By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AGRICULTURE and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard toured Coral Vita’s land-based coral farm in Grand Bahama on Friday as his ministry moves to begin its Coral Restoration/Climate Action Project.
He said that his ministry is happy to partner with Coral Vita and was pleased with its progress post-Dorian.
Since its restoration, the coral farm has been engaged in a coral restoration project in Grand Bahama.
“We are happy they are bouncing back, consistent with global discussions about resilience in the age of climate change,” Minister Pintard said, following his tour and an update from Coral Vita co-founder Sam Teicher.
Coral Vita is on a canal-front property in the subdivision of Discovery Bay. It experienced a 17-ft storm surge, and all of the coral tanks floated away. They recovered one tank 35 miles away in the High Rock settlement.
Mr Teicher, the chief reef officer, said they were able to recover almost all of the tanks to resume their operation. At the farm, they can grow coral at a much faster rate in tanks and more resilient to climate change.
The government has supported the work at Coral Vita since its official launch in May 2019, added Mr Teicher.
“We are here (today) commemorating a contract we signed with the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, Teicher said.
“In addition to the coral restoration permit we received for the past two years, we now are actually engaging in a coral restoration project in GB, and the intention is to grow coral to bring the reefs back to life.”
According to Mr Teicher, about 80 percent of the Bahamas’ coral reefs have died.
“We need to scale up as much effort as possible to regrowth the reefs because they are ultimately taking care of us in the Bahamas and around the world,” he explained.
“The government is doing an amazing job supporting us in our work here, and to help make this all happen.”
Minister Pintard said the government is committed to growing the Blue economy and has forged several important partnerships in this regard.
“We are also working collaboratively with the IDB and we are part of at least two significant projects. We have recently hired…a very important researcher who is concentrating on the blue economy,” he said.
Mr Pintard believes that Coral Vita’s coral farm is significant to the development of the country’s blue economy.
“And what we are seeing is an extremely important dimension of the blue economy, and the work being done by Coral Vita has implications, not just for the development of the Bahamas, but the region, and globally. It is an important…research effort that holds significant potential for the Bahamas.”
Mr Pintard said that the ministry has also been supporting “serious research” for the Nassau Grouper and the Conch Conservation programme by entering into strategic partnerships with non-government agencies locally and other institutions.
“This (coral farm) is serious and fun research because it attracts young Bahamians who would learn the craft and replicate the work here,” he said.
“We take it seriously that internship and opportunities be created, and this is essentially what is being provided here for Bahamians to grow expertise in a wide range of areas.”
Mr Pintard noted that even though the Bahamas is a small island state, it is also a big ocean state, extending from the tip of Florida all the way to Cuba.
“The majority of this country is in fact water, and so our sustainability as a nation depends on our protecting the marine environment,” he said.
“We are happy to partner with Coral Vita. This is one component of the Marine Blue Action Lab which is a collaborative effort between the government and the Grand Bahama Port Authority, and a host of multilateral organization, NGOs, and financiers who are interested in creating a space where a variety of companies, such as this can live and operate in the same ecosystem.”
“We have the opportunity to create a space where companies, NGOs, and universities, can come in one space to share ideas and best practices that are developed elsewhere so we can save the planet. And again I am happy that this is happening, and we applaud Coral Vita for taking this initiative,” he said.
The Grand Bahama Port Authority and GB DEVCO are partners in the coral farm project, which serves as an education and research centre and eco-tourist attraction on the island.
The Coral Restoration/Climate Action Project addresses the impacts of climate change on marine resources. Over 80% of Bahamian reefs are already dead and are continuing to decline, and the project will support SDG 13: Climate Action through sustainable marine practices conducted during reef restoration. The purpose of the project directly addresses objective six of the draft Climate Change Policy – “Improve knowledge and understanding”. Specifically, activity #3 reef restoration under the Marine Resource section of the Action Plan for the Climate Change Policy.
The expected outcome is to increase awareness and adaptation of the climate-smart and resilient practices and technologies in marine resources.
The overall objectives of this project are to: (a) raise awareness on the SDGs with specific focus on climate change impacts on marine resources; (b) engage youth by building capacities in reef restoration through two student internships; (c) support coral reef ecosystems through the growing of coral colonies.