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BAHAMAS: Environmental Activists, Biminites Decry South Cat Cay Development, Document Evidence

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Cat Cay 5#Bahamas, November 17, 2017 – South Cat Cay – A small plane circled slowly, flying over the blue-green waters of the northern Bahamas. It should have been a day of sightseeing, photographing an island under carefully managed development with its fragile marine resources protected as the gems that will lure those who will eventually visit, live there or leave their yachts.

Instead, what they saw as they flew over South Cat Cay sent chills down their spines and cries of outrage and despair from their hearts.   The group in the plane included representatives from Save Our Home, a Bimini-based organisation, Save The Bays and Waterkeepers Bahamas.

Save The Bays Chairman Joe Darville said what he saw convinced him more than ever of the urgency of creating comprehensive environmental protection legislation and placing an environmental watchdog on every project.

“It takes hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years to create coral reefs and minutes with heavy equipment to destroy it,” said Darville. “We are pleading, not asking, pleading with government.   When will you listen?   When will we begin to take these gifts that God gave us seriously and stop allowing uncaring people to eviscerate them in the name of progress?   This is not progress.  This is evil.”

The story below is their story, in their words.  Save Our Home wrote it at the close of their aerial and land inspection during early November, 2017. Their words have not been edited. The introduction, they said, was gleaned from previously published reports:

In 2009, the Government of the Bahamas under PM (Hubert) Ingraham gave full environmental approval for the 85-acre privately owned South Cat Cay for an exclusive, high end, hospitality and marina project.   The project will comprise a 53 room five star branded boutique hotel with related amenities, 29 marina condo units, 37 residential units, a 137 slip marina, restaurants, shops and recreational facilities.     This high-end resort will also include an upmarket residential community.

Cat Cay dredging Nov 2017During the course of construction in two phases it is estimated that some 75 Bahamians will be employed, and upon completion and build out some 170 permanent jobs will be created.   In addition to the $94 million capital investment by the developers, their economic impact assessment projects over $200 million in real estate sales over the first five years, which will significantly benefit government revenues, suppliers and employment.   The developer said the project will bring considerable benefit to Biminites in the form of employment and entrepreneurial opportunities generated by proposed retail space and excursions in the marina village.   They said they plan to purchase Bimini built skiffs for bone-fishing excursions led by Bahamian guides.   A Bahamian will operate a ferry service to and from Bimini; an artist in residence program will expose Bahamian artists to new techniques; a recording space will dedicate studio time for local musicians and local cooks will be provided with classical training.   Additionally, a fund is being established for primary and secondary educational facilities in Bimini to further long-term environmental awareness. It is also proposed that a marine sanctuary will be created to the south east of South Cat Cay to complement the educational initiative.

But there comes a point when you start to feel like it’s just Deja-vu, that we have heard all this before, been promised jobs for Biminites, been told the highest environmental impact studies are being adhered to, but the reality is, to those of us who live here, it’s all just “hot air” and what they think people want to hear to sell us another story of jobs, progress and investment, but at what expense is the big question?

On Thursday, November 9 the Save Our Home-Bimini Environmental Activist group was invited along with members of the Save The Bays team and Waterkeepers Bahamas to fly over South Cat Cay and witness for ourselves what is really going on.   Pictures and videos never lie and there before our very eyes was proof that the development is taking place as we speak, without the relevant silt barriers in place, the kind that actually work and contain the silt that is, properly installed without gaps and without proof of the silt drifting for miles.   Memories of the same devastation at the hands of RW (Resorts World) Bimini in 2014 during the dredging of the cruise ship pier spring to mind, with the same ineffectual yellow silt curtains that within two weeks of being installed broke open, covering the ocean in drifting polystyrene and the beaches to this day, covered in yellow plastics.   The cruise ship was rendered obsolete in a year.   Meanwhile, we lost 12 main dive sites off the west coast of Bimini, smothered in silt, which suffocated the corals and partially buried the stones of Atlantis, sites that divers come from all over the world to see and that locals earn their living from in dive tours.   Marine life dwindled to a point that some species are no longer seen in these waters.

In the past couple of weeks, more than one hundred Bahamians have been fired from RW, leaving people wondering if the resort is going bankrupt over rumors that they are losing in excess of $26,000 a day.   And whilst the resort here in Bimini conjures images of a sinking ship, long predicted by those of us in the know due to the size of the development being too big for the infrastructure on such a small island, the Government is meanwhile playing out the same story all over again in South Cat Cay.

Inadequate silt barriers Cat Cay dev Nov 9 2017Large populations of turtles used to be seen on the cays around South Cat, just like they did offshore from RW Bimini.   Now the water is so muddy with silt, nothing can be seen and in Bimini an annual Power Boat Grand Prix is organized around the very reefs that are home to turtles and sharks.

Bimini and South Cat Cay has a blessing and curse, a blessing that it is at the top of the Bahamas chain and so brings an abundance of tourism to these shores, but a curse that successive governments seem to cash in on in taxes from such large scale developments, none of which is seen invested back into the local communities.   As Fred Smith QC has pointed out, until we have local governance and taxes made on these islands invested back into local community developments, instead of going into the countries capital never to be seen again, the family islands will continue to deteriorate and decline.

One would think, that when heads of agreement come together, that a budget could be put in place with the developers to financially cover the employment of an on-site environmental advisor to monitor the development and provide weekly reports that all is in keeping with plans laid out, providing jobs for Bahamians and protecting our shores.   Instead, developers seems to think they have carte blanche to do whatever they like while no one is watching.   Accountability seems sadly lacking throughout the Bahamas development.   At the end of the day, we are left with our natural resources ransacked and foreign developers pulling out, once the damage is already done.   New legislation is needed putting the environment first in order to save one of the most beautiful parts of the world before it’s too late.   With the Bahamas being such low lying islands and global warming and sea levels rising, it makes no sense not to put new environmental legislation at the top of the priorities list moving forward.

Release: DPA News

Photo captions:

Header:  Sand and silt from dredging and excavating on South Cat Cay can smother coral reefs and kill the life that depends on the marine habitat. Already, say representatives of three organizations that inspected the development site this week, the once plentiful sea turtles in the area are no more.

1st insert: Dredging and infrastructure work is underway at South Cat Cay where a hotel and marina were approved for the 85-acre site under the former FNM government, but environmentalists want to know where is the protection for marine resources?

2nd & 3rd inserts: Inadequate silt barriers allow disturbed sand and silt to float over open waters, smothering coral reefs and suffocating the life that depends upon the habitat, potentially endangering grouper, hogfish and reef species and upsetting the full eco-cycle in a fragile eco-system. The above image was taken from a small plane flying over a development underway at South Cat Cay in the northern Bahamas. Environmentalists from three groups want to know where are those who are supposed to be protecting the marine environment of The Bahamas? They fear the project will mirror the tragedies of nearby Bimini where world-famous dive sites were destroyed by a massive dredger to make way for a cruise ship dock. The cruise ship does not call on Bimini anymore and more than 150 people have been laid off from their jobs at the resort it was intended to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

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Invest Turks and Caicos Attended Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference & Operations Summit

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#TurksandCaicos, November 24, 2021 – Invest Turks and Caicos (Invest TCI) is pleased to announce the Agency’s participation in the 10TH Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference & Operations Summit (CHICOS) held November 10th-12th, 2021, at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas.

CHICOS is one of the premier hospitality conferences in the region. In its 10th year, this event brought together more than 300 regional and international investors and operators and the region’s leading decision makers – all to discuss the region’s markets and possibilities.

Invest TCI participated in the Caribbean Government Leaders plenary session on Friday, November 12th, alongside the Bahamas Investment Authority, Invest St. Lucia, and JAMPRO. The plenary discussions focused on the investment environment of Caribbean economies in a post covid environment under two key themes: diversification of the economy and tourism and the need for greater involvement of (and positive impact on) local communities.

Attending the summit on behalf of Invest TCI was Interim CEO, Angela Musgrove and Legal and Compliance Officer, Judith Garland.

Commenting on the summit, Ms. Garland stated, “I was delighted to represent the Agency at the 10th Anniversary edition of CHICOS. I found the sessions engaging, and the industry trends and knowledge imparted was most valuable. It was great to meet new faces and establish relationships with industry colleagues, which can present mutually beneficial partnerships and relationships in the future.

Interim CEO Angela Musgrove stated, “Invest TCI will continue to support and leverage industry conferences to promote opportunities in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This is the Agency’s 5th year attending CHICOS, and it has allowed us to directly engage with potential investors and prospects interested in doing business in the TCI. Through these types of events, the Agency can continue to proactively target new investment opportunities, lucrative partnerships, and financial opportunities that contribute to overall economic development.”

For more information on upcoming events, visit our website at investturksandcaicos.tc.

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Bahamian Para-Athlete Erin Brown to Become Godmother of RC’s Odyssey of The Seas

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#TheBahamas, November 24, 2021 – A Bahamian woman who lost her leg to cancer and went on to defy odds and inspire thousands will be named godmother of Royal Caribbean International’s Odyssey of the Seas. Erin Brown, a 41-year-old mother of two and a para-triathlete who cycles, runs, swims and competes at an international level, will accept the honour at a special ceremony in Florida later this week.

“From the moment we heard the story of Erin, how her courage and determination in the face of adversity inspired others and led to a more inclusive consciousness about succeeding with disabilities, we were moved and knew she was a great candidate for godmother of our newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “A godmother serves as the guiding spirit of the ship and brings good luck and safe travels to its crew and guests.”

While she was in college participating as a track and field athlete, Brown was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma after suffering a fall that resulted in a broken leg. After more than a year of chemotherapy, her tumor showed no signs of shrinking, and Brown made the difficult decision to amputate her limb above the knee. Brown, who watched her own mother struggle for five years before losing her battle with lupus linked to cancer, knew she had to keep going because her child depended on her. She underwent surgery and woke up to one less leg. “Mind over matter,” she repeated. And then, she re-invented herself.

She said she recognizes now that her disability was a signal to start over. The first time she completed the 100-mile cycling event, Ride for Hope, raising money for cancer research, education and prevention, she led a group of adaptive athletes who heard the thunderous applause and cheers from the crowd that had witnessed the one-legged cyclist achieve what few with two legs could on the hilly terrain.

“A sudden change like the one I experienced is just an opportunity to rebrand yourself to yourself and to society. All those skills you had before – you still have them,” said Brown who has gone on to become an advocate for rights for the disabled and works at the University of The Bahamas as the compliance officer and counselor for the physically challenged.

“Having Erin as our godmother is a fitting way for us to pay tribute to The Bahamas,” said Bayley. “Our company’s very first port of call outside the U. S. was to The Bahamas more than 50 years ago. To this day, Nassau remains one of our most popular ports of call and Perfect Day at CocoCay remains our top pick by our guests. We are excited about this ceremony and honouring our long-time partners, as well as the newest Bahamian flagged ship in our fleet.”

 

Photo Caption: Erin Brown, who calls herself a limb-difference individual, will be named the first Bahamian Godmother of a Royal Caribbean International vessel when she presides over the naming of Odyssey of the Seas.

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Sandals Foundation donates to skills training programs in Nassau

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#TheBahamas, November 24, 2021 – The clothing, textile and art and craft programs at CC Sweeting High School and Aquinas College recently received a major boost from Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort and Offshore Island, through their charity arm, the Sandals Foundation.

The resort, which is currently undergoing a multi-million-dollar overhaul generously, donated bolts of fabric to both schools. This came after Regional Projects Coordinator, Kerry Ann Fung and her team alerted the Foundation about the fabrics as they felt that the schools would benefit greatly from them.

Sandals Royal Bahamian’s General Manager, Adrian Whitehead did the handover and shared that while the resort’s doors may be closed, their hands and hearts remain open to the people of Bahamas.

“We are resolute about giving back to this country in any way that we can. I’m delighted that Aquinas and CC Sweeting will make good use of the fabric and that it will help students to develop the skills they need to create sustainable and expansive change in society. As we continue with the work on the resort, we plan on donating so much more in the coming weeks,” he shared.

He added that properly resourced learning environments form a huge part of Sandals’ commitment to education, as transformative initiatives have been the Sandals Foundation’s goal since its inception in 2009.

Principal at Aquinas College, Mrs. Shona Knowles who received the fabric on behalf of the school shared that the fabric will be used to aid in the inculcation of entrepreneurial skills in students.

“We have a very vibrant art and craft department. The fabric we received from the resort will be used by students for art projects where they make things like handbags, cushions, stool and bench covers and other artistic pieces. We also have plans to use some of the fabric to design backdrops for multimedia purposes,” she said.

“We are grateful to Sandals Royal Bahamian? and are certainly looking forward to a long-term partnership between the Resort and our school,” declared Knowles.

In addition to other donations that the resort plans on making, come December, the Sandals Foundation will be spreading joy with a toy through its annual Christmas Toy Drive. This initiative will see them donating close to 2000 toys to children from various schools and communities in New Providence and Exuma.

The Toy Drive has been a staple calendar event for more than 10 years through generous donations from United States toy company, Hasbro and the kind support of Sandals and Beaches Resorts team members, guests, travel agents and partners.

Release: Sandals Foundation

Photo Caption:  Principal at Aquinas College, Shona Knowles accepts fabric donation on behalf of her school from Sandals Royal Bahamian’s General Manager, Adrian Whitehead.

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