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NEW STUDY LINKS CORAL DISEASE TO COMMERCIAL SHIPPING PORTS

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A massive starlet coral colony from a reef off Grand Bahama has lost almost all tissue from Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. Waterborne and highly transmissible, SCTLD infects over 20 species. The disease infiltrated Bahamian waters in 2019. Photo courtesy of the Perry Institute of Marine Science via Precision Media

Spread fueled by vessel traffic between islands

#TheBahamas, August 11, 2021 – The first scientific assessment into Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) in The Bahamas highlights the need for early detection and rapid response to an underwater outbreak causing the greatest decline in a decade to coral populations.

In a new study published in the journal, Frontiers in Marine Science, a team of researchers confirmed a theory first espoused by the Perry Institute of Marine Science in April 2020, that tainted ballast water brought SCTLD to Grand Bahama sometime in 2019, and from there, the disease rapidly spread to New Providence.

Strengthening the hypothesis is the fact that no SCTLD has been reported near Bimini, the island closest to Florida. The southern state has been affected by SCTLD for at least five years.

“Freeport and Nassau are the two largest container ports in The Bahamas and are over 200 km apart with multiple islands between them where SCTLD has not yet been reported. It is probable that SCTLD arrived in The Bahamas via commercial shipping, followed by rapid spread within islands via local currents and other vectors,” according to the research article posted earlier this month.

It’s authored by Dr Craig Dahlgren, Dr Valeria Pizarro, Dr Krista Sherman and William Greene of the Perry Institute of Marine Science and Joseph Oliver from Grand Bahama’s Coral Vita, a company specializing in reef restoration.

“Bahamian reefs could experience local extinctions of at least three species that are already rare. At least one coral species is at risk of becoming extinct locally due to SCTLD,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Dahlgren, a recognized expert in tropical marine ecosystems.

“These results imply that Bahamian coral reefs could suffer a major change in coral community composition, thus impacting their ecological functionality.”

Corals are the engineers that build a valuable, diverse marine ecosystem. Without them, the ecosystem collapses and reefs lose their function.

“The rate of spread of SCTLD is a great concern and challenge for the management of reefs. The absence of SCTLD from surveys of Grand Bahama and New Providence in 2019 but a widespread occurrence across at least two thirds of the reef area in 2020 for both islands indicate a rapid spread of the disease,” said co-author and marine biologist, Dr Pizarro.

Once reaching The Bahamas, researchers suggest the spread of the disease within reefs was likely due to several factors – direct contact with contaminated ships, diving equipment, fish, water currents and Hurricane Dorian.

“Smaller vessels including commercial and recreational fishing boats, yachts, and inter-island mailboats may have also contributed to the spread of SCTLD within each island and to other parts of The Bahamas, like north Eleuthera Island where SCTLD was confirmed in December 2020,” the study stated.

The research intends to provide marine resource managers with information on where the disease occurred and what species were affected in a short timeframe. Moreover, the study identifies which coral species could suffer local extinctions and makes recommendations for antibiotics and the adoption of other measures such as coral rescue facilities to prevent loss of these species locally.

Scientists believe the disease could be contained through effective regulation of ballast water transfer, implementing policies relating to pumping, dumping and disinfecting bilge water, and minimizing other human spread.

A deadly disease, SCTLD infects over 20 species. It is waterborne and highly transmissible. It could linger in an area for several years, swiftly reducing colony density and living coral tissue. The cause of the disease is unknown.

According to the study, reefs closest to Grand Bahama and New Providence main commercial shipping ports recorded the greatest number of coral death and infection rates for the most vulnerable species. The further away from the port, the healthier the corals.

In New Providence, direction of the corals in relation to the port also played a factor. Sites to the east of the port were generally healthier when compared to sites west of the port, where nearly the entire coastline was affected by SCTLD.

When it came to Grand Bahama, depth was a significant factor in influencing the proportion of colonies that were healthy. Death and infection were more prevalent in shallow reefs.

There was one bright spot identified. Resistance to the disease was slowly taking hold in a case of survival of the fittest. Although there is an increase in new deaths, scientists observed a decrease in active infection for most species on both islands. The proportion of healthy corals, however, remain largely unchanged.

The study entailed rapid assessments of 25 reefs off Grand Bahama conducted in March 2020 and six reefs off New Providence in June 2020.

Surveys began at sites where SCTLD had been reported for each island and extended outward along the reef from those locations to assess the extent of the disease outbreak for both islands. A second set of surveys for both Grand Bahama and New Providence was conducted in January 2021 to examine changes over time at previously surveyed reefs and at additional sites to determine the spread of the disease for each island.

These last surveys were comprised of 16 sites in Grand Bahama, including 11 of the previously assessed sites, and 29 in New Providence, including all sites surveyed in June 2020.

“Results from this study stress the need for early detection and suggest that preventing the spread of the disease between islands via vessel traffic is of utmost importance,” the study noted.

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GBPA welcomes EY’s New Office to Freeport

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#TheBahamas, June 22, 2022 – The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) has approved a business license for EY Bahamas Ltd., who is set to open a new office in Freeport.

With more than 300,000 employees globally, EY provides assurance, consulting, law, strategy, tax and transactions services to businesses, countries and entrepreneurs. Significant economic impact from this investment will stem from the need for local housing, food and beverage, entertainment, transportation and more.

“We are pleased to welcome EY to Freeport,” said Ian Rolle, GBPA’s President.  “GBPA has been working with EY to take advantage of the BH-1B Visa program, which provides a significant opportunity for us to welcome more people to our city. We are looking forward to the economic boost to local businesses including grocery stores, taxis, car rentals, the housing market, restaurants and more. The ripple effects as a result of EY’s new footprint in Freeport will be a positive addition to our business community.”

GBPA and EY began serious discussions in 2019 prior to Hurricane Dorian regarding the benefits of operating in Freeport’s Special Economic Zone.  Since then, GBPA continued building its relationship with the firm and further helped them to understand the benefits of the BH-1B visa, which allows them to use Freeport to support their client’s needs across the region and globe.  Besides attracting local Bahamian and international talent, EY was drawn to Freeport’s proximity to North America, its safe environment, technology infrastructure and more.

EY has operated in The Bahamas for decades, providing rewarding careers for Bahamians. In its new Freeport location, EY will offer its clients solutions utilizing global talent, while creating new opportunities for employment and training for Grand Bahamians.

“Our Invest Grand Bahama promotional arm is dedicated to attracting these types of businesses that can benefit from our unique Free Trade Zone. We will continue to do our part as we promote the best Freeport has to offer,” Mr. Rolle concluded.

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RM Bailey’s Class of 2022 told, go where your heart leads you; be courageous, innovative, be your best

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By: Kathryn Campbell

Bahamas Information Services

 

#TheBahamas, June 22, 2022 – Vice-President of the Senate, Senator the Hon. Barry Griffin appealed to R.M. Bailey Senior High School’s Class of 2022 to be advocates of change and to use their voices to encourage good governance and constant innovation.

Senator Griffin was the guest speaker at the school’s commencement exercise Monday, June 20, at Charles Saunders Auditorium. “Empowered to Make What Seems Impossible – Possible” was the theme for the event.

“What we need now from our leaders is a sense of urgency. There has long been this feeling in The Bahamas, and in particular the upper echelons of our country, that we have comfort and we can manage to navigate the twists and turns that come our way,” said Senator Griffin.

“But what Hurricane Dorian has taught us, what the pandemic has taught us, what the inflation and rising costs of gas, electricity and food has taught us is — something that those at the fringes of our society have known for far too long — that comfort we feel will not last for long.”

To make the change, he remarked that the love of an old  “anachronistic” system that no longer serves the nation and its students must be removed.

He appealed for expanded opportunities for all, structural changes in the economy and in politics.

“We must begin to call a spade a spade — we have a problem of inequality, a problem of equal access to opportunity and a problem of failed politics. And graduates the only way that changes, is by you making your voices heard.”

He offered the following advice to the graduates:

  1. The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are. So make up your own rules.
  2. Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.
  3. When you take risks, you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, both are equally important.
  4. Be bold, be courageous, be your best.
  5. There is no script. Live your life the way you want.
  6. Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
  7. If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.
  8. Failure is the condiment that gives success flavour.
  9. Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.
  10. Go where your heart leads you — and do everything you desire — act as if it were impossible for you to fail.

“My advice is to be bold, to be you, to embrace failure, and to live as if everything is possible.

“It is my hope that you run out of here excited, leaning forward into the wind and ready to take the world by storm,” he said.

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Summit of the Americas elevates hemispheric challenges, Bahamas PM vocal

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By Shanieka Smith

Features Writer

 

#TheBahamas, June 17, 2022 – “The Americas are challenged by crisis.” This was the statement made by the Bahamas Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Philip Davis during his contribution to the Plenary Session of the 9th Summit of the Americas on June 10, 2022.

“Climate, COVID and conflict have undermined our safety and our security,” he said. He went further to ask some thought-provoking questions: “Have we done enough here, at this gathering, to relieve suffering? To promote peace? To fight for the economic dignity of our People? “Will the work we carried out here continue once the spotlight and the world’s attention has moved on?”

He said the work and fine words do not count unless the people are told that the leaders have laid a true foundation for their progress.

Hinting back to the Summit in 2019, he said it is evident that the good intentions and optimism of that gathering did not translate into enduring advancement.

“Indeed, some countries in our hemisphere have become more unequal and more violent… across the Americas, the scourges of racism and discrimination appear to be on the rise. Emerging moral and technological challenges to our democratic norms threaten our capacity to deliver free and fair elections, and effective governance.” He added that all the mentioned challenges are “eclipsed by the existential threat of climate change.”

He expressed thanks to President Biden and Vice-President Harris and the people of the United States, to host and facilitate the dialogue and cooperation because none of the mentioned issues can be resolved by one nation.

Davis added, however, that “multilateral engagement at the highest levels happens too infrequently – certainly when it comes to issues which are important to the Caribbean,” he added. “But if the work of this Summit continues, if the will to cooperate endures, if words turn into action –change can lead to progress, and we can move forward.”

He highlighted several key factors affecting the region’s development, like hurricanes and other natural disasters that result in injury and debt, Covid-19 and the lack of sufficient healthcare workers, disinformation, and the illegal shipment of guns and movement of people. He also hinted at a topical issue, which suited the occasion as some countries were not invited to the Summit.

“It is easy to talk with those with whom we agree, but we must also be able to talk with those with whom we disagree. In fact, sometimes those are the conversations that are most urgently needed,” he said.  Prime Minister Davis noted that all the countries in the hemisphere faced overlapping developmental, security and democratic challenges. Collaboration and collective action can only be of mutual benefit. The absence of the Republic of Cuba has made these deliberations less complete,” added the Prime Minister.

“We must also be mindful of the unintended consequences of isolation and separation,” he said as he shared that more could be done to provide support for Haitians.

He noted that for the institutions within the Inter-American system to fulfil their potential, there should be some rethinking or re-calibrating. He added that the Organisation of American States (OAS), in particular, required both a structural and cultural adjustment.

As the Prime Minister ended his presentation, he called for not just more talking but also that participants “keep ‘doing — upholding our commitments and taking the action necessary for our collective survival.”

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