United States, June 27, 2017 – Utah – More than 300 environmental rights advocates, environmental organisations trustees, supporters and volunteers who monitor the world’s waters gathered for the 2017 Waterkeepers Alliance conference in Park City, Utah, earlier this month but it was one of the smallest countries of all that took centre stage – The Bahamas.
“We were completely surprised that so much of the spotlight was on The Bahamas,” said Joe Darville, chairman of Save The Bays. “There were so many countries represented — Australia, the U.S., Mexico, Asian nations like China and Bhutan and African nations like Senegal but the spotlight really shone on The Bahamas. I think it was because of the fragile nature of our coral reefs, the beauty of our waters and the very energetic legal battles we have launched in recent years to protect this rare gift from Mother Nature.”
In fact, no other country was invited to make two presentations, only The Bahamas. The messages delivered were very different.
Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham spoke of engaging diverse communities to create awareness about the importance of the environment.
“Whether you are raising awareness with schoolchildren, bank presidents, the well-to-do or the person scraping to get by you need to make the environment real – that wetlands are not swamp to be trampled, they are the nurseries that serve as infant habitats for the fish you will catch and eat later. If they are gone, the fish will be, too. We are always about how the health of our waters and our wetlands impacts you in a very real way today and how what you do today determines what you will leave for the Bahamians of tomorrow,” said Ingraham.
Clifton-Western Bays Waterkeeper Fred Smith, QC, revealed the challenges of trying to protect the environment, fighting case after case for environmental rights in the face of a government that made secret deals for large developments without public consultation. Such projects, said Smith, disrupt life as it was known in a local community and may displace populations. They interrupt nature, paying no attention to what has allowed that community to survive for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and many of the projects outright destroy vast acres of precious natural resources, including coral reefs that protect many of the islands of The Bahamas from storm surge.
Waterkeepers Alliance grew out of an effort to restore the Hudson River in New York with now chairman of the largely volunteer non-profit organisation Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a professor of Environmental Law at Pace University, leading the legal charge. The goal of Waterkeepers around the world is to monitor and find means to improve the local waters to make them swimmable, fishable and drinkable. In The Bahamas, monitoring is now underway on three island coastlines.
Kennedy, who also serves as Co-Director of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic and Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper Fund and Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, praised The Bahamas, Save The Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas highly.
“We are thrilled that the dedicated water and human rights guardians from The Bahamas’ Save the Bays and Waterkeeper Bahamas Frederick R.M. Smith, QC., Rashema Ingraham and Joseph Darville brought the spirit of the islands to Waterkeeper Alliance’s annual conference at Deer Valley. Thank you, Fred, for acknowledging our longtime partnership in pursuit of ocean conservation and environmental justice during your group presentation about issues in the Bahamas,” said Kennedy.
Press Release: Save the Bays
GBPA Statement from Ian Rolle, President
Re: GBPA’s Response to fire in the International Bazaar
#TheBahamas, August 10, 2022 – The Grand Bahama Port Authority is aware of the recent fire at the International Bazaar.
The GBPA has engaged, and continues to engage, with operators of the International Bazaar, which include representatives of the Bazaar Association and several property owners, so that we can continue demolition exercises on the dilapidated structures and buildings.
The GBPA is acutely aware of the need to demolish derelict structures within the International Bazaar for the safety of all businesses and visitors. We have performed demolitions in the past at our own cost, most recently in February 2022 when we, in partnership with owners, demolished fire-damaged buildings in the Oriental Section. We have also written to numerous property owners of dilapidated structures over the years to sensitize them to the need to repair or demolish their buildings.
In addition, we have engaged the Government of the Bahamas in advance discussions to approve our requested amendments of the Building and Sanitary bylaws, which would enable GBPA to execute more demolitions in a timely manner and recoup the associated costs.
With the requested bylaw amendments in place, GBPA can continue to make consistent efforts to address the remainder of derelict buildings in the International Bazaar and other dilapidated structures within the city.
The GBPA itself has never owned any part of the International Bazaar but has historically subsidized the Bazaar for many years when owners were no longer maintaining its communal areas.
Beneath the Waves’ summer camp inspires young Bahamians to become stewards of the environment
#TheBahamas, August 10, 2022 – While the waters near Great Exuma are renowned for their unmatched beauty, last weekend, more than 40 students spent a day with Beneath the Waves learning the deeper value of the marine ecosystems that surround their islands and act as a bedrock for the Bahamian economy and way of life.
As participants in the non-profit’s summer camp, the young students learned about mangrove and coral reef habitats and the many species that live among them.
They heard about some of Beneath the Waves’ research, including studies of sharks, seagrass and blue carbon, and research methods like underwater video surveys.
Coral Vita Conservancy, which has been working relentlessly to restore coral reefs off Grand Bahama, sent team member Joe Oliver , Director of Restoration Operations, to assist with the camp and provide in-depth information on corals in The Bahamas.
Team ECCO, a North Carolina-based ocean education organization, also provided in-depth lessons on invertebrates and fish.
Long after the taste of ice cream at the end-of-day party has faded, campers will remember learning how to tag a lifelike shark. And they’ll wear their camp t-shirts with pride, remembering this is the day they learned to value the water all around them and what lies beneath the waves.
Eleven-year-old twin sisters Kassidy and Kaylee Burrows described the camp as a highlight of their summer vacation.
“We had a lot of fun,” said Kassidy. “And we learned all about sponges, the water, mangroves, coral reefs — how they protect animals and how they protect the shore — and also about animals themselves, aquatic animals, for example, sea anemones, corals, sponges and sharks.”
Kassidy was especially enthused to share her experience with helping to plant new mangroves.
“We found out how mangrove seeds can actually disperse into the water,” she said.
“And I thought they were going to be small seeds, but, in my opinion, they looked like asparagus kind of.
“We also got to go in the water and plant new mangroves.”
Beneath the Waves’ scientists have been studying The Bahamas’ waters for more than a decade, having helped with the creation and management of conservation policies, including the legislation that made the country’s waters a shark sanctuary in 2011.
And in that context, the value of helping young Bahamians gain these kinds of hands-on experiences and lessons, ones they’ll undoubtedly carry with them through life, can’t be overstated.
Kaylee Burrows is already brainstorming the ways she can apply what she learned in her future career.
While the mangroves piqued her sister’s interest, Kaylee said she was fascinated by coral reefs and the important role they play on a global scale, though she noted they don’t seem to be sufficiently appreciated.
“I learned that The Bahamas has some of the biggest coral reefs in the world,” she said. “We actually put pieces of coral on a pipe to help build a platform for the coral. The reason I chose coral reefs over all of the topics is because we the people of the Bahamas, don’t even recognize how important our islands are. These coral reefs are very beneficial to the whole world.”
Kaylee said she hopes to one day become a veterinarian and an author.
“As a vet, I can help not just land animals, but marine animals too,” she said. “As an author, I can write books on marine biology. I think this experience helped with my future career, and I’m forever grateful.”
Beneath the Waves Managing Director Jamie Fitzgerald said plans are underway to make the camp an annual event.
“We look forward to being able to work more closely with local schools in the islands we frequent, such as Exuma and Nassau, to develop educational materials around sharks and marine science, and to foster opportunities for internships and future careers for any aspiring Bahamian marine biologists,” Fitzgerald said.
Header: Hands-on experience – Exuma students planting mangroves with the help of research scientists from Beneath the Waves — just one of the many memorable moments from the non-profit’s summer camp that was held on July 23. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)
1st insert: Learning about coral — With the help of experts from Coral Vita, a Grand Bahama-based organization working to restore reefs near the island, students built plaforms for coral. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)
2nd insert: More to come – Camp leaders and participants posed with the inflatable shark, as the first of what is hoped to be many Beneath the Waves summer camps came to an end. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)
Release: Beneath the Waves
Caribbean Rising: Regional Heads of Government Meet in The Bahamas Aug 16-17 to discuss Caribbean position on Climate Change Mitigation
#TheBahamas, August 5, 2022 – The Bahamas will host the first Regional Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean in preparation for COP27 in Nassau, The Bahamas on August 16-17, 2022.
The inaugural event is being introduced by the Government of The Bahamas with the aim of devising a regional position on climate change mitigation ahead of COP 27 which will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt November 6-20, 2022.
Invited participants include the Head of State from the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla,
Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos.
The Government of The Bahamas intends to establish the meeting as an annual event and will seek to have it instituted as a regular meeting on calendar of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC).
“The Bahamas is introducing this conference as we seek to get results in the climate change fight,” Prime Minister Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas said ahead of the talks.
“The Bahamas, along with the region, has lobbied year after year, meeting after meeting, as we sought for the world to acknowledge our vulnerable position.”
“This meeting will position the Caribbean region to take control of our fate and present a unified position to the world at COP27,” Prime Minister Davis added.
The meeting is also intended to establish a Caribbean response exclusive of the conventional Latin
America-Caribbean pairing in order to better reflect common geographical and geo-political issues of Caribbean states.
“What we’ve been lacking regionally is a strategy that would aid us in our negotiation process when we go to the conferences of the parties referred to as COPs,” says Rochelle Newbold, Special Advisor on Climate Change and Environmental Matters and Climate Tsar in the Office of the Prime Minister in The Bahamas.
“This year will be COP number 27 and, as a region, we have never put forward a strategy document or an intent of how we want to deal with the issues that we face within the region collectively,” Newbold added.
The conference agenda will also focus on renewable energy, energy security, climate adaptation, climate financing, loss and damage due to tropical weather systems and establishing a framework for the sale of carbon credits.
Delegates attending COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in December 2021 signed off on a global climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and counter global warming by limiting the temperature rise on Earth to a 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold.
The global warming phenomenon has been linked to more frequent and aggressive hurricanes in the Caribbean, which have subjected the region to billions of dollars in damage and bound countries to burdensome loan commitments.
According to the Assessment of the Effects and Impacts of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas report issued by the Inter-American Development Bank in March 2022, damage and losses from Hurricane Dorian amounted to US$3.4 billion, a quarter of the country’s GDP.
A heat wave rolling across the United States and Europe is also being attributed to rising temperatures.
The UK recorded temperatures of over 40°C (104°F) for the first time in July 2022, according to local forecasters.
“We know that if we reach that 1.5°C and we exceed it, everything changes for everybody. While land-locked countries and large continents like South America will experience a change, island-states will experience that change three and four-fold.”
“With this meeting we will have all of those who face the same threat level sitting down together, discussing options, considering what is being suggested and how realistic this will be. For us, this is a fundamental thing that we should have been doing a long time ago,” Newbold said.
At the conclusion of the meeting, a Chair’s Summary will be made available detailing the scope of the discussions as well as key messages and ideas that emerge. Additionally, the region plans to launch an initiative at COP27 to advance advocacy efforts on behalf of Caribbean States.
Photo Caption: During the weekly Press Briefing, at his Office, on August 4, 2022, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis announced that The Bahamas will host the Regional Caribbean Heads of Government Meeting, 16-17 August, 2022 at Baha Mar Resort. (BIS Photos/Eric Rose)
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