help sensitize everyone to the need to protect our waters and to stand up and say we will no longer tolerate abuse of the environment,” said Ferreira.

Save The Bays has been a clarion voice in a growing cry for strong environmental protection legislation and since its founding 18 months ago, has found its message resonating with a wide audience. Its Facebook page has more than 17,100 Likes and its petition calls for an end to unregulated development, transparent government and other legislation to protect the environment.

Bid to Protect Bimini Mangroves Goes International

Experts call on the Bahamas government to live up to its promise and protect marine resources that sustain crucial local industries.  Save The Bays recently released a video which was taken when experts visited the proposed North Bimini Marine Reserve  recently.   Pictured is an excavator digs near mangroves in Bimini as part of RWB’s mega-resort construction. Watch the video via this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skAN-53eWcI&feature=youtu.be

Experts call on the Bahamas government to live up to its promise and protect marine resources that sustain crucial local industries. Save The Bays recently released a video which was taken when experts visited the proposed North Bimini Marine Reserve recently. Pictured is an excavator digs near mangroves in Bimini as part of RWB’s mega-resort construction. Watch the video via this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skAN-53eWcI&feature=youtu.be

Experts call on Bahamas government to live up to its promise and protect marine resources that sustain crucial local industries

International conservation experts are urging the government to fulfill its promise and protect Bimini’s unique ecological heritage and the local industries that have depended upon it for generations.

The experts, hosted on a tour of Bimini by fast-growing social and environmental advocacy group Save The Bays (STB), called for the official establishment of the North Bimini Marine Reserve. Among other important natural resources, 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 in the latest Save The Bay’s release on their youtube channel (http://bit.ly/1wb4rJ4).

“From an ecological perspective, its incredibly important to maintain these mangroves in order to maintain the whole marine ecosystem,” said Rachael Silverstein, the Waterkeeper for Biscayne Bay, Florida.

Map of Proposed North Bimini Marine Reserve

Map of Proposed North Bimini Marine Reserve

“This is one of the only mangrove locations in this area and all of the important species that come from the Gulfstream, that people like to fish, have habitats here and live in the nurseries here and if we destroy that we also destroy our fishing industry and our diving industry and the repercussions can be felt across the Caribbean, across The Bahamas and certainly in Miami – we won’t be able to come here anymore to fish, to dive or snorkel.”

Like Silverstein, several of the visitors are senior members of the global Waterkeeper Alliance, a leading 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.

Sharon Khan, international director of the Waterkeeper Alliance, said the NBMR is one of several key protected areas that the organization is advocating for around the world.

“I believe there is nothing more important than establishing marine reserves in ecosystems throughout this world that sustain our global life,” she said.

Alex Matthiessen, former Hudson Bay Waterkeeper, now CEO of the Blue Marble Project, said: “The (Bahamas) government’s already established that they want to create this reserve, but they need to formalize it. They need to make it a legal reserve.

“The wetlands at the north end of the lagoon are incredibly important and are therefore vital to the local businesses and industries here.”

The voices of these and other noted international conservationists have leant strength to the many concerned Biminites and other Bahamians who want to see the island’s rich ecological heritage preserved.

North South East Point at Proposed North Bimini Marine Reserve

North South East Point at Proposed North Bimini Marine Reserve

But Prime Minister Perry Christie has yet to respond to any of these entreaties, including a letter from Bimini’s local council requesting that the NBMR become reality as soon as possible.

The council asked that the Christie administration commit to the protected area swiftly, in an effort to ensure that developers do not construct a golf course on the island and to prevent any further development on the northern tip of North Bimini.

The letter said: “It has become commonplace that major developments occur on our island without notice to its residents or to this elected council. We therefore respectfully ask that you respond to these requests as quickly as possible.”

The golf course in question was among the plans for Resorts World Bimini’s (RWB) controversial resort and casino development which has already caused extensive damage to the island’s renowned reef system, including many of the top dive sites in the region.

Local advocacy group the Bimini Blue Coalition has issued a petition calling on the government to establish the NBMR as repeatedly promised. It has more than 600 signatures to date (http://chn.ge/1te6YzD).

Despite RWB’s insistence that the golf course is now off the table, STB director Romi Ferreira said the pattern of frequently changing plans has left many skeptical and in need of official assurance.

As for the claim by Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources V. Alfred Gray that the government is only waiting for conservationists to decide on the boundaries of the NBMR, Ferreira pointed out that its proposed parameters have long been established.

In 2012, the Bimini Marine Protected Area Campaign submitted detailed images and descriptions of the proposed boundaries to government, including precise map coordinates.

Ferreira said the ball is now in the government’s court – and a continued delay will be interpreted as a sign that the Christie administration is not serious about preserving the country’s priceless environmental resources for future generations of Bahamians.

To learn more about the conservationists’ tour, and the ongoing efforts to protect the environment and traditional way of life in The Bahamas, visit: https://www.youtube.com/user/ProtectCliftonBay.  You can also learn more about Save The Bays on their website or Facebook page.

 

Save The Bays, Bahamas Waterkeeper Applaud Mitchell’s Comments to UN on Preserving Bahamas Marine Environment

Save The Bays applauds government’s pledge to preserve 20% of the marine environment by the year 2020, protecting resources like these photographed off north Bimini in an area designated to become the North Bimini Marine Reserve, but potentially threatened by construction of a golf course. The announcement to expand marine protected areas was made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell during remarks to the United Nations this week.

Save The Bays applauds government’s pledge to preserve 20% of the marine environment by the year 2020, protecting resources like these photographed off north Bimini in an area designated to become the North Bimini Marine Reserve, but potentially threatened by construction of a golf course. The announcement to expand marine protected areas was made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell during remarks to the United Nations this week.

Save The Bays, the fast-growing environmental movement dedicated to the protection of marine resources, joined forces today with Bahamas Waterkeeper to praise Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell for remarks to the United Nations detailing what leaders of the two organizations called “the most important, powerful commitment yet by the current government to preserve that which makes The Bahamas the magical country it is — our waters.”

The plaudits came within minutes of the release of Mitchell’s words that included a statement indicating government would push for 20% of the vast geographical area of the country to become part of a network of marine protected areas by the year 2020.

“The 20% by 2020 is an ambitious target that has been adopted by environmental groups and many who depend on the oceans for their survival, including Disney cruise lines, but this is the first time that the government of The Bahamas has publicly stated that it is committed to expand marine protected areas covering up to 20,000 square miles and we want to offer congratulations and 100% support,” said Joseph Darville, who serves as a director of Save The Bays and is the Bahamas Waterkeeper.

The push for adding marine protected areas is not new. The Nature Conservancy and the Bahamas National Trust, both community partners of Save The Bays, have long urged the expansion of such areas, noting protected areas have been proven to lead to greater fish, conch and crawfish stocks, opens doors for jobs and eco-friendly businesses and improves health of nearby communities.

The positive reaction followed Mitchell’s hard-hitting, specific three-minute address that touched on a wide range of subjects involving the waters that constitute 90% of the country’s make-up — international accountability and cooperation, sports fishing, the battle against invasive species, the Bahamas’ progressive role in shark and sea turtle protection and ultimately, The Bahamas’ vulnerability to the rise in sea level and the impact of climate change.

“We have one of the first established marine protected areas in the Western Hemisphere in what we consider the most beautiful place on earth: the Exumas,” Mitchell said. “It has existed since 1958 and its no-catch zone is under the superintendence of the Bahamas National Trust. It has been scientifically proven as a fisheries replenishment area.

“We have set aside other marine parks and ‘no take areas’ to sustain our fisheries. We are expanding the marine protected area network to 20 percent by 2020.” It was those words that triggered the instant buzz. More than a dozen sites have been suggested for marine protected areas in The Bahamas and only days before Mitchell’s remarks Save The Bays urged the government to act on the one it believes is most critical – the North Bimini Marine Reserve, home to giant sea turtles, mangroves and coral reefs, a microcosm in one spot of the underwater habitats found in various places around a country that stretches over 500 miles in length and 100,000 square miles of open ocean. That North Bimini area with its underwater treasure trove of natural gems, environmentalists fear, could be lost to the construction of a golf course as part of the expanding Resorts World Bimini development.

“We agree with the Minister completely when he says the sea is the lifeblood of The Bahamas and we are thrilled that the government has made this public commitment to protect it,” said Darville.

Launched in April 2013, Save The Bays has topped more than 17,100 Facebook Likes and amassed nearly 6,000 signatures on a petition calling for an Environmental Protection Act and a Freedom of Information Act among other provisions. That petition is available at www.savethebays.bs.

PM Urged to Officially Announce Bimini Reserve

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister V. Alfred Gray’s claimed conservationists have yet to decide on the boundaries for the North Bimini Marine Reserve. In fact, its parameters have long been agreed, with requests for a slight expansion ignored by the Christie Administration. Calling for immediate action, stakeholders insist the ball is now firmly in the government’s court.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister V. Alfred Gray’s claimed conservationists have yet to decide on the boundaries for the North Bimini Marine Reserve. In fact, its parameters have long been agreed, with requests for a slight expansion ignored by the Christie Administration. Calling for immediate action, stakeholders insist the ball is now firmly in the government’s court.

Save The Bays calls on government to take action followinglocal councils appeal for the islands unique marine ecosystem to be protected

 

Nassau, Bahamas – Environmental advocate Lindsey McCoy has called on government to immediately announce the establishment of the North Bimini Marine Reserve (NMBR) to protect that island’s unique ecological heritage.

Noting that more than two months have passed since Bimini’s local council sent a letter asking the Christie administration to honor this longstanding promise, McCoy said there has been no response amid growing fears that the island’s sensitive mangrove forests may be under threat from development.

“A recently released image showing a golf course located within the NBMR boundaries has caused serious concern among Biminites,” McCoy said. “This is an area of unparalleled ecological importance, the mangroves providing a nursery for the marine life throughout the northern Bahamas.

“It must be protected at all costs, and I call on the Prime Minister to respond to the council and immediately grant their requests.

In the letter, the council asked that the Christie administration commit to ensuring developers do not construct a golf course on the island, prevent any further development on the northern tip of North Bimini, and move swiftly to establish the NBMR.

It added: “It has become commonplace that major developments occur on our island without notice to its residents or to this elected council. We therefore respectfully ask that you respond to these requests as quickly as possible.”

McCoy, CEO of fast-growing social and environmental advocacy group Save The Bays, added that the government’s failure to respond to the local council has only added to the fears of Biminites – particularly as the reserve has had formal approval since 2008, and only needs to be officially gazetted.

The NMBR is one of several proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that conservationists want to see established in The Bahamas. An MPA is an area where human activity is placed under clearly defined restrictions in order to protect the marine or terrestrial environment, and often any cultural or historical resources that that may exist within its boundaries.

The golf course in question was among the original plans for Resorts World Bimini’s (RWB) controversial hotel and casino development which conservationists say has already caused extensive damage to the island’s renowned reef system, including many of the top dive sites in the region.

Despite RWB’s insistence that the golf course is now off the table, McCoy said the pattern of frequently changing plans has left many skeptical and in need of official assurance.

As for the claim by Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources V. Alfred Gray that the government is only waiting for conservationists to decide on the boundaries of the NBMR, McCoy pointed out that its proposed parameters have long been established.

McCoy said the ball is now in the government’s court – and a continued delay will be interpreted as a sign that the Christie administration is not serious about preserving the country’s priceless environmental resources for future generations of Bahamians.

In addition to STB and other local advocacy groups, the importance of the NBMR has been recognized by high-profile international conservation agencies including the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the global Waterkeeper Alliance and The Nature Conservancy, which said it has been working with government on the issue and will continue to support all efforts to make the reserve a reality.

Founded just over a year ago, Save The Bays has taken The Bahamas by storm. What began as a grassroots environmental awareness campaign quickly mushroomed to cover a variety of civic and social justice concerns and grievances as other advocacy groups flocked to STB’s banner.

 

The movement now has more than 500 registered members, the largest Facebook audience of any Bahamian NGO with 17,000 followers and more than 6,000 signatures on its petition calling for an Environmental Protection Act, a Freedom of Information Act and an end to unregulated development in The Bahamas.

 

STB membership is free. To learn more or sign the petition, visit: http://www.savethebays.bs

 

Background: North Bimini Marine Reserve

 

• An MPA for Bimini has been under discussion since 1982, when a letter from the Bahamas Diving Association to government noted the growing popularity of diving and fishing in the area, and pointed to the need to preserve the island’s marine resources in order to maintain these industries over the long term.

 

• In 1999, the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources proposed the creation of a nationwide network of MPAs covering 20% of Bahamian waters.

• At the time, North Bimini was listed at the highest priority site in the country, and was one of the first five MPAs slated for creation.

• Over the next several years, extensive meetings were held with local fishermen and stakeholders to decide the rules, regulations and boundaries that would best maintain Bimini’s existing fisheries and tourism product.

 

• On December 29, 2008, the North Bimini Marine Reserve was officially declared by then Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Larry Cartwright.

 

• In January 2009, at a town meeting to discuss the MPA and the findings of the recently finished Black & Veatch report which summarized the past and current scope of the then Bimini Bay Project, Phillip Weech from the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission, announced to Biminites that the NBMR had been officially declared.

 

• During that meeting, it was clearly stated that a golf course would not be allowed on Bimini.

• In 2012, letters were sent to the newly-elected Christie administration requesting a slight expansion of the earlier boundaries of the NBMR, along with scientific justification for the changes.

• There was no response, and in a June 2012 meeting, Bimini MP Obie Wilchcombe told stakeholders he had “never heard” of the NBMR, but promised to make inquiries and respond within 30 days.

• Wilchcombe failed to do so, and did not respond to numerous attempts by conservationists to contact him. Five months later, he suggested stakeholders talk to Minister of the Environment Kenred Dorsett.

• Since then, many dozens of emails and letters have been sent to ministers Wilchcombe, Dorsett and Gray concerning the NBMR, yet no substantive response has been forthcoming.

• During this time, the golf course resurfaced, this time on the RWB website. The company has since removed it, but it recently appeared on an image of the development circulated by real estate agencies.

 

World Papers Focusing Eyes on Bahamas Environment

Save The Bays Legal Action Capturing International Headlines

 

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A series of legal actions filed by the environmental organization Save The Bays and making their way to the highest courts in the Bahamian judicial system are attracting international attention with stories in papers and online publications from Canada to Italy, Germany to New Zealand.

“The fact that what we are doing here is generating headlines thousands of miles away is proof that people care about the environment. It’s as simple as that,” said Fred Smith, QC, Callenders & Co. Managing Partner, Grand Bahama, and Legal Director of Save The Bays, an association partnering with several environmental groups but often taking their requests a step further, right into court.

Since its founding one year ago April, the group has filed five separate legal cases, more than an environmental organization in Bahamian history. Even as it has asked the court to review ongoing oil pollution in Clifton Bay and to free eight penned dolphins from a tourist excursion it says provides sub-standard inhumane treatment in violation of the country’s own Marine Mammals Protection Act, Save The Bays’ popularity has soared. The start-up group has more than 16,000 Likes on Facebook, breaking another record for a non-governmental or non-profit in The Bahamas, and nearly 6,000 signatures on a petition it will soon present to the Bahamian prime minister.

But what has encouraged its members and directors most is the hundreds of inches of news coverage its activities have generated in publications as diverse as the Winnipeg Free Press and the UK’s ultra-conservative Guardian.

“It’s been amazing,” said Sam Duncombe, founder of reEarth and a Save The Bays director who fought for dolphin protection for 24 years before a Supreme Court judge in The Bahamas agreed with reEarth and Save The Bays’ petition to close a facility at Blackbeard’s Cay which the two groups argued was opened without the proper permits and which it claimed subjected its captive dolphins to what it called heartbreaking treatment, including lack of shade or protection from storms and being kept in water far too shallow to meet even the lowest standards. It was also claimed the facility threatens a proposed national park because of the waste material produced by the dolphins.

While the tourist attraction has six weeks to appeal, the headlines have carried the news of the ruling to millions. “From online publications like www.geapress.org in Italy to all sorts of publications in Germany and elsewhere, we are heartened by the interest this story has generated. I am confident it signifies a global trend in awareness for dolphins as the splash and flash attractions that are so cruel for the health and well-being of dolphins gives way to sea-pen sanctuaries.”

If dolphins touch heartstrings, the image of 007 and a famed beach and bay where James Bond and Jaws movies were filmed is giving rise to the most headlines. Located a half hour’s boat ride away from the harbor where the dolphins are penned, the much-photographed Jaws beach on Clifton Bay are the centre of attention in two other law suits filed by Save The Bays. Dealing with unregulated development, one of them is seeking a judicial review in a case involving Canadian-born fashion designer Peter Nygard who has nearly doubled the size of a property he bought in The Bahamas in the 1980s, adding what has been estimated at $30 million or more in value by blocking the flow of sand to the nearby public Jaws beach and accreting land on which he has built a Mayan-themed residential and resort complex. Nygard, who has temporarily been halted by the court, is seeking permission to expand. Despite Save The Bays case citing the prime minister and others for allowing the land acquisition to continue for so long, the names James Bond and Nygard and Jaws beach have been like magnets to foreign media captivated by the case.

“Peter Nygard received a setback in current legal challenges in the Bahamas,” wrote the Winnipeg Free Press on July 24 under the headline “Setback for Nygard in Bahamas.” The July 21 Toronto Globe & Mail carried a headline “Fashion entrepreneur Peter Nygard in Bahamas environmental feud.” That story included the words: “The billionaire who owns a large property in the Bahamas that has been featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and in Forbes magazines, faces allegations from local residents and environmental groups who say he has been expanding his massive estate without regard for the environment.” On July 12, the UK Guardian splashed a headline “Sean Connery joins Bahamas campaign to stop billionaire developing mansion.” With a full colour half page photo of Daniel Craig coming out of the water clad in a bathing suit, the Independent July 14 carried a headline ‘Famed Jaws Beach at Risk. “That story noted that the Bahamas government ordered Nygard to return his property to its original size. But the Canadian claims the beach around his home has been created naturally and said that since the government has changed, the order no longer stands.” And the Toronto Star on July 24 chimed in with the headline, “Canadian mogul’s Bahamian paradise stirs up controversy.”

Save The Bays Hosts Leading Environmentalists’ Bahamas Tour

Clifton Bay Tour – Six leading international environmentalists prepare to tour Clifton Bay off New Providence’s southwest coast July 29 with a small group of local concerned citizens as part of a visit hosted by the marine environment advocacy group Save The Bays.

Clifton Bay Tour – Six leading international environmentalists prepare to tour Clifton Bay off New Providence’s southwest coast July 29 with a small group of local concerned citizens as part of a visit hosted by the marine environment advocacy group Save The Bays.

Six leading international environmentalists are in The Bahamas today to witness firsthand the state of marine life in a country known for the beauty of its turquoise seas. United by their desire to preserve and protect the Bahamian environment, the group includes, among others, the recipient of a U.S. presidential award for environmental conservation and prominent scientists committed to the survival of sea turtles.

Hosting the group is Save The Bays, a growing environmental movement comprised of Bahamian and international members dedicated to protecting the Bahamian environment through proactive policy change, education, legal action and advocacy. Save The Bays aims to unite stakeholders and combat the environmental threats currently jeopardizing the nation’s unique marine environment.

“Having such experienced and committed conservationists survey the various threats to our marine environments points to the increased international attention that is being focused on The Bahamas,” said Save The Bays CEO Lindsey McCoy. “These international conservationists recognize the critical importance of safeguarding the Bahamian environment, and we are honored they are taking the time out of their busy schedules to share their perspectives and expertise on how to protect our magnificent resources.”

Many of the attendees are members of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement of 220 local “Keepers” that fight to stop polluters, protect their chosen waterways and champion clean water as a fundamental human right. The delegation includes Rachel Silverstein, Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, Gabrielle Parent-Doliner, swim guides affiliate at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Archie Carr, who works for the Sea Turtle Conservancy, and Marydele Donnelly, also of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Sharon Khan, Waterkeeper Alliance International Director, and Alex Matthiessen, former CEO and President of Hudson Riverkeeper, the original “Waterkeeper” and New York’s leading clean water advocate. As a special assistant at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Matthiessen received a Presidential Award for his work using America’s national parks to showcase, for millions of visitors each year, the home-scale application of renewable energy and energy efficiency. In addition to McCoy, local Save The Bays participants include directors Joseph Darville and Fred Smith, QC.

“This is a great opportunity to learn from experts who have turned their passion for protection of the world’s waters into viable volunteerism,” said Darville. “We have the most beautiful waters in the world and we are now in the process of organizing ongoing monitoring, a very ambitious goal, so our eyes and ears will be wide open to hear and benefit from what others have been doing in their parts of the world and providing advice for how we can best move forward with developing monitoring methods, schedules, a roster of volunteers, boats, recording and reporting equipment.”

The Bahamas Waterkeeper visit runs from July 29-31 and includes one Family Island visit.

Save The Bays urges the public to attend Clifton town meeting (Monday, July 7)

Rev. CB Moss (left) visiting Jaws Beach with Save The Bays Education Director and Bahamas Waterkeeper Director Joseph Darville. Darville urged all members of the public to attend the July 7 town  meeting at BCPOU on Farrington Road to be hosted by Moss and the Coalition to Save Clifton on the future of the ecologically important Clifton Bay area. The meeting starts at 7:30 pm.

Rev. CB Moss (left) visiting Jaws Beach with Save The Bays Education Director and Bahamas Waterkeeper Director Joseph Darville. Darville urged all members of the public to attend the July 7 town meeting at BCPOU on Farrington Road to be hosted by Moss and the Coalition to Save Clifton on the future of the ecologically important Clifton Bay area. The meeting starts at 7:30 pm.

Save The Bays (STB), the grassroots social and environmental advocacy group that is taking The Bahamas by storm, has urged all members of the public to attend tonight’s town meeting on the future of Clifton Bay.

Congratulating the Coalition to Save Clifton for organizing the event, STB director of education Joseph Darville said the meeting is an important step in the fight to protect an area of enormous ecological and social significance.

“Every Bahamian who can should turn up to this vital town meeting,” said Darville. “There are so many issues of public importance – from industrial pollution to unregulated development – going on at Clifton.

“The future of this unique cultural and environmental treasure should matter not just to New Providence residents, but every citizen of The Bahamas.”

Darville explained that Clifton is home to everything from key fish spawning wetlands and abundant coral reef systems, to the capital’s first national heritage park and one of the last public access beaches in New Providence. It also contains important historic sites that go back more than a thousand years.

These cultural and environmental resources, which Darville, the Bahamas Director of Waterkeeper Alliance International, said belong to all Bahamians, are being systematically decimated by constant oil and gas leaks from the industrial complex at Clifton Pier.

As for the once abundant swath of sand known as Jaws Beach, it has been steadily eroded away as a result unauthorized marine works at the residential and resort property known as Nygard Cay.

Since it was acquired by Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard in 1984, the property has more than doubled in size by claiming land from the seabed without the proper permits, restricting the natural flow of sand to Jaws Beach in the process.

The former FNM government advised Nygard to return the coastline to its original parameters, but he failed to do so, and is now applying to the current PLP government for permission to rebuild several structures destroyed in a 2009 fire and further extend his property into Clifton Bay.

The meeting is scheduled for 7.30pm at the BCPOU Hall on Farrington Road under the theme “This sea park must be saves for our children.”

Coalition to Save Clifton head Rev. CB Moss said he will use the opportunity to furnish Bahamians with all the facts and encourage them to help protect the area for the benefit of future generations.

“We cannot allow our heritage to be taken away without a fight,” he said.

GB aragonite mine project branded a ‘job killer’

SPEAKING OUT - Deputy chairman of the Sweeting’s Cay township Shervin Tate is asking the PLP government which he supports to reject a proposal to mine for aragonite in East Grand Bahama.

SPEAKING OUT – Deputy chairman of the Sweeting’s Cay township Shervin Tate is asking the PLP government which he supports to reject a proposal to mine for aragonite in East Grand Bahama.

Local government official says East End proposal would destroy prized fishing grounds that have sustained entire communities for generations

Plans to mine for aragonite in the heart of East Grand Bahama’s prized fishing grounds will destroy hundreds of jobs in the surrounding communities, a local government official has warned.

Shervin Tate, deputy chairman of the Sweeting’s Cay township, said the proposed project is slated to create a mere 60 jobs but will destroy more than 300 – some of them very lucrative – and devastate one of the country’s most beautiful and bountiful marine habitats.

“Once you start to dredge, the conch will disappear, the lobster will disappear, and then you will see a disaster in our community,” Tate said, explaining that silt from the mine will suffocate all marine life for miles around.

“That is why I call it a job killer,” he said.

Appearing as a guest on Love 97FM’s radio show ‘Voice of the Bays’, Tate explained that most residents of the area earn a solid living as either bonefishing guides or commercial fishermen.

“You have fishing lodges that have spent $40-50 million in the east, and they are paying Bahamians $1,500 to $2,000 a week and they depend heavily on Bersus Cay as somewhere to take those guests,” he said.

“The average fisherman can go out to Bersus Cay, and if you are going out for lobster, you can get a hundred pounds of lobster that can get you $1,100. You can come back with 200 pounds of conch and that will get you $600. Imagine that this is taken away from you – and most of the time when they do these things they come back and want to give you minimum wage jobs.”

Tate said the fishermen of his community will face the prospect of having to leave their families for extended periods to toil away at a dusty mine site, just to earn in a week what they used to earn in a single day.

In addition to professional fishermen, he added, many Bahamians rely on the area to help feed their families, especially in hard economic times.

At a recent community meeting, a young woman explained that although she is a trained accountant, she has never been able to find work in the stagnant Freeport economy, and the abundant fishing grounds now under threat have been a saving grace.

“You could see she wanted a job but couldn’t find one, but she could depend on going out to Bersus and getting her 150 pounds of conch a day and come back home make 400-odd dollars and take care of her three, four, five kids,” Tate said.

“That is really my concern, hearing those kinds of stories every day. As a representative for the people, it touched my heart.”

A longtime campaigner for the PLP, Tate said he knows that in Perry Christie, the country has a sensitive and intelligent leader who will be willing to scrap the proposed mine once he understands what is at risk.

“Being a hard PLP, I want my government, my prime minister, to understand the need that is in East Grand Bahama.

“He is a good man and I know he will listen to the voice of the people,” he said.

Tate also issued a video message to residents in Nassau (http://bit.ly/1l1HkXL), asking them to stand in support of the people of East Grand Bahama.

The radio show “Voice of the Bays: The Environment Speaks”, hosted by fast-growing advocacy group Save The Bays, explores issues such as environmental conservation, social justice and the rule of law in the Bahamas. It airs on Love 97FM every Monday at 5-6pm.

The show is an important part of the wide-ranging educational platform of Save The Bays. Since its launch a little over a year ago, the organization has catapulted to prominence, attracting more than 500 registered members, 14,000 Facebook followers and 6,000 signatures on its petition calling for an Environmental Protection Act, a Freedom of Information Act, and to unregulated development in The Bahamas.

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