MARINE conservation is integral for the survival of small, low-lying countries like The Bahamas, and a new voice is emerging to help support and fund existing conservation groups in the country.
The Bahamas Protected Areas Fund, the first of its kind conservation trust in the country, has formally established its office at the Old Fort Bay Town Centre in New Providence.
“A tremendous accomplishment for the country, the fund is tasked with ensuring sustainable financing for the management of protected areas, other natural resources, and adaptation to and mitigation of the effects of climate change,” a press release noted.
“The roots of the Bahamas Protected Areas Fund (BPAF) go back to the country’s efforts to protect ecologically diverse areas across The Bahamas, such as the Blue Holes National Park and Westside National Park in Andros, the Inagua National Park, and the Adelaide Creek Wild Bird Reserve that contribute to approximately 14 million acres currently protected across the country.
“These areas have been proven to be both ecologically and socio-economically beneficial to The Bahamas in a number of ways - maintaining breeding grounds, supporting tourism, providing food, and mitigating against strong storm events.”
BPAF’s press release also noted that a recent study commissioned by the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) estimated
that marine protected areas alone contribute at least $5 billion to the country annually.
“This is a time of which we can proud, when we as a country have put measures in place to safeguard the resources of our beautiful islands”, said Kelley Bostwick-Toote, chairperson of BPAF. “I am especially pleased to see both the government of The Bahamas and private sector come together to make the establishment of this office possible. We are grateful for the generous office space donated by Terry White of the New Providence Development Company Ltd, as well as the donation of our furnishing provided by AndBank (Bahamas) Ltd.”
Executive management and control of the fund rest with its board of directors, supported by an executive director. The fund commenced its operations in 2017 and has worked with key partners, including The Nature Conservancy and the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund, to establish operating policies and procedures and to strengthen its governance.
Executive Director Karen Panton said, “We are now positioned to open our doors to the public in preparation for the rollout of our grants programme.”
The grants programme is in progress and will be funded by sustainable finance mechanisms, contributions from the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund, grants, and general philanthropic activities.
Grants will be provided to protected area managers including the Bahamas National Trust, the Ministry of Environment, the Department of Marine
Resources, NGOs, the University of The Bahamas, research institutions, and other organisations whose purpose is aligned with BPAF.
The official opening of the Bahamas Protected Areas Fund is slated for Friday, April 26 at Old Fort Bay Town Centre. Minister of Environment Romauld Ferreira is schedule to attend.