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.

Top lawyer argues that Blackbeard’s Cay development was granted approvals in contravention of key legislation

Smith: laws being disregarded at the whim of ministers

Top lawyer argues that Blackbeard’s Cay development was granted approvals in contravention of key legislation

Presenting the case for judicial review of the Blackbeard’s Cay development, Smith said the evidence pointed to a “tsunami of disregard” for due process and the rule of law as civil servants simply rubber-stamped approvals for the project at the behest of their superiors.Bahamian law has been repeatedly ignored to the benefit of wealthy developers thanks to a “culture of subservience” among civil servants, attorney Fred Smith, QC, told the Supreme Court.

DEFENDING THE LAW – Fred Smith, QC, and his Callendars & Co. team leaving court. Presenting the case for judicial review of the Blackbeard’s Cay development, Smith said the evidence pointed to a “tsunami of disregard” for due process and the rule of law as civil servants simply rubber-stamped approvals for the project at the behest of their superiors.

“The facts of the case evidence what I could term an endemic subservience, an institutional subservience entrenched in the civil service, to cater to ministerial dictate,” he said. “The Cabinet and the minister are regarded as the extreme authority on what should happen, regardless of what parliament has legislated.”

According to Smith, the Blackbeard’s Cay project moved forward in the absence of necessary site approvals, environmental studies, public hearings and proof of the developer’s compliance with mandated conditions.

In allowing this to happen, he said, the government contravened the provisions of the Planning and Subdivisions Act (PSA), the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act (CLPA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

“The development has been carried out, and continues to be carried out, unlawfully,” he said.

Smith urged the court to view the application for judicial review as a “seminal opportunity to reestablish the rule of law and bring an end to ministerial dictate.”

His clients, environmental watch group reEarth, are challenging, among other things, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries’ decision to grant licenses for the importation of eight dolphins from Honduras to be used as attractions at the development.

As an example of the arbitrary of power of ministers, Smith pointed to the “flurry of activity” that surrounded the granting of these licenses on July 19, 2013. In a single day, he said:

• Blue Illusions applied for the dolphin importation licenses
• Director of Marine Resources Michael Braynen sent a memo about the applications to the Minister, V Alfred Gray
• The minister considered and approved the applications, and communicated this to the permanent secretary and director
• The permanent secretary sent a memo to the director asking him to “urgently issue” the licenses
• The director issued the licenses
• Blue Illusions paid the license fee
• A receipt was issued
• The Ministry of Marine Resources issued an operator license to Blue Illusions
• Blue illusions paid a $10,000 fee for this license and was issued with a receipt

Smith argued that considering the slow pace at which the civil service usually moves, the activities of July 19 represent an unusual level of haste and coordination.

Either the documents produced by the government are inauthentic, he said, or there must have been a good reason for the rush.

Noting that a health permit allowing the dolphins to be exported from Honduras was due to expire just five days later, Smith suggested that the developer’s concern was the source of the government’s sudden urgency, and led to the procedures mandated by law being ignored in the haste.

“The only consideration taken into account was the developer’s need to beat the deadline,” he said.
Government officials have maintained that Blackbeard’s Cay and its developer, St Maarten businessman, Samir Andrawos, possess all the required planning and marine mammal approvals to operate the project.

Craig Delancy, the Ministry of Works’ building control officer, said in an affidavit: “In all the circumstances, Balmoral Island and/or Blue Illusions [Mr Andrawos’s company] have met all the requirements, and have in their possession, all the requisite permits from the Ministry of Public Works and Urban Development for Blackbeard’s Cay, the Welcome Centre at Balmoral, and the Water Park, restaurant and bar and gift and souvenir shop at Balmoral Island.”

But Smith countered that the government has not produced evidence to support this assertion, having failed to comply with a Supreme Court order that all relevant licenses, leases and permits – and the documents upon which they were based – be provided.

In particular, it is claimed that the dolphin import permits were issued to an unlicensed facility and in the absence of evidence that the importation was necessary for the preservation of the dolphins, for scientific research or for educational purposes, as mandated by the MMPA.

“You can’t just import dolphins for the entertainment of cruise ship passengers, or anyone else,” Smith told the court.

According to affidavits filed by reEarth’s Sam Duncombe and Sonya Alvino, the dolphin attraction is being conducted on 2.47 acres of Crown Land seabed, even though the terms of the lease state specifically that the area can only be used for a stingray attraction.

Smith told the court that the dolphin importation should never have been approved because the facility is exposed to adverse environmental factors that will not only affect the wellbeing of the marine mammals but also the island and its environment. He said the location is “unsuitable in almost every respect” according to the stipulations of the MMPA.

In visits to the island in June and September of last year, Duncombe and Alvino claim they noticed that the facility lacks the ability to quarantine animals properly and thereby prevent the spread of disease.

They said the dolphins are exposed to high levels of ocean noise which can deafen them, that the facility has no protection from hurricanes, ocean surges, or the sun, and that the water depth is insufficient.

Duncombe and Alvino claim that despite frequent letters, phone calls and emails requesting information on the project, they were stonewalled by an array of government officials.

Responding to applicant’s case, Gary Francis from the Attorney General’s office denied that there had been any attempt to circumvent the law.

He argued that although his office had not produced documentary evidence reflecting every stage of the approvals process, this does not mean the process was unlawful.

“They didn’t give approval in a vacuum,” he said.

However, Justice Stephen Isaacs, who is presiding over the case, pointed out that based on the documents before the court, that remains unclear.

“In the absence of something, there is nothing,” he told the attorney.

“We produced the documents we could find,” Francis explained.

He said that without evidence to the contrary, there must be a “presumption of regularity” on the part of government.

He added: “If it was granted, and there was the authority to grant it, it was not unlawful.”

In response, Smith’s colleague Dawson Malone reminded that court of its order that all relevant documents be produced, asking the court to assume that any document not provided does not exist.

“No evidence has been put before the court which explains the process by which these decisions were made,” he emphasized.

Justice Isaacs adjourned to consider his ruling.

Antiquities Chief Says Carleton is ‘Significant Heritage Site’ on Abaco

Originally published on Bahama Pundit

By: Larry Smith

TREASURE CAY, Abaco — During a visit to the site of Abaco’s first loyalist settlement last week, Antiquities Corporation chief Dr Keith Tinker and senior archaeologist Dr Michael Pateman retrieved cultural remains for analysis and talked about organising an archaeological survey this summer.

I wrote a column on Carleton following a personal visit earlier this year, and was able to accompany AMMC representatives to the site last week for a brief walkabout. Also present were Tim Blakely of the Treasure Sands Club, which now owns the property; and Matt Claridge of the Abaco Defenders, a public interest group.

Remains of a loyalist-era settlement lie scattered over the landscape just off Treasure Cay Drive, the road that connects to the Abaco highway between the public beach and the adjacent creek. Last week, we collected brick and pottery fragments, bottle glass, and a heavily corroded iron object that looked like a ship’s cleat.

And this week, Tinker confirmed that “there is sufficient evidence for the area to be considered a significant heritage site,” and called for construction to cease pending further investigation.

“I will be writing a report for the Office of the Prime Minister stating this,” he told me. “We also want signage to be installed identifying the area as a heritage site. The evidence is there and the site needs to be researched.”

In the 1980s, Florida archaeologist Robert Carr, historians Steve Dodge and Sandra Riley, civic leader Alton Lowe and others explored the area after researching land grants. They turned up loyalist-era artefacts, including pottery, bottle glass, oven bricks, military tunic buttons, musket balls, sewing implements, shells and animal bone remains. Most of these items are housed at the Albert Lowe museum on Green Turtle Cay.

A bronze plaque on the point just beyond the beach commemorates the 1983 bicentennial of the original loyalist landing on Abaco, but disturbance of this historic area by development has been ongoing for years, with little thought for either the environment or the original settlement.

The Treasure Sands property on which part of Carleton once stood was acquired by an English entrepreneur named Sir Alford Houstoun-Boswall some 30 years ago. In 2010 Sir Alford and his on-site partner Tim Blakely, who is an ex-Royal Navy bodybuilder and celebrity personal trainer, opened a high-end restaurant and clubhouse next to the public beach.

Last year they began clearing the scrub on the creek side of the road to prepare for a small cottage colony and spa that Blakely wants to name Carleton Village. But dredging was halted amid rising public concern over the environmental impact and permitting process. Critics say the developers had planned to dredge a channel along the entire three-mile creek out to Treasure Cay Marina – a charge that Blakely brands as “scaremongering”.

The project was approved by the government last May, subject only to an environmental management plan vetted by the BEST Commission. There was no requirement for an environmental impact assessment, or for an archaeological survey.

This work contravenes the Planning & Subdivisions Act, which requires an EIA for any development on “sensitive lands”, like wetlands. The purpose is to “promote sustainable development in a healthy natural environment”, to “protect and conserve the natural and cultural heritage” of the Bahamas, and to provide for greater transparency in planning and permitting.

These objectives appear to have been ignored. But the proposed development is now going through a local town planning process. And the AMMC has confirmed it as a heritage site.

The Treasure Sands development is the latest effort to capitalise on Treasure Cay’s fabulous three-and-a-half-mile beach. The original second home/marina/golf course resort was launched in the 1950s by the late Leonard Thompson, but is now owned by German-Bahamian investor Ludwig Meister.

Local government officials and property owners began asking for information about the project. A spokesman for the Treasure Cay resort perhaps summed up these objections best: “Treasure Cay Ltd and the Treasure Cay homeowners still do not know exactly what Treasure Sands Club plans to build, except what we have read in the newspapers. Since this project is immediately adjacent to our resort, it would be helpful to know what is planned for the area and also get the right information released to the public.”

When loyalist emigres arrived here from New York in 1783 (after the American Revolution), Carleton Creek opened to the sea where the public beach huts stand today. The anchorage proved unsuitable for large vessels. And in any event, within a year of their arrival most of the settlers revolted and moved 20 miles to the south to found a new settlement at what they called Marsh’s Harbour. Within three years of this split, after several hurricanes, Carleton essentially ceased to exist.

However, the site should be as historically significant to Abaco as Jamestown, Virginia is to Americans. Jamestown was the first English settlement in North America. Over 200 colonists arrived there in 1607 but the settlement was abandoned in the 1690s, after which it was largely forgotten. In recent years, it has become a major archaeological and tourist site. Unfortunately, no effort has been made so far to capitalise on the Carleton settlement since the initial explorations back in the 1980s.

Steve Dodge was the first to identify the Carleton site in 1979, while researching records in Nassau for his book Abaco: History of an Out Island. Carr’s excavations a few years later indicated that the site was a loyalist settlement in the area originally known as Carleton. Survey records were provided to the government at the time, but interest waned and memories faded.

Of course, Carleton was not the first human settlement on Abaco. There were Lucayan Indians living here from about 900 years ago. But this area was settled by 250 whites and free blacks who sailed from New York in 1783. They named their settlement after Sir Guy Carleton, the general who supervised the British evacuation from America, and who carried out the Crown’s promise of freedom to slaves who had joined the British during the war.

Since the 1980s no further archaeological work has been undertaken here. And the recent clearing of some three acres by Treasure Sands caused extensive damage according to Carr, who re-visited the area last November at the invitation of the Abaco Defenders.

The artefacts recovered from the site recently will be sent to the University of Florida for further expert analysis, and an archeological survey may be planned for later this year. it is not just a matter of looking for more bricks and artefacts but also locating house foundations and other features to reconstruct the settlement pattern. This is done by mapping the artifacts and features in place.

During my visit in January, Blakely said he was thinking of setting up a small museum as part of the Treasure Sands development, and would name a restaurant after the New York tavern where the loyalists signed up for their Abaco journey. “We are very open to cooperation with anyone who wishes to survey the site,” he told me at the time.

Clearly, the historical value of the Carleton site can only enhance the proposed development. However, minor construction work on the site continues.

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Advocacy Giants Join Forces

Waterkeeper Alliance partners with Bahamas

Freshwater and marine environment protection agency Waterkeeper Alliance has partnered with The Bahamas to initiate efforts to protect reefs in the Clifton Bay area of New Providence. Pictured: (Back row, left to right) Sam Duncombe, Re-earth, Save the Bays director; Robert F Kennedy, Jr president, Waterkeeper Alliance; Joseph Darville, GB Human Rights Association, vice president, Save the Bays director; Troy Albury from Save Guana Cay, Save the Bays director. (Front row) Fred Smith, QC, Save the Bays director.

The Bahamas Investor

Waterkeeper Alliance, which has organizations and volunteers in 37 countries, announced its first partnership with The Bahamas this week to protect reefs in the Clifton Bay area of New Providence.
The group’s president, Robert F Kennedy Jr, announced the partnership after diving the reefs last weekend.Waterkeeper Alliance is an environmental group that helps raise awareness of water pollution and initiates sustainable efforts to protect freshwater and marine environments.The international volunteer organization has initiated projects around the world in such places as India, the US, Australia and Africa.

“Today we are proud to announce our first partnership project with The Bahamas,” said Kennedy.

“The vision of Waterkeeper Alliance is to ensure that water, all our water everywhere, is drinkable, swimmable, fishable.”

In the 13 years since he last dove the area, Kennedy said that some 70-80 per cent of the coral has been threatened in the Clifton Bay area on the southern side of New Providence, in part by algae and contamination from oil seepage and spills.

The ability to rescue, restore and preserve them is always present, he added.

“You have an incredible opportunity here in The Bahamas to protect what belongs to the Bahamian people and is enjoyed by your visitors and we hope that this partnership will be the first in an ongoing relationship.”

“You have a $50 million a year dive industry that exists because of the beauty of these reefs,” he continued.

“People all over the world hear of the reefs of The Bahamas.”

“I believe that when people come together and decide they are going to do something for the public good like saving and restoring these reefs, it can happen. It will happen. And Watermaker Alliance is proud to work with these dedicated people to make sure we do everything we can to make it happen. But this is a local effort and it will take local participation and dedication.”

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Freedom of Information Lecture Announced


Save The Bays and the College of The Bahamas set to host first in a series of talks entitled “Our Right to Know”

Save The Bays (STB) and the College of The Bahamas have announced a two-year partnership to raise awareness of the vital importance of citizens rights and government transparency through a series of lectures and panel discussions.

The first in the “Our Right to Know” series will be held on Wednesday, October 22 in the Harry C. Moore Library from 6 – 8:30pm. It will focus on the urgent need for a freedom of information act in The Bahamas. The Bahamas National Trust, BREEF and re Earth have also agreed to be sponsors of the lecture series.

The panelists will be: retired Justice Jeanne Thompson, assistant professor Lisa Benjamin and attorney and social activist Romi Ferreira. Their discussion will be moderated by reEarth founder and STB director Sam Duncombe.

“Access to information is important for transparency within governance and to foster public participation in developmental decisions,” said Professor Benjamin, a lecturer in COB’s law program.

A key focus of the series will be the current lack of government transparency when it comes to the approval of developments – particularly those that are likely to have a negative impact on the surrounding environment.

Professor Benjamin said: “In a small island developing state such as ours, public participation is arguably necessary in order to promote better environmental decision making, and to assist with the delicate balance of sustainable development.”

Duncombe, a longtime environmental advocate said: “I am delighted that COB has partnered with the NGO community in bringing these poignant issues to the public. We look forward to collaborating further with the college to bring current critical issues and knowledgeable speakers to the fore and have the public actively engage in discussing them.”

Ferreira, also an STB director who has worked for decades to bring the law, citizens’ rights and environmental conservation together, said the timing of the lecture series could not be better.

“Save The Bays has been working very hard to transmit its message of transparency, accountability and environmental responsibility to the next generation of Bahamians, understanding that the fight to preserve the natural treasures of The Bahamas will ultimately fall to them.

“This partnership with COB will bring many bright young minds together with other concerned citizens and experienced advocates, just as the battle for freedom of information is coming to a head.

The lecture comes just days before a Freedom of Information Street Party, to be held on October 25 from 4 – 8pm at Van Brugels on Charlotte Street, hosted by STB and its community partners.

The event is free and will feature live music and food and drink for sale.

“The goal of the street party is to attract a huge turnout and demonstrate to the government that two years is too long to wait for a Freedom of Information Act. I have no doubt that very soon, all the concerned citizens of The Bahamas will join forces to present a unified front to our leaders in demanding transparency, accountability and the rule of law,” said Lindsey McCoy, CEO of STB.

The focus of the second installments in the series, the date of which will soon be announced, will be importance of conducting transparent Environmental Impact Assessments before developments are given the green light, and the critical need for an overarching Environmental Protection Act to preserve the natural resources of The Bahamas for the benefit of future generations.

Founded just over a year ago, Save The Bays has taken The Bahamas by storm. The grassroots effort to protect ecologically significant areas of the archipelago from unregulated development has transformed into a broad-based coalition that is at the forefront of both social and environmental issues. Calling for an environmental protection act, oil spill legislation, the freedom of information act and much needed conchservation laws.

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)

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 ( 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.

Luxury yachts offer hurricane relief to The Bahamas

The Enchanted Lady and crew have been in the southern Bahamas providing invaluable help to the ongoing hurricane relief efforts as part of Yacht Aid Global (YAG), a pioneering international humanitarian organization that uses yachts to deliver aid to coastal disaster areas around the world.

Innovative humanitarian outfit uses luxury vessels to deliver critical supplies and ongoing support to natural disaster sites around the world

As relief efforts continue in the islands hit hardest by Hurricane Joaquin, a pioneering international aid organization has offered an invaluable helping hand to The Bahamas.YachtAid Global (YAG) delivers humanitarian, developmental and conservation aid onboard yachts to isolated and underprivileged coastal communities worldwide. In times of natural disasters, YAG has the ability to mobilize and shift resources quickly to provide disaster relief in ways that others have not explored.“Yachts are essentially self-contained disaster relief platforms that work perfectly in the geographic arrangement of isolated island communities,” said Mark Drewelow, YAG founder.

Supplies are delivered by the crew members to local officials who then disburse them where the need is greatest

“The Bahamas has long been a fantastic host to luxury yachts; as such, our industry is obligated to help out in times of need. Every visiting yacht has the capability of contributing to the hurricane Joaquin recovery effort.”

The California-Based nonprofit organization works closely with yacht owners, crew and industry professionals to determine the needs of a particular area that yachts cruise to; sponsor or raise funds to meet those needs, acquire the necessary goods, resources and supplies; and transport and distribute the relief.

YAG recently undertook a disaster relief effort in the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu in the wake of Cyclone Pam, successfully delivering 140,000 liters of water and several tons of aid over a 10-day period, as well as administering critical medical care, helping re-build schools and homes, clearing roads and undertaking needs assessments in collaboration with local partners and national crisis management agencies.

The Enchanted lady offloading supplies to a smaller vessel off the coast of Rum Cay

Drewelow said the team is eager to bring the lessons of that experience to bear on the relief effort in The Bahamas.

“It became clear that on disaster-struck islands, there is a great need for safe drinking water and the challenge is working out how to move in bulk as fast as possible with the least risk possible,” he explained. “We also learned about making sure aid is ‘pulled’ from the impacted area and not  ‘pushed’ from donors; this means deliveries must be determined by properly vetted needs assessments so as to ensure that the right resources are going to the right places as quickly as possible.”

YAG’s policy is to work through the official disaster response agencies in each impacted country. Their offer to help The Bahamas has been welcomed by Stephen Russell, director of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

“We are most grateful for the donations and strategic support that have been offered by YachtAid Global,” Russell said. “The southern Bahamas remains in great need of help and they are globally recognized experts in disaster relief in small islands and coastal communities.”

Waterkeeper Bahamas, the local branch of a worldwide alliance dedicated to protecting the planet’s waterways, is collaborating with YAG in this effort.

“Partnering with Waterkeeper Bahamas has been and continues to be an outstanding experience,” Drewelow said. “They respond with care and thoughtfulness to requests for information and intelligence and they ask the right questions to YAG. They facilitate meetings for YAG with high-level people. Bahamas Waterkeepers is exceptional in all regards.”

Founded in 2006, YachtAid Global has worked with more than three-dozen yachts and brought aid to over 50 different remote or underprivileged areas of the world. Drewelow, a luxury yacht captain for 20 years, said he created YAG when he realized there was huge potential for the industry to make a meaningful contribution to the communities he had visited and come to love during his career.

Save The Bays Pins 24 Bahamian Youth Environmental Ambassadors

Zhyir Miranda, 12, knew even as a youngster that littering was wrong. But it wasn’t until she signed up for Youth Environmental Ambassadors and saw the damage it could do to marine life that she fully understood littering wasn’t just ugly – it was dangerous.“Littering does not just look bad, littering can kill the turtles in the sea. It can kill the animals that live in the mangroves and depend on mangroves for their survival especially when they are young,” said the 12-year-old who rattled off characteristics of red, black and white mangroves as if she were reciting words of a favourite rap tune.

On Saturday, Zhyir was pinned for her passion, rewarded for her enthusiasm.

The Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Academy seventh grader became one of 24 young Bahamians certified as Youth Environmental Ambassadors (YEA), a program sponsored and operated by the environmental advocacy organization Save The Bays.

For the past four months, junior high students like Zhyir spent every second Saturday trekking through bush, cleaning beaches, learning about wetlands, studying the impact of plastic on oxygen supply of salt or fresh water marine life. All activities, both in the classroom at the YMCA in Freeport and in the field, were geared toward making participants future leaders in environmental stewardship.

“This was the fourth year Save the Bays has offered Youth Environmental Ambassadors to youth in Grand Bahama,” said Rashema Ingraham who oversees the popular program that normally draws twice as many applicants as there is space to accommodate. More than 200 have graduated. The last 4-month session, Ingraham said, differed from former versions of the program.

“In the past, we spent a lot of time visiting sites, learning about how industrial waste is managed, for instance, or power generated or what it takes to produce solar energy. But this time we focused on research which we shared with organisations abroad. The work that participants did was very important. They gathered data about shoreline erosion, indigeneous vegetation and wetlands. Some of the work involved fine detail. There were sections of beach, for instance, that when we did a beach clean-up, we separated the trash and garbage to identify how much plastic or glass or metal or other debris we found. The most discouraging part was that the majority of the debris we collected had not floated ashore from passing ships. Based on bottles and labels of products, most of the litter we found was the result of local activity reflecting environmental neglect and disrespect.”

Littering still hurts Zhyir, but now she is more likely to speak up when she sees someone toss something from a car window, even if the offender is much older or bigger.

“It is bad for the ocean and it kills things in the sea. It kills turtles. When I joined Save The Bays (YEA), I learned a lot more about our environment and I learned that there are 80 species of mangroves. I learned so much and now I want to stand up for the environment. Did you know that viviparis, they’re like plants that give birth to live plants, grow up in salt water and breathe oxygen from above the water? I found that cool.”

Finishing in the top three of the class, Zhyir said the course that included leadership and teamwork played out through team drumming exercises, helped reaffirm her passion to care for pets as a veterinarian.

As graduates received their pins and began their roles as youth ambassadors, the schools they came from were also rewarded. Save The Bays provided financial support for all six schools whose students participated in the YEA program including Sister Mary Patricia Russell Junior High School, Eight Mile Rock High School, Sunland Baptist Academy, Bishop Michael Eldon School, Jack Hayward Junior High School and Mary Star of the Sea.

The YEA program is part of Save The Bays education mandate. The organization has also led the demand for a strong Freedom of Information Act, transparency in government, an end to unregulated development and more. Its strong legal arm has experienced courtroom victories leading to greater sensitivity to environmental impact. More than 20,000 have liked STB Facebook page and its petition to the Prime Minister of The Bahamas calling for a comprehensive environmental protection act among other changes has nearly 7,000 signatures.