Photo Credit: The Nature Conservancy
The waters around Clifton Bay are accessible to the majority of the Bahamian population and to the great number of visitors who spend time in The Bahamas each year. As a result, there are a great number of fishing and boat-related impacts to this area. Although spearfishing is prohibited within one mile of shore, both Hookah-assisted and free-diving are common nevertheless. Commercial fishing and harvesting are also threatening conch populations where densities are declining to unsustainable levels.
- Foreign fish catching and live aboard diving vessels – Both types of vessels are unregulated and to date they collect as many fish as they desire and damage coral reefs by improper anchoring and grounding incidents. The presence of wardens could discourage such activities and the implementation of a mooring system can protect the reef from anchor damage. A mooring buoy system would allow vessels to remain stationary without having to anchor and increase the risk of damaging the coral reef.
- Grounding incidents – The increase use of the area by foreign vessels, shipping vessels and private boaters increase the risk of grounding incidents because of their unfamiliarity of the area. Fuel tankers have run aground on the reefs in the vicinity of the Clifton power plant.
- Increasing numbers of private diving and pleasure boats by nearby residents – Violations of existing fisheries regulations commonly occur (especially of closed seasons, minimum size requirements and gear restrictions), and a strong educational program for the residents, as well as enforcement of existing regulations, can greatly minimize such violations.
- Pollution – Fishing in the area has also increased the presence of marine debris and abandoned fishing traps and pots.
- Declining conch populations – Conch densities are decreasing to levels that are unsustainable as populations are rapidly declining below the critical thresholds for reproduction. Conchs don’t reproduce when their numbers fall below a certain density, so having conch in the future is based on our ability to maintain sufficient population densities in the present. But the most important factor affecting conch stocks is fishing pressure. Improved diving gear, the use of freezer storage, and habitat degradation from development all add to the dramatic decline of the fishery throughout the region, making conch sustainability one of the highest-priority marine resources management issues in The Bahamas.