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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.

Bahamas News

PM Davis speaks of ‘boundless possibilities’ and collaboration, at the Afreximbank 31st Annual Meetings

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NASSAU, The Bahamas – While addressing the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) 31st Annual Meetings (AAM2024), on June 13, 2024, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis noted that he was reminded of the “boundless possibilities that define the Caribbean and, indeed, The Bahamas.”

“Our region is not just a collection of islands but a vibrant tapestry of culture, innovation, and opportunity,” Prime Minister Davis said, at the event held at the Baha Mar Convention Centre.  “The Bahamas, with its strategic location and dynamic economy, serves as a symbol of possibility and a gateway to broader economic horizons.”

He added:  “Growing up on Cat Island, one of our country’s beautiful family of islands, I was always filled with big dreams for my country. I may not have envisioned the specific paths our economy would take, but I always believed in the limitless potential of our nation.  Our history is one of invention, disruption, resilience, and innovation. We have pioneered in various fields, from tourism to financial services, transforming challenges into opportunities and showcasing our ability to innovate and lead.”

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that, just as The Bahamas had embraced its unique position to become a global leader in tourism and financial services, so too can they, as a collective of African and Caribbean nations, harness “our potential to shape our own economic destiny.”

“Today, our presence here underscores the readiness of The Bahamas, and indeed the Caribbean, to be a home for global leaders in various sectors,” he noted.  “The Bahamas has always been more than just a tropical paradise. It is a place of possibility, where dreams are not just dreamt but realized. This ethos is reflected in our history and in the transformative innovations we continue to champion.”

“In a similar vein, Africa is a land of immense potential, brimming with opportunities for growth and development,” Prime Minister Davis noted.  “Our collective mission is to harness this potential, creating pathways to prosperity that benefit not just our regions but the global community.”

Prime Minister Davis went further to outline “a blueprint for collaboration that we all can embrace.”

“This blueprint encompasses key initiatives designed to unite our banking systems, enhance financial inclusivity, and catalyze economic growth across Africa and the Caribbean,” he said.  “This strategic plan is anchored in our shared desire for prosperity and our commitment to overcoming the challenges of distance and disparate regulatory environments.”

Prime Minister Davis added:  “Establishing a Joint Financial Task Force can be the cornerstone of our blueprint. This collaborative body will harness the expertise of banking and finance leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders from both regions. Tasked with identifying and dismantling barriers to banking integration, this task force symbolizes our collective will to forge a unified path forward.”

Prime Minister Davis suggested that they could also harmonize their regulatory frameworks to address “critical hurdles” in their journey.

“By aligning our anti-money laundering (AML) standards, counter-financing of terrorism (CFT) policies, and digital currency regulations, we create a seamless environment conducive to cross-regional banking operations,” he stated.  “With its robust regulatory landscape, exemplified by the DARE Act, The Bahamas is a pioneer in this endeavor, guiding our efforts towards regulatory excellence and stability.”

He added:  “Additionally, promoting financial inclusion and digital banking leverages the power of technology to erase boundaries and open doors. Inspired by The Bahamas’ pioneering launch of the Sand Dollar, the world’s first central bank digital currency, this facet of the blueprint envisions a future where digital banking platforms extend financial services to every corner of our regions, ensuring that none of our citizens is left behind.”

Prime Minister Davis said that facilitating trade and investment through streamlined banking procedures and dedicated financial instruments could bolster economic exchanges between Africa and the Caribbean. By focusing on sectors of mutual interest like tourism, agriculture, renewable energy, and technology, he added, they could unlock new avenues for growth and collaboration.

“Key to this blueprint is developing human capital, underscoring the belief that our greatest asset is our people,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “Joint educational initiatives and training programs will equip banking professionals with cutting-edge skills in fintech, cybersecurity, and regulatory compliance, ensuring our financial sector is robust, secure, and innovative.”

“Creating a bilateral payment system or exploring the development of a shared digital currency represents a bold step towards financial sovereignty and integration,” he added.  “Such an initiative will facilitate smoother trade and investment, reduce our reliance on external currencies, and strengthen our economic bonds.

“Together, Africa and the Caribbean can embark on this transformative journey, driven by unity, innovation, and mutual respect. Let this blueprint be our guide as we strive to unlock the full potential of our regions, forging a path towards prosperity that will be remembered for generations yet to come.”

Prime Minister Davis noted that the Afreximbank annual meeting represented “a pivotal moment for all of us, especially for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).”

He said: “We face a global financial system that often locks us out, creating inequities perpetuated by the Global North. These powerful nations frequently establish one set of rules for themselves and another for developing states, undermining our progress and prosperity.  It is imperative that we call out this behavior and demand an inclusive, fair model for the global financial system.”

Prime Minister Davis continued:  “Our journey together – Africa and the Caribbean – supported by the visions we share and the actions we are committed to, heralds the dawn of a new era.  An era where financial inclusivity fostered by innovations like the Sand Dollar and robust regulatory frameworks become the standard across our waters.  An era where our joint task forces and harmonized policies pave the way for a future where trade, investment, and mutual growth flow as freely as the waters that connect us.”

He said that, as they all looked to the horizon, they should see not a barrier but a vast, uncharted ocean of potential.

“Let us decide, here and now, that the waters which separate our lands will not impede our progress but will act as the very medium through which we unite our dreams and ambitions,” Prime Minister Davis said.

He added:  “Friends, I ask the question again – will we allow the separation of water to get in our way? Or will we embark together on this bold journey, proving that our spirits are stronger than the oceans, our resolve deeper than the deepest sea, and our potential boundless as the sky above?  The choice is ours. Let us choose to bridge the waters, to unite our dreams, and to craft a future where Africa and the Caribbean thrive together, in prosperity and partnership. This is our moment. Let us seize it with both hands, for the sake of our present and for the countless generations to come.”

“Lastly, I hope that this annual meeting in the Bahamas is successful – and I have no doubt that it will be – and that you have time to kick off your shoes, get your feet wet in our sands, get some sand in your toes, enjoy the warmth of our people, and discover why it is better in The Bahamas,” Prime Minister Davis said.

“The moment is now.  Let us seize the moment.”

PHOTO CAPTION

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis addresses the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) 31st Annual Meetings (AAM2024), on June 13, 2024, held at Baha Mar Convention Centre.

 

(BIS Photos/Eric Rose)

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PM Davis: Loftus Roker embodied the ideals of a statesman

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By ERIC ROSE
Bahamas Information Services

Hon. Philip Davis


NASSAU, The Bahamas
– During his remarks at the state funeral for the Hon. A. Loftus Roker, on May 31, 2024, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis raised the question as to what was a statesman, as all in attendance reflected on the life and legacy of “one of The Bahamas’ most distinguished public servants.”

“A statesman is not merely a politician; rather, he is one who, with vision and courage, shapes the destiny of his nation for generations to come,” Prime Minister Davis said, during the event held at Christ Church Cathedral.  “Loftus Roker embodied these ideals through every chapter of his remarkable life.”

“Born in the humble surroundings of Delectable Bay, Acklins, Loftus’s journey was one marked by resilience, determination, and a profound commitment to justice and national progress,” he added.  “His parents, farmers who also engaged in fishing, instilled in him the value of education and hard work – an ethos that defined his entire career.”

Prime Minister said that Mr. Roker’s tenure as Minister of National Security and Immigration was characterized by his “bold and transformative” policies.

“His leadership during this pivotal time was not only about enforcing laws but about defending the sovereignty and welfare of our nation,” he noted.  “He was an unapologetic ambassador for our sovereignty, a voice of moral clarity in the cacophony of political discourse. When he spoke, we listened, we paused, and we often re-evaluated our approaches.”

Prime Minister Davis added:  “Beyond his public roles, Mr. Roker was a guardian of our historical integrity and a protector of many insightful political secrets – some of which he took to the grave. His candor was legendary; it was his trademark and his gift to us. He never shied away from telling the truth, however uncomfortable it might be, choosing integrity over convenience every time. I, too, was a recipient of his forthright critiques – a testament to his commitment to the party he loved and the ideals he upheld.”

Presentation of National Flag to family by PM Davis

Prime Minister Davis noted that, reflecting on his “incredible” journey and contributions, they recalled his early foray into politics – “a daring run for office before he was legally old enough to do so.”

“This bold move was not just a youthful transgression, but a declaration of his readiness to serve and lead, setting the stage for his lifelong dedication to our nation’s governance,” he said.

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that it was his profound privilege to stand with Mr. Roker in Pompey Bay, Acklins, in August of 2023, where his Government recognized his lifelong service to The Bahamas by renaming the Acklins Central High School in his honour.

“This act not only commemorated his legacy, but also reconnected it with the soil of his birthplace – tying the past with the present in celebration of a life well-lived,” he stated.

Prime Minister Davis added: “Today, as we honor Loftus Roker, we ask again: What is a statesman? He was a statesman because he was unafraid in his honesty, and unyielding in his principles. He navigated the complexities of leadership with a rare blend of toughness and grace, ensuring his voice was heard, his presence felt, and his vision realized.

“So, what can we learn from Loftus Roker’s approach to politics and life? His life teaches us about the courage to speak the truth, the duty to protect our sovereignty, and the integrity to maintain our moral clarity.  He was a true gentleman, a wise counselor, and a fearless leader.”

Prime Minister Davis said that, as they said farewell to “this stalwart of Bahamian history”, they should remember his indomitable spirit and his profound contributions to their beloved nation.  Mr. Roker’s legacy, he added, will continue to inspire and guide us, reminding us of the impact one dedicated individual can have on the destiny of a nation.

“Again, I ask, who is a statesman? He is Loftus Roker – a man whose life answered that question resoundingly,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “May his story continue to inspire us, and may his wisdom light our paths forward.”

Governor General, HE the Most Hon. Dame Cynthia Pratt

“He was not just a part of our history; he helped to write it,” Prime Minister added.  “As we mourn his passing, we also celebrate the indelible mark he has left on our hearts and our nation.”

He stated that Mr. Roker’s memory will continue to inspire, his deeds will guide future generations, and his vision will always “illuminate the path forward.”

“Farewell, my friend. You have taught us much, and your story will continue to teach future Bahamians about the essence of true leadership,” Prime Minister Davis said.  “Rest assured, the pages of history will remember you; you have written your story well.”

“May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs receive you at your arrival, and lead you to the Holy City Jerusalem,” he added.  “May you rest in peace.”

Prime Minister Davis continued: “On behalf of a grateful nation, my wife Ann-Marie; Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. I. Chester Cooper and his wife ; my cabinet and parliamentary colleagues, and on my own behalf, I express heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Roker, the Roker family and all those who loved him on the passing of this great patriarch.

“May he rest in peace.”

 

(BIS Photos/Patrick Hanna)

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Tourism Minister commends 153 newly certified Lifeguards

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From: Bahamas Information Services

 

NASSAU, The Bahamas —  “The breathtaking beaches and pristine waters are among the top reasons travellers visit our country. As a leading tourism destination that places the highest priority on the safety and security of its guests, lifeguards play a crucial role in the tourism industry of The Bahamas,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation the Hon. Chester Cooper as keynote speaker at the Lifeguard Certification Graduation Ceremony, May 29, 2024 at Fox Hill Community Centre.

“I am delighted to join you this evening to celebrate the outstanding accomplishment of our newly certified lifeguards.

“Tonight marks the successful completion of lifeguard training of 153 candidates total: 134 from New Providence and 19 from Eleuthera. My understanding is that 64 of the graduates are present with us this evening. The others could not come because they have already secured employment on islands outside of New Providence. That is great news!”

He noted that the graduates have all made a substantial investment of time and effort to fully equip themselves to take on the critical role of lifeguard.

They each undertook 30 hours of training led by American Lifeguard Association certified trainer and examiner Lisa Nixon. From this training, they took away the knowledge and skills required to effectively execute their duties as first class lifeguards. In addition to training in lifeguard skills, they completed 40 hours of BahamaHost training which schooled them in the science of gold standard customer service.

In welcoming them aboard ‘Team Tourism,’ he said: “Graduates, you are coming aboard Team Tourism in the best of times, at a time when our tourism industry is experiencing phenomenal growth. Last year, The Bahamas broke all pre-existing records, reaching an historic high of 9.65 million in visitor arrivals.

“You are joining Team Tourism at a time when our tourism industry is in full expansion in resort development and cruise line investments.  Lifeguards are in great demand at the numerous resorts across The Islands of The Bahamas, on the private islands of our cruise line partners, and our major public beaches.”

Deputy Prime Minister Cooper left the graduates with these messages:

“You will be playing a critical role in our nation’s number one industry. We, collectively, have the deepest appreciation and respect for your contribution to the tourism sector, the sector that powers our country’s economy, providing 60 percent of the employment and 50% of the GDP. Your job as lifeguards is in service to our nation, ensuring the highly valued sense of safety among our guests and residents.

“You each already possess deep deposits of the five key characteristics required to be outstanding lifeguards. I humbly ask that you make a commitment to continually cultivate the quality of reliability, sharpen your communication skills, enhance your leadership skills, update your lifeguard skills and be professional at all times.”

He thanked family and friends for their support of the graduates, and those who played a role in assisting the graduates attain certification.

 

(BIS Photos/Kemuel Stubbs)

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