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Solutions needed to address detrimental impact of ‘Skittle-D’ Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, says Environment and Natural Resources Minister



#TheBahamas, April 23, 2023 – The government has created a task Force to tackle the issue of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (Skittle-D), a highly lethal coral disease which is threatening the health of coral ecosystems in The Bahamas.
 The Department of Environmental Protection and Planning (DEPP) under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR) along with the Perry Institute for Marine Science (PIMS) hosted a conclave Tuesday, April 18, 2023 to address the disease.
Researchers and representatives of NGOs and government agencies met at Breezes Resort, Cable Beach, to participate in the one-day event. Phedra Rahming-Turnquest, permanent secretary, and Dr. Lester Gittens, director of Marine Resources were present.
DEPP Director, Dr. Rhianna Neely-Murphy led the conclave. She said as one of the agencies in The Bahamas tasked with environmental protection and planning, DEPP takes its job “very seriously”.
“We saw it very important to participate in this initiative with PIMS, other stakeholders in the room and who will be joining us.  Everyone has a role to play and we need to hear the voices of everyone. We have researchers, NGOs and government agencies. This afternoon we will have in the room — the private sector, people who take tourists on tours and interact with coral species on a daily basis.  They have a voice and we need to take into consideration what they are seeing and some of the plans they may potentially have. They are dependent on these corals for their livelihood as well and we need to take all of their points into consideration,” said Dr. Neely-Murphy.
Today’s exchanges are designed to promote coral reef research, coral reef protection and coral reef restoration. Findings and recommendations from the conclave will be used to create a policy document.
The Hon. Vaughn Miller, Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources, underscored the importance of corals to The Bahamas.
He said, “Endowed with the world’s third largest barrier reef, corals are inseparably a part of The Bahamian culture; coral reefs are a major fabric of our lives. They are ecologically important, and play a vital role in supporting the economy and livelihoods that depend on them. They act as natural barriers, protecting coastlines from erosion and storm surge during severe weather events. When corals suffer, so does our culture. When corals die, so does an important part of our fabric.”
Minister Miller told participants that the time has come for the nation to move beyond treatment and to become more pro-active with solutions to address the detrimental impact of Skittle-D.
 Said the Minister, “Our marine environment, if left unchecked, can accelerate coral destruction.
 “Skittle-D disease is spreading quickly. Scientists have already confirmed the presence of Skittle-D on Andros, Grand Bahama, New Providence, Eleuthera, San Salvador, Long Island, Abaco, Exuma and the Cays, Cat Island and the Berry Islands.
 “Treatment has been approved through PIMS, the main organizers of today’s conclave, with mixed results. We need to position the country to be ahead of the problem.”
According to Minister Miller, the Task Force will undertake the following:
 -develop and implement strategies to prevent the spread of Skittle-D;-help to understand how reef condition varies over space, time and under different threat regimes;-explore how protection and restoration can reduce or even reverse the decline of coral reefs;-and seek to prevent permanent loss and damage of the country’s culturally and economically important reef building system.
Topics for the day’s agenda included: an Overview of Skittle D and The Bahamas Skittle D Task Force and Government Priorities, Who is Doing What: an opportunity for government agencies and partners to share their work focused on Skittle D, What Can Be Done and What Can We Do More Of, among others.
Header: Dr. Rhianna Neely-Murphy, Director, Department of Environmental Protection and Planning, speaks at the conclave to address the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (Skittle-D).

Insert: Representatives of NGOs are shown at the conclave on the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease hosted by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources and the Perry Institute for Marine Science.

(Photos by Samantha Black/Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources)

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PM Davis: Artificial Intelligence Micro-Course Graduation is ‘something very special’



NASSAU, The Bahamas – During his Official Remarks at the University of The Bahamas-Partanna-King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Artificial Intelligence (AI) Intensive Micro-Course Graduation Ceremony, on May 22, 2024, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said that he believed that those involved had accomplished “something very special.”

“I see this as the start of what will hopefully be an ongoing initiative, as we embrace the power of strategic partnerships and innovative ideas that can empower our people for success,” he said, during the ceremony held at Choices Restaurant on UB Main Campus.

Among those present included UB Acting President Janyne Hodder; UB Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs Dr. Maria Woodside-Oriakhi; Dean of the UB College of Business Dr. Marlo Murphy-Braynen; UB Chair of the School of Business Daniel Thompson; Dr. Dematee Mohan of the Office of the Prime Minister; and Director-General of Bahamas Information Services Elcott Coleby.

A number of podium guests also assisted in presenting five micro-course graduates with scholarships to KAUST.

Prime Minister Davis stated that the world was currently going through an era of “rapid, and, I dare say, epic change.”

“They are calling it the triple transition, which includes climate change, demographic change, as well as digital change,” he noted.  “The Bahamas is experiencing each of these changes in profound ways.”

He added: “Climate change represents the biggest threat we have ever, ever faced, as well as the biggest opportunity to re-align our society with our values to make the world cleaner, healthier, more prosperous, and more just.  And then there is digital transformation, which requires tremendous investments in infrastructure, and, of course, education in digital skills so that our workforce can remain competitive in this new era.”

Prime Minister Davis pointed out that the impact of that global transition was so broad that embracing those changes as opportunities required the integration of climate resilience and digital innovation into every aspect of The Bahamas’ national development models.

“That is why I am so proud of what we have accomplished today,” he said.  “We have opened the eyes of these young Bahamian scholars to the vast world of digital transformation through AI and machine learning.”

“We have placed this great potential at their fingertips so that they can go on to be, not just consumers of digital technology, but also digital producers, disruptors, and innovators,” Prime Minister Davis added.

He pointed out that they lived in a time when AI had become commonplace. Universities, Prime Minister Davis added, were grappling with the ethical implications of natural language algorithms, like Chat GPT, which produced essays with just a few prompts.

“Programmers and writers are using open-source AI apps to become more efficient and productive,” he said.  “We are seeing the widespread application of AI in every sector that is redefining how we work.”

“The AI revolution has already made waves here in The Bahamas,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “Local businesses are using AI to collect data and empower their marketing initiatives.”

He continued:  “My administration has pioneered the use of AI at the Ministry of Tourism, where AI chatbots are facilitating more efficient customer service and AI algorithms are helping us to identify and target likely visitors.  Even the Water and Sewerage Corporation has begun using AI to detect leaks.

“But this is just the beginning.”

Prime Minister Davis said that AI was still in its infancy. In the near future, he added, AI will take over repetitive, everyday tasks in fields as vast as engineering, programming, law, accounting, marketing, and healthcare administration.

“We also anticipate using AI in our current efforts to fight climate change and make our nation more climate resilient,” Prime Minister Davis noted.  “With these changes, some current jobs may become obsolete, but new jobs within data science and AI will emerge.”

“We will need a robust supply of well-trained, well-educated professionals to ensure that The Bahamas continues to keep pace with global economic developments,” he added.  “And we want those professionals to be Bahamians.

“Today, we have taken steps toward building that future-focused workforce with 20 bright young scholars here at UB.”

Prime Minister Davis thanked KAUST, with special mention to Director Albarakati and Professor Khan for “partnering with us on this groundbreaking initiative.”

“I hope this is the beginning of a fruitful partnership that will enrich our students and allow for the exchange of knowledge between faculty to strengthen our institutions,” he said.

Prime Minister Davis also thanked Partanna, and its CEO, His Excellency, Ambassador Rick Fox, for helping to make the partnership happen through its funding and support.

“Thank you, as well, for your continued commitment to the environment through your groundbreaking carbon-negative concrete that will transform the global construction industry,” Prime Minister Davis said.

“Ambassador Fox, you are truly a proud son of our soil, and you continue to inspire us all,” he added.

Prime Minister thanked the faculty and staff at the University of The Bahamas for “their support in making this happen.”

“They often say if you can make it at UB, you can make it anywhere,” he pointed out.  “This saying has proven true, not just because of the academic integrity and rigour of UB’s programmes, but because of UB’s willingness to embrace change and opportunity.”

He added:  “Thank you to UB’s dynamic leadership team, President Hodder, UB’s Chair Mrs. Maynard Gibson, the Dean of the College of Business, Dr. Marlo Murphy Braynen, Dr. (Woodside-) Oriakhi and your team for making this possible.  Most importantly, thank you to the students who enrolled and committed to completing this course as an investment in your future and your future prospects.”

For those students who go on to continue their studies in AI, either at King Abdullah University or through other avenues, Prime Minister encouraged them to continue exploring their interests and talents.

“Continue adding in-demand skills to your repertoire and continue being trailblazers in your respective fields,” he said.  “Congratulations to all of you.”

“We will need bright, young leaders to take on the challenges that lay ahead of us,” Prime Minister Davis added.  “Based on what I am seeing today, I am confident that the future is in good, good hands.

“God bless you all and may He continue to bless our nation.”


Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis takes part in the University of The Bahamas-Partanna-King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Artificial Intelligence (AI) Intensive Micro-Course Graduation Ceremony, on May 22, 2024, held at Choices Restaurant on UB Main Campus.  Among those present included UB Acting President Janyne Hodder; UB Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Maria Woodside-Oriakhi; Dean of the UB College of Business Dr. Marlo Murphy-Braynen; UB Chair of the School of Business Daniel Thompson; Dr. Dematee Mohan of the Office of the Prime Minister; and Director-General of Bahamas Information Services Elcott Coleby.  A number of podium guests also assisted in presenting five micro-course graduates with scholarships to KAUST.  (BIS Photos/Eric Rose)

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#TheBahamas, May 21, 2024 – On Wednesday, May 15, the Department effectively executed the repatriation of a group of illegal migrants from the Lynden Pindling International Airport, New Providence to Cap-Haitien, Haiti.

At approximately 9:11 a.m., a Bahamasair chartered flight departed New Providence en route to Haiti with one hundred twenty-four (124) Haitian nationals onboard; a hundred and eight (108) adult males, thirteen (13) adult females and three (3) minors. The Department’s Deportation and Enforcement Units led the escort.

All security and health protocols were observed as the safety and welfare of our officers, law enforcement counterparts and migrants remain the highest priority.

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Introducing The Bahamas Cannabis Authority; Marijuana Bill tabled by Darville



Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer


#TheBahamas, May 20, 2024 – A medical marijuana industry is set for establishment in The Bahamas, following the tabling of the Cannabis Bill, 2024, in the House of Assembly, by Minister of Health and Wellness, Hon. Dr Michael Darville, May 15.

The Minister said objective of legislation is to set up a framework to establish The Bahamas Cannabis Authority, and to regulate the of importation, exportation, cultivation, processing, manufacturing, producing, sale, possession, distribution, and use of cannabis.

He told the Assembly that the law represents a thoughtful and balanced approach and was driven by a duty to act as he referenced the number of Bahamians who are battling cancer and in need of alternative treatments for pain management and other related issues.

“The legislative package, the Cannabis Bill, 2024 is designed to introduce a controlled system of cannabis use in medical treatments. The bill establishes the Bahamas Cannabis Authority.  A regulatory body overseeing all aspects of cannabis management and cultivation and distribution.  The authority’s mandate is to ensure that cannabis production and use are safe, controlled and effectively integrated into our health care system,” Minister Darville said.

Adding that the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill, 2023 that he also tabled, reclassifies cannabis by removing it from the dangerous drug list, now recognises its potential for medical use, he said the change aligns “our nations laws” with evolving global perspectives on cannabis.

The new law makes provisions for the licensing of cannabis handlers across various aspects of The Bahamas, and Dr. Darville said the licensing is structured to prioritise Bahamian ownership, with provisions ensuring that significant control remains in the hands of Bahamian nationals, fostering local entrepreneurship and economic benefits “for Bahamians across the country.

“We are here to make a difference, to enact change, remove years of stigma and transform lives by offering alternative treatments by way of medical cannabis.  The legislation before us offers a careful, considerate approach ensuring that we prioritize the wellbeing and safety of our citizens. Let us move with compassion,” he said.

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