INSIGHT: Pressing threats to our marine environment should inspire Bahamians to act


IT was disappointing to see a fun and celebratory snorkeling event marred by oil contamination in our waters this past Saturday while attending the 10th anniversary of the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) Coral Reef Sculpture Garden (CRSG) at Clifton Heritage. This site is often described as “the perfect fusion of art, education and conservation”. It has been featured in over 100 publications worldwide in its mere than ten-year history.

BREEF staff, volunteers, citizens and members of the press were surprised to surface in oil contaminated waters after admiring the impactful sculptures and beautiful marine life that reside at CRSG.

Executive director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, who was present at the event, shared her concerns about the consequences of this contamination as it relates to BREEF’s work with coral restoration and sustainable tourism. She urges the country to lead the world in reducing fossil fuel dependence and implement a ban on oil drilling occurring within our territorial waters.

 The area surrounding CRSG is a part of the Southwest New Providence Marine Managed Area which is a protected area. However, the marine ecosystems there are facing multiple threats related to the climate crisis.

On one hand the continued use of fossil fuels will inevitably lead to issues of oil contamination in our waters which can reduce marine biodiversity, poison marine environments, disrupt food chains, damage habitats, hinder economic growth of industries like tourism and fisheries, and could even have eventual harmful effects on human health due to bio-accumulation.

On the other hand, rising temperatures are warming our waters which stresses coral leading to the phenomenon known as coral bleaching. This has cascading effects on the marine environment as a whole because coral reefs are responsible for a large portion of the biodiversity in oceans. They serve as nurseries, gardens/food sources and habitats for marine life.

If our coral reefs are unable to recover from compounding threats, then our islands will lose natural breakwaters that took centuries to develop. These underwater barriers protect us by limiting impacts from the increasingly severe hurricanes we experience due to climate change.

Failure to protect our marine environment along with miss-management of marine resources can have long-lasting impacts on marine ecosystems, underscoring the importance of prevention, preparedness, and effective response strategies when addressing issues affecting our marine environment.

The Bahamas is a small island nation, but we are also a large ocean nation made up of around 100,000 square miles of water. That reality makes marine conservation a top priority for our nation. This year, Prime Minister Philip E Davis recognised National Ocean Protection Week, the first week in June 2024, coinciding with World Oceans Day. This proclamation emphasises the importance of safeguarding marine ecosystems, crucial for the Bahamas’ economy, culture, and identity. Both BREEF and Waterkeepers Bahamas played a key role in this process, highlighting the need for marine conservation.

Facilitating the protection of our waters and enhancing opportunities for sustainable development of our marine resources requires a strong relationship between Bahamians and our marine ecosystems. BREEF envisions a Bahamas where all people appreciate the value of our sea and take action to protect it.

The organisation’s main focuses are grass-roots programmes in education, outreach, research and policy which together impact all Bahamian stakeholders, as well as visitors, in order to fulfill its vision. One such programme is the BREEF Summer Sea Camp which concluded in New Providence on Friday, June 28, but will be reappearing in Central Eleuthera and North Andros later this summer.

• To get involved follow BREEF on social media @breef242 or visit their website: www.breef.org.


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