By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas National Trust (BNT) yesterday said the recent adjustment in anchorage fees at the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP) was necessary to help maintain the park in the face of annual financial shortfalls.
The Park costs $500,000 per annum to run, and the BNT in a statement acknowledged concerns by some boaters over the recently adjusted anchorage policy that went into effect on March 1. Under the new fee structure, vessels under 90 feet will be charged $0.50 per foot, and vessels over this benchmark will be charged $1 per foot.
"The operations of the Exuma Park have changed much over its more than half-a-century of existence, and today the park is a very different place," the BNT said. "Use of the park has increased exponentially, and today there is tremendous pressure on the park' precious natural resources.
"The changes have accelerated over the past two decades, and the matter of insufficient funding to manage ECLSP had to be addressed for the financial well-being, and to help ensure the future of this historic land and sea park."
The BNT added: "The financial resources required to maintain the park, and it's unique biodiversity and relatively intact ecosystems, increases every year. Effective management of this special space requires increased staff capacity, moorings, patrol and maintenance, more vessels and improved communications and infrastructure. Even with the streamlining of expenses at the park, today it still costs nearly half a million dollars annually to run the ECLSP, and each year the park faces a financial income shortfall."
The BNT said the decision to introduce anchorage fees was one of the solutions identified in BNT's sustainable financial plan to help effectively manage the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
"We must design and operate them like any other successful business venture by factoring in financial sustainability from the beginning," it added.
The BNT said users of the ECLSP include cruising yachts, day tours, scientists, researchers, academics, filmmakers, non-governmental organisations and citizen science programme groups.
It is currently finalising a plan that will allow mooring and anchoring fees to be paid on a weekly, monthly, bi-annual and annual basis. This system will offer discount options as compared to the daily rate.