Save The Bays Supports YMCA Learn to Swim SOS Program

Students of public and private schools in Grand Bahama learn to swim thanks to a grant from Save the Bays, the fast growing environmental movement, donated to the YMCA Learn to Swim SOS program.

Declaring it was proud to help impart lifesaving skills to children growing up on an island surrounded by water, the fast-growing environmental movement Save The Bays today presented a substantial grant to the YMCA SOS Learn to Swim program in Grand Bahama.

The contribution will pave the way for thousands of children to take an in-the-water course that could save lives.Some 13,000 pre-school and primary school students have already benefitted from the SOS (Swim for Ocean Survival) course, according to Grand Bahama YMCA Executive Director Karon Johnson, and this contribution will enable even more.“We can’t thank Save the Bays enough for seeing the importance of this program,” said Johnson. “The course is designed to teach kids to survive, first and foremost, in an underwater situation. As they get older we work to introduce them to opportunities provided by competitive swimming and thirdly, we want to them to have the skills to enjoy our marine environment so they don’t have a fear of the sea.”Overcoming fear and appreciating the beauty of the underwater world, said Save The Bays education officer and a director of the YMCA Joseph Darville, is one of the reasons Save The Bays selected the YMCA SOS program as its newest partner.


“It is with tremendous joy and satisfaction that I, on behalf of Save The Bays, present this grant to the Grand Bahama YMCA,” said Darville. “As Executive Program Vice-Chairman of the YMCA, I know firsthand the outstanding and unparalleled work this organization has done over the past 20 years in teaching thousands of our school children on Grand Bahama to swim. Additionally, over the past two years, the Anglican schools in Nassau have come on board and the program benefits their students as well. This is the only training course of its kind in The Bahamas.”

The SOS program runs twice a year, September through October and April through June, and caters to preschools and primary schools in Grand Bahama, private and public. Students are bused to the YMCA from school for hour long sessions.

The program was created to address the fact that despite that fact that The Bahamas is surrounded by water, many local children are unable to swim, partly because of a traditional fear of water-related accidents and partly because of the cost of swimming lessons.

“Thanks to companies, donors and organizations like Save The Bays we have been able to offer the program free of charge to the children of Grand Bahama,” said Johnson. Costs are also contained by part of the program falling within the Physical Education curriculum in schools.

“This is the only training course of its kind in The Bahamas, and we are extremely proud to be the body responsible for imparting lifesaving skills to multitudes of our children who live in an archipelagic nation,” says Darville. “This grant is indeed in line with the goal of the Save the Bays organization as it strives to conserve and preserve the beauty of these islands, terrestrial and marine and thus enable all children now and in the future to enjoy these islands both on land and in the sea.”

Since its launch in April, Save The Bays has gained more than 5,000 signatures on a petition calling for an environmental protection act, managed an awareness campaign that has opened the eyes of thousands to the delicate nature of the environment and formed partnerships with more than a dozen organisations with environmental interests and agendas.

Save The Bays Raises Alarm Over Treasure Cay Project North Abaco Chief Councilor Requests EIA


A surging environmentalist group is raising the alarm over what they call “yet another irresponsible construction project” in the Family Islands.

Following a recent tour of the Treasure Sands Club in Abaco, directors from Save The Bays expressed concern and dismay over dredging off a world-famous beach.

Treasure Cay, known for its pristine three miles of uninterrupted sand, has remained a point of pride for Abaconians. Save The Bays said Bahamians are expressing “deep pain” over the lack of transparency and dialogue by developers, a sentiment being echoed by local officials.

“We just want to know what the impact will be,” said Gary Smith, Chief Councilor for the North Abaco District. “We want to see an Environmental Impact Assessment performed by an independent, reputable company. We want to see the Environmental Management Plan written by Keith Bishop, Principal Engineer at Islands by Design, and we would like to see the extent of the plans that Treasure Sands has for this area.”

The development currently features a high-end club, pool, bar and restaurant experience, although plans are afoot to build a boutique hotel on the beach and docking facilities.

While Smith criticized the lack of transparency, he noted that the community is not against development. He urged both the developer and government to engage the public and follow the rules of public consultation before starting construction in a delicate ecosystem.

Joseph Darville, Bimini Waterkeeper and a director for Save The Bays, said the dredging may cause “irreparable damage” to the habitat of bonefish, tarpon, snappers, turtles, lobsters and a host of other marine species. Development could “drive away” wildlife, he said, and the area is bordered by fragile mangroves.

“They enter our midst, bearing the tokens of a few jobs for Bahamians, seductively hypnotizing and mesmerizing our leaders, in order to carry out their work of greed. All we ask for is responsible development, for people who appreciate and respect our Bahamian environment,” said Darville. “None of us owns this land or the seabed, not you, not me. Our land, our seabed is held in trust for future generations. How dare someone come in and destroy what is not theirs. Our beloved leaders must not allow this kind of rape and pillaging of our land to go on in the name of a few occasional jobs.”

Save The Bays’ protest in Abaco is the third major campaign against unregulated development for the growing environmental movement in recent months. In Bimini, Malaysian-based conglomerate Genting Group is moving ahead with a 1,000-foot pier to accommodate cruise ships from Florida in an effort to fuel a new mega project and Save The Bays has continued to agitate to make Clifton Park a protected marine area.

Similar to the issues that are being faced in Bimini, the Treasure Sands Club did not release a proper environmental impact assessment or an environmental management plan to the public and local residents were not consulted prior to the start of construction. Several of those residents along with a Save The Bays partner organization called Bimini Blue Coalition were outspoken, begging for information about what was planned for their small island. The Bimini EIA was eventually published on the BEST website after the two groups made repeated calls for it, including the Bahamas National Trust. When it was finally made available, it sparked grave concerns over the proposed development in proportion to the size of the island and even greater concerns over its impact on the environment.

Fred Smith, QC, a top attorney and another director for Save The Bays, noted “that activities in Treasure Cay are indicative of what is happening throughout the country.” Smith, who is also a partner at Callenders & Co, has pushed government for the promised Freedom of Information Act, which he feels would offer more transparency and accountability. “More than 5,000 people have signed a Save The Bays petition ( urging passage of a Freedom of Information Act and an Environmental Protection Act,” he said and he called on central government to stop “ignoring the laws and casting aside the pleas of local officials.”

EARTHCARE and Biminites on Bimini proposed cruise ship terminal

EARTHCARE is very concerned by the revelations in the press regarding the development plans for Bimini.  Several Environmental Organizations have been trying to find out if there is an Environmental Impact Assessment completed for the proposed development.  The most recent entity to assume control of the former “Bimini Bay Resort”, the Genting Group, a Malaysian conglomerate has renamed the project, Resorts World Bimini.EARTHCARE is a proponent of Sustainable Development.  The proposed plans for the cruise ship terminal are not sustainable by any stretch of the imagination.  EARTHCARE Founder, Gail Woon said, “Who begins operating a cruise ship without a place to dock it, in place first?  The plans are to build the 1,000 foot long jetty along with a 6 acre island for a cruise ship terminal over a very sensitive ecological oceanic habitat.  The cruise ship is operating and the developer is in a hurry to have the terminal constructed.  In my mind, it is beyond belief to think that the authorities in charge of Bahamian resources would allow for endangered coral reefs to be for all intents and purposes destroyed.  We have seen video footage of the construction of the terminal in progress.  We need to see the Permits if this  construction has been approved.  If it has been approved, was it by Central Government or the Local Government in Bimini?  From our investigations, there have been no Town Meetings in Bimini to let the stakeholders, Biminites, know what the development plans are for their islands.  If there is an Environmental Impact Assessment done, why is it not posted on the BEST (Bahamas Environment Science and Technology) Commission website for all and sundry to peruse?”“We have seen the better plan for Bimini proposed by the Bimini Blue Coalition involving using smaller vessels that can dock at the existing Government Dock.  This would allow for the cruise ship passengers to experience the culture of Bimini.  This would give ground transportation professionals to be able to share a piece of the prosperity.  This would allow the cruise ship passengers to see the straw market and Museum.”

“There are also plans to revive the golf course that was taken off the table years ago due to concerns that the golf course would cause further unsustainable damage to valuable marine nursery areas.  This golf course would entail bulldozing even more acres of mangroves than the over 160 acres plus of healthy mangrove wetland nursery habitat that were already wantonly destroyed by the Bimini Bay Resort development.”  One Biminite observed, “Why don’t they play golf on the existing golf course on Cat Cay?  We don’t need a golf course on North Bimini!”

More Biminites speak

“It goes back to the fact that the island is too small to maintain such a big project, personally I’m a diver, so I know what the beauty is of the island and enjoying that aspect of it. I don’t’ see a cruise ship fitting on a port like this.” – Michael Prince

“I think it’s a destruction to the island.  We are a very tiny little island.  And they have made it into three times the size.  Thus we have all the pollution, all the trash, all the garbage which we can’t contend with in our little piece and they are making it even bigger now.” – Matt Weech

“This is the gateway to the Bahamas and we need our fish.  And it might mess up our fish industry.  We don’t really need noone to mess that up not because you bringing a couple dollars into our little island but our main industry is fishing.” – Sherry Pratt

“ Being the fact that my Father is a fisherman and he’s been a fisherman all his life, I think that will affect him and everyone else that goes out fishing.  If it comes in then it will take out all the fish and all the conch so we wouldn’t have nothing to really live off and to make money from.” – Fabrice Stuart

“ Well, as far as my livelihood goes, there is nothing is more important.  I make my living off the reefs and the fact of the matter is the construction of this pier is definitely going to damage it.  No matter how careful, or no matter how much mitigation they claim that they can do, regardless it is going to do a lot of destruction to the reefs out there.” – Neal Watson.

“We need to know what’s going on.  And we are not going to allow them to come and take over our Bimini.  This is our Bimini, OK, this is our Bimini, Bahamian, but Biminites first.  And that’s it. Alright.” – Lorick Roberts

The email contact for EARTHCARE is:

Bimini Blue Coalition Teams Up with Save The Bays in the Struggle to Protect Waters, Create ‘Sensible, Sustainable Tourism’

Save The Bays — the fast-growing organisation that is moving toward what appears to be a national environmental alliance — announced today it has gained yet another partner in its fight to protect the marine environment of The Bahamas. The Bimini Blue Coalition, formed in January 2013 to  lead the fight for the protection of Bimini’s reefs, beaches and waters, said today it is partnering with Save The Bays to ramp up its community outreach and enhance efforts as the organisations pursue similar goals.

“We are thrilled and honoured to partner with the Save The Bays team, and together we hope to protect and promote the famous reefs, beaches, and waters around our precious little ‘Islands in the Stream,’” said the Coalition that has already garnered over 1,500 signatures to stop construction of a cruise ship terminal. “Over the long term, the goals of the Bimini Blue Coalition for Bimini essentially echo the goals of the Save The Bays team throughout The Bahamas.  We’re trying to promote sensible, sustainable use of our island’s natural resources.”

Fred Smith, QC, a director of Save The Bays, believes the collaboration will prove fruitful with both organizations demonstrating passion in pushing for the preservation of marine resources.

“As Save The Bays continues to grow as an organisation and expand its mission to protect waters throughout The Bahamas, it is essential that we form strategic partnerships capable of extending our reach into already existing communities of active conservationists,” said Smith. “We were happy to partner with Bimini Blue Coalition given the level of dedication they have demonstrated in promoting the cause to protect Bimini’s natural habitat. The symbiotic relationship that we have formed will definitely bolster our intertwined objectives.”

According to Smith, Save The Bays — established in March 2013 and forming partnerships with dramatic speed — appears to be giving rise to a National Environmental Alliance.

“This is exciting and bodes well for our treasured environment,” he said.

The latest partner, Bimini Blue Coalition, is made up of Bimini residents, homeowners, community leaders and visitors working together to “keep Bimini’s waters the bluest in The Bahamas.” Its mission involves the promotion and creation of a sustainable future for the islands of Bimini, including the development of an ecologically-responsible tourism industry. Most recently, Bimini Blue Coalition’s efforts have focused on a petition drive that has garnered over 1,500 signatures in just over two weeks to stop the creation of a cruise ship terminal on North Bimini.

Joe Darville is shown the possible site of the Bimini Gofast Ferry, by local resident Al Sweeting.

The terminal is part of a $100 million investment by the Malaysia-based Genting conglomerate. Genting was recently denied permission to tear down the waterfront Miami Herald building in Miami to build a mega resort and casino. It has now turned its attention to Bimini just off the Miami coast  where it opened a casino on June 28 and plans to complete construction of the 1,000 foot cruise ship dock and dredge to create a man-made island. While the cruise ship terminal is estimated to attract up to 3,000 visitors a day to the shores of North Bimini, petition signers say that it will destroy what has been called “a massive concentration of precious coral reefs,” permanently changing the island’s most important asset — its waters.

“This is a blasphemy and is completely disproportionate,” said Smith. “Once again, as with Baker’s Bay in Guana Cay, our government is sacrificing our marine environment on the altar of the almighty dollar.” The partnership between the organizations is initially aimed at addressing two key issues facing the islands of Bimini, the proposed cruise ship terminal that would heavily impact the reefs, and the second is establishing final and full implementation of the North Bimini Marine Reserve.

Environmental Education Group EARTHCARE Brings 25 Years of Environmental Activism to Save The Bays

The rapidly-growing environmental movement, Save The Bays, gained more momentum today when a local group with 400 members and a history of grass roots activism joined the campaign.

“We are delighted to announce that yet another NGO, EARTHCARE, has joined Save The Bays,” said Fred Smith, QC, a director of Save The Bays. “When we initially proposed creating an independent non-profit organization that would be actively engaged in seeing that the coral reefs of Clifton Bay were rescued and restored to the majestic beauty that made them world famous, we got tremendous support. But the values that attracted supporters to Clifton Bay and the western bays were greater than a single body of water and the movement has been growing beyond our wildest expectations. It has mushroomed overnight, now reaching waters in Bimini, Abaco, Andros, Eleuthera and Grand Bahama.” The destruction to the Clifton Bay barrier reefs due to ongoing oil leaks and other development at Clifton’s industrial area wasn’t the only reason environmental education NGO EARTHCARE joined forces with Save The Bays in a nationwide effort to protect marine ecosystems, but it was certainly an accelerating factor, said its founder.

“We are particularly excited about the organization’s future plans for Bimini, which I have been involved with for years said Gail Woon, Founder and Executive Director of the educational organization. Woon recently received her Diploma in International Environmental Law from the United Nations Institute of Training and Research. “In joining with the Coalition, I hope to be able to utilize this new training in order to assist the group to have an Environmental Protection Act passed as well as a Freedom of Information Act.  EARTHCARE will continue our environmental education efforts on fisheries, habitat, water quality, pollution, invasive species, wetlands, and any topics that teachers need through our outreach efforts. We are excited to be a part of the team.”

EARTHCARE was formed in 1988 when Woon was asked by teachers to speak to their students on environmental issues affecting The Bahamas. Funded in part by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association Foundation for the Caribbean and The Ocean Conservancy, a quarter of a century later, more than 400 members have signed up to volunteer by visiting schools to raise awareness about issues affecting the environment.

“Having EARTHCARE join our team opens the door to a whole new set of opportunities and objectives involving environmental education,” said Save The Bays Director Smith. “Gail Woon is a veteran environmentalist and her two-and-a-half decades of activism will surely strengthen the overall plans of our collaboration.”

EARTHCARE has been actively involved with International Coastal Cleanup Day for the past 25 years, was instrumental in the Coalition to Ban Longline Fishing in 1993, and has supported the Save Bimini project to minimize the impact of a mega-resort development on North Bimini among many other projects over the years. The organization’s efforts — including school visits to raise awareness  — helped in the overall effort that led to a ban on harvesting sea turtles in The Bahamas in September 2009.

EARTHCARE Joins with Save The Bays – Save The Bays, gained more momentum today when a local group with 400 members and a history of grass roots activism joined the campaign. Joseph Darville, Save The Bays Director; Gail Woon, Founder and Executive Director, EARTHCARE and Fred Smith, QC, Save The Bays Director

Green group seeks impact study for Blackbeard’s Cay

The Tribune

Accusing the Bahamas government of allowing Blackbeard’s Cay to overlook important legal and regulatory requirements, environmental group reEarth called on the developers to produce the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment.

The group called for an immediate halt to the development and the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act to bring transparency to it and similar projects.

According to reEarth, no public meeting was held concerning the project, nor was any public consultation organised – despite these being requirements of the Planning and Subdivision Act, sections 14 and 15.

Developer Samir Andrawos was contacted last night, but refused to comment on the claims.

The statement by reEarth read: “It is unthinkable that a foreigner is allowed to march into our country and set up a development without going through the same processes, and, being subject to the same regulations, as a Bahamian national.”

Asking whether an EIA was ever conducted for the project, and if so, why it was never made public, the group added: “What government agency would approve such a venture with no Environmental Impact Assessment or Environmental Management Plan?

“The very fact that this venture has managed to proceed to the point that it has, without the consultation of any animal welfare group, retards our government processes by 30 years.”

Calls placed to Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe and Minister of Marine Resources V Alfred Gray were not returned up to press time.

Last week, a prominent local entrepreneur called on the government to release the full business plan for Blackbeard’s Cay saying the move would serve the public interest.

Urging the government to seriously investigate the terms and conditions of the multi-million dollar deal, businessman Al Collie said he is concerned that the development is still “shrouded in secrecy.”

The development has also come under heavy scrutiny by animal rights activists, who have criticised the plans for a dolphin enclosure, saying the government should not approve another marine mammal facility due to the detrimental affects on the animals.

Forty local and international activist groups have joined forces to oppose the creation of dolphin enclosures, and the environmental group said it had 3,000 signatures on a petition to oppose this venture.

In its statement, reEarth also said facilities at Blackbeard Cay could be in breach of the Animal Protection and Control Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Regulations due to inadequate shelter and depth.

The reEarth statement read: “We would remind government officials that Blackbeards Cay is still a part of the Bahamas and must be subject to all the rules and regulations that a Bahamian would have to adhere to, not by Government officials to do with as they please and as such we have a voice in how it is used and what business is conducted there. We have a right to know what is happening to our land, to our coastlines and we should not be subject to the “Old Boy Networks” of government that only profits a few of its own.

“We vehemently oppose this development and demand that it be stopped immediately.”

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Conchservation Campaign Launches Awareness Initiative

The Eleutheran
By Ashley Akerberg

Earth Day Celebrations were marked by the launch of The Bahamas National Conchservation Campaign whose ultimate goal is a sustainable queen conch (Strombus gigas) fishery in The Bahamas. The Bahamas National Trust, with support of conservation partners One Eleuthera, the Cape Eleuthera Institute, Community Conch, Friends of the Environment and Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Foundation (BREEF), officially launched the campaign throughout The Bahamas over the weekend.

Launch events on Eleuthera took place at the Earth Day Festival & Celebration at Ocean Hole Park in Rock Sound on April 27th.  “One Eleuthera is happy to partner with The Bahamas National Trust and the Cape Eleuthera Institute with the launch of Conchservation campaign 2013 on the island of Eleuthera,” said Robyn Curry of the One Eleuthera Foundation. “We will do our part in bringing awareness to the need of ‘ensuring that our resources are protected for future generations.’ I believe this can only be achieved through consistent and persistent education of our children and adults on the importance of “best practices” when collecting conch or any of our marine resources. We want to join the fisherman in their effort to ensure that we have conch 30 years from now.”

Organizers focused on conch education during the event. Researchers from the Cape Eleuthera Institute set up a booth with informational posters and demonstrations. Event attendants learned about different conch size and lip thickness factors which correlate to sexual maturation and reproduction. They displayed various sized conch with thinner and thicker lips, instructing participants how to correctly measure lip size.

“Do you watch when they crack your conch?” asked Aaron Shultz, Director of CEI, to a group of local youth at the event as they practiced measuring conch lips with calipers, a tool for measuring thickness. He went on to explain that harvesting of juvenile conch means that individuals have not yet had the opportunity to reproduce. In order to reach the goal of a sustainable queen conch fishery in The Bahamas, juvenile conch must be protected well into sexual maturity, indicated by a fully formed flared lip that is at least 15 mm thick.

CEI began conducting surveys of queen conch in South Eleuthera in 2003. In the last ten years, data has suggested a very high prevalence of the harvest of juvenile conch along with significant declines in the total number of conch, with only nine percent of surveyed areas hosting enough mature conch to support reproduction. Claire Thomas, Conch Research Manager of CEI stated that “the purpose of this launch is to gain the support of the community for queen conch conservation and educate local communities on the dangers of harvesting juveniles.” She added, “in the future, our partners in this campaign will work together to continue to hold outreach events aimed at educating the public, and eventually discuss potential management options to ensure that conch will be around in The Bahamas for future generations.”

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Save The Bays Lauds Nature Conservancy’s Coral Reef Farming Program, Renews Support

A.cervicornis coral fragment at 3 months – Image by Eddy Raphael

A program aimed at replenishing coral reefs by undersea farming and forestry won plaudits this week from the national environmental movement Save The Bays which renewed its pledge to support its creator, The Nature Conservancy.

“Cooperative community partnerships are key to bringing attention, awareness and progress to the environmental protection and preservation movement,” said Lindsey McCoy, Save The Bays CEO. “That’s why Save The Bays seeks to involve other non-governmental organisations in the broad scope of work that runs the gamut from rebuilding reefs to filing legal action, from funding renewable energy research to monitoring development for sustainability.”

When The Nature Conservancy applied for a partnership that would include funding and assistance with public awareness of its reef forestation project, McCoy said Save The Bays was very impressed.

A.palmata coral propagation unit in New Providence – Image by Kemit Amon Lewis

“The scope of the project – planting coral trees and immature forests of coral along the southwest coast of New Providence and in Andros and out planting to other restoration sites which will increase coral cover in the country, has great potential not only for The Bahamas but eventually for wherever reefs in the region are threatened,” she noted.

And less than a year later, results are so promising that Save The Bays renewed its support. Although there was a 15% mortality rate off New Providence, the rate was much lower, 2%, in Andros. Scientists are also measuring connectivity and diversity within the coral nurseries.

“This was about action and they had the equivalent of a business plan with every detail accounted for.” Funding was announced nearly one year ago and the project launched.

The community partnership grant helped fund the purchase of a boat used to place coral propagation units and monitor their development. It also helped in the production of brochures and information to share with other scientists as well as to the lay public, including visitors who dive or snorkel on the sites filled with promise.

Stuart Cove Dive, a long-standing marine environmental caretaker according to McCoy, provided free dockage for the vessel.

Next up with the new funding is expanding the coral nurseries in Andros and New Providence, bringing the total number of coral fragments to 10,000. Funds will also support training of volunteers and partners, and at the end of the year, perform genetic analysis of all donor coral. According to The Nature Conservancy, coral can grow up to 300% times faster in the nursery under optimum conditions than in the wild. Once it reaches a size where it can be outplanted, it is transported to a carefully selected reef that would benefit from the infusion of fresh coral, helping to build the reef’s resilientce to climate change and other factors. The Nature Conservancy already presented the findings of its initial program to a wide gathering of scientists, marine biologists, coastal engineers and environmentalists at a meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas, where the response to the program in The Bahamas was highly positive.

A.cervicornis coral propagation unit – Image by Ellison Gomez

“We are very grateful to Save The Bays for helping to make the reforestation of coral reefs project a reality,” said Eleanor Phillips, Director of The Nature Conservancy Northern Caribbean Program. “This project literally has the capability of breathing new life into our undersea world.”

Announcement of the renewal of the community partnership pledge coincided with Earth Day 2014. Information about Save The Bays isavailable on and on its popular Facebook page with nearly 14,000 friends and fans. Information on The Nature Conservancy’s work is available through its Facebook page and blog.