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Gov’t urged to deal swiftly with Clifton oil pollution

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Nearly six months after the government announced it would spend $10 million on oil spill remediation efforts, petrochemical pollution remains a serious threat to the sensitive marine environment throughout The Bahamas, but particularly at Clifton Bay, environmentalists say.

Vanessa Haley-Benjamin, CEO of fast-growing social and environmental movement Save The Bays (STB), said recent complaints from divers visiting the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Gardens, who emerged from the water covered in oil, prove that whatever actions have been taken to date have been far from sufficient.

“We appreciate the government’s recognition that oil pollution in Clifton Bay is an issue that needs attention,” she said. “Unfortunately, whatever has been done so far has failed to produce timely results.

“Details of the remediation plan were not released to the public, so it is difficult to understand why, considering the reported financial commitment, a tangible solution has yet to be found.”

The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) is responsible for the sculpture garden, and executive director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert warned of the devastating impact this pollution is having on living coral reefs, fish and other marine organisms in the area.

Haley-Benjamin said: “We wholeheartedly support and second BREEF’s call for increased protection of the reef systems around western New Providence, which are critically important resources, ecologically and commercially speaking, and which have been under severe stress from industrial pollution for years.”

The area is vital to the local dive tourism sector, she said, as well as for recreational and commercial fishermen, with the sculpture garden in particular attracting interest from avid divers around the world.

Designed as a fusion of art, education, and marine conservation, the garden was created to provide a habitat for fish, corals and other marine organisms, divert snorkelers and divers away from natural reefs and thus providing space for restoration, and serve as an outdoor classroom for environmental education and citizen science.

“Quite aside from the dire environmental consequences, the ongoing pollution is threatening tourism revenue and doing untold damage to the country’s reputation abroad,” Haley-Benjamin said. “STB is calling on the government to make this issue a priority and give it the attention it deserves.”

According to Dr. Craig Dahlgren, a marine biologist and senior research scientist who studied coral reef ecology in The Bahamas and wider Caribbean for more than 20 years, pollution has already had a devastating effect on Clifton Bay.

“In surveys of coral reefs around New Providence conducted in 2011, sites near Clifton were among the lowest in terms of live coral cover, and had seen some of the greatest declines in live coral from previous surveys of reefs off southwest New Providence conducted in 2009,” he said.

At some sites, the researched showed this decline to have been as high as 43% in just two years.

In addition to coastal pollution, increased temperatures and overfishing have also had an impact. However, Dahlgren said, the sites closest to likely pollution sources were among those with the lowest live coral cover.

“It is clear that significant changes are happening to our coral reef resources,” Haley-Benjamin said. “It is imperative that we act now to prevent continued degradation.

“We and other concerned environmental groups stand ready to assist the government in identifying the origins of the oil spills and enhancing remediation efforts to accelerate meaningful results.

“To the extent that the $10 million plan announced in January may be working, it is clearly not working fast enough.”

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Caribbean News

Barbados bestows Humanitarian Award on PAHO director Dr. Carissa Etienne 

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#Barbados, November 25, 2022 – The newest recipient of Barbados’ Humanitarian Award is outgoing Pan American Health Organization Director, Dr Carissa Etienne.  The government of Barbados grants this award to frontline workers who were instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upon receiving the award, Dr. Etienne expressed her gratitude for the recognition, noting, however, that she was more grateful for the opportunity to have served on the island. She also praised Prime Minister, Mia Mottley for her diligence in leading the country and regional involvement during the pandemic.

Humanitarian medals were also given to Frontline workers who risked their own safety to ensure the needs of the public were met. Those who held supporting roles on the frontline received humanitarian lapel pins, and those who made generous donations were given humanitarian plaques.

Dr. Etienne highlighted one major lesson from the pandemic, “we are only safe when the weakest among us is also safe”.

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Bahamas News

Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Immigration Ministers make appearance on TCI Radio Talk Show

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, November 25, 2022 – “We have a humanitarian concern of course but we can only absorb so much” was how Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service in The Bahamas addressed the issue of the UN constantly nudging Caribbean countries about the deportation of migrants and recommending that it not be done.

He was speaking Thursday November 24 with Cheryl and Zhavargo on First Edition which airs on RTC FM.

While acknowledging that the UN offices likely ‘have to do what they do’ Minister Mitchell  explained that the current irregular migrants trying to get into the Bahamas did not fit the bill of ‘refugees’ as defined by the UN.

“We have a treaty obligation that says that if people have a fear of persecution in their home country that we have an obligation to take them in as asylum seekers. The people who come through on these boats from the south of us are not asylum seekers. They are afraid of poverty and that’s a difficult issue but in a legal sense we’re not obligated to embrace people on that basis.”

He cited a study that had found, on any given day there were around 7,000 illegal migrants in The Bahamas trying to get to the US maintaining that his chain of islands had to take a stand on the issue.  The Foreign Affairs minister acknowledged that  TCI was in an identical situation, citing also the the cultural effects of irregular migration.

“There is a cleavage which has developed in our own society over this; people are very concerned that we could lose our identity if we do not get on top of it.”

Earlier this year Arlington “new sheriff in town” Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services in the Turks and Caicos had described statements calling on surrounding countries to do more to assist persons fleeing Haiti as “reckless and misguided.”

“Haiti has a population of 11.6 million people. How could any small developing state like the Turks and Caicos Islands assist that number of people or even the smallest fraction of them? We have a population of some 47,000 persons, and our health care, education and other social systems remain fragile and could never withstand an influx of refugees. This would be a risk to our very own livelihood,” he had said.

He was interviewed in the same show on Thursday prior to Mitchell and expressed a similar determination to crack down on illegal migration.

“I want to stress this. If we catch anyone harbouring illegals, it could be my mommy, she’s going up. We cannot tolerate this. We’re catching the sloops so my Haitian brothers and sisters should stress to them don’t waste your money we’re sending you back.”

Turks and Caicos, this year passed a law, doubling fines and prison times for individuals harbouring illegal migrants.

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Bahamas News

Former Bahamian Cabinet minister defends record amid ongoing police investigation

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, November 25, 2022 – Former Youth, Sports and Culture Minister, Lanisha Rolle is reportedly currently under investigation due to several allegations that came up during her tenure; she however knows nothing of this alleged criminal investigation.

After the minister resigned – unceremoniously –  in February 2021 with little explanation, the ministry was locked down by the Prime Minister for an audit of the National Sports Authority, which fell under her ministry.

Auditor General Terrance Bastin revealed that unauthorised contracts had been issued, some of which were later forwarded to the NSA for payment. Three cheques to contractors were also found, which were paid to individuals and then collected by a senior ministry official.

Despite the allegations, Rolle said she upheld cabinet standards and good governance during her tenure. She added that a minister is not always aware of “everything in a ministry at any given time.”

Rolle said she has not yet been approached by the RBPF regarding the audit findings.  Having served as a member of the Police Force for 11 years herself, Rolle told a crush of media on Wednesday (November 23) that she continues to trust that they will follow the legal process and in due time, the truth of her innocence will be revealed.

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