MORE than 10 years ago, the government committed to protecting and effectively managing 20 percent of our marine environment by 2020 to ensure a healthy marine environment and sustain livelihoods in fisheries and tourism.
With this deadline less than one year away, 10 percent of the country’s nearshore environment has been set aside in protected areas, placing the Bahamas at the halfway mark, according to a press release from environment protection groups.
“We have a great opportunity right now to safeguard our environment for future generations,” said Shenique Albury-Smith, Bahamas programme director for The Nature Conservancy.
During the September 2018 submission of the Bahamas Protected Marine Protection Plan, Minister of Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira restated the government’s commitment to the 20 percent protection goal. Bahamas Protected is now encouraging the government to declare and legally establish the full list of proposed areas as MPAs as 2020 draws near.
Until this time, partners will continue to work alongside key government agencies to provide information and technical support. Once the new MPAs are declared, work can begin again with communities to determine the best way to effectively manage these areas for the benefit of people and nature.
In 2016, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), and BREEF joined forces with relevant government agencies and numerous other stakeholders under the Bahamas Protected project.
“By identifying and actively protecting key features such as fish spawning sites, and areas where adult conch are reproducing, this will not only ensure rich biodiversity in these waters, but increase their spillover into fished areas will help protect the livelihood of fishermen for many generations,” said Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, executive director for BREEF.
The culmination of work by the partnering organisations was the submission of the Marine Protection Plan (MPP) to the government, identifying a suite of areas around the country that would create the most effective network of protection and enable the country to meet its 2020 goal. An online support petition was also submitted and to date has generated more than 11,000 signatures in support of marine protection, with more than 10,000 of those signatures coming from Bahamians.
Follow the Bahamas Protected Facebook page for more information (@242protected).