By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AN international non-profit environmental organisation warned the proposed mining projects in North Andros will threaten the winter home for migratory shorebirds.
In a statement yesterday, the National Audubon Society stated the recovery for Piping Plover birds could be “jeopardised by a series of mining proposals” for Andros, since the threatened species spends “almost two-thirds of each year” on a group of cays near the island.
The conservation group was referring to three proposals, including a project from the Bahamas Materials Company Ltd, which includes plans to mine for calcium carbonate (limestone) on a 5,500 acre “brownfield” in North Andros. Last week, Tribune Business reported that the project was presented to the North Andros District Council on June 9 as part of an extensive feedback and consultation process.
A North Andros Green Free Trade Zone is also being proposed by Los Angeles-based billionaire philanthropist, Dr Patrick Soon-Shioa, in addition to the Bahamas Agricultural Resources (BAR) farming project, which is seeking some 25,000 acres of Crown Land and Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) land in the Twin Lakes area.
On Thursday, the National Audubon Society said while all three proposals would have some impact on birds, one of the proposed projects will have a direct impact on Joulter Cays National Park if it is approved.
“A globally significant important bird area, Joulter Cays hosts 10-percent of the Atlantic Coast Piping Plover population, along with many other sea and shorebird species,” the statement said.
It added: “Working with partners at the Bahamas National Trust, Audubon scientists found hundreds of Piping Plovers wintering in Joulter Cays, helping to solve the mystery of where they overwinter. Designated a 92,000-acre national park in 2015, Joulter Cays is unique, unspoiled and rich in natural resources. This national treasure of The Bahamas also supports the country’s multi-million dollar fishing and ecotourism industries.”
In the statement, Matt Jeffery, the deputy director of the National Audubon Society’s International Alliances Programme, added that the Joulter Cays are “one of the most important wintering areas” for Piping Plovers. He also stated that the projects would put “a number of bird species at risk” that were already dealing with the threat of climate change.
“Piping Plovers depend on beaches to survive, and they already face nearly insurmountable threats here in the Northeast—including coastal development, sea level rise, predators, and people and dogs who get too close,” Ana Paula Tavares, executive director of Audubon Connecticut and Audubon New York continued.
“An added threat to their wintering grounds could reverse decades of progress made by dedicated volunteers and partners in conservation, and we want to ensure that these endearing birds remain around for future generations to enjoy.”
According to the society, the cays are also an “important migratory stopover” for other birds throughout North America.
Earlier this week, the Office of the Prime Minister said a draft proposal for the North Andros Green Free Trade Zone has been submitted to the government. OPM said the proposal had not been formally analysed or reviewed to determine its viability, nor has it been presented to the National Economic Council for consideration.