Smith and Albury examine the reefs around Guana Cay, where algae growth caused by runoff from the Baker’s Bay golf course is overwhelming and killing the coral.
Environmentalists’ warnings proven right; runoff from Baker’s Bay golf course leading to destruction of coral system
The once pristine reef system surrounding the tiny island
of Guana Cay in the Abacos has suffered extensive damage since
construction of the controversial Baker’s Bay development,
The Save Guana Cay Reef Association (SGCRA), which
mounted a groundbreaking five-year legal campaign in opposition to the
project, warned of serious implications for the reef
– recognized as one of the best dive sites in the world
– as well as for the rest of the previously unspoiled island. It is now clear that their predictions have come true.
“There has been environmental desecration out here,”
said leading environmental advocate Fred Smith, QC. “They burned
the entire forest, they tore down the mangroves, they dug it all up.
“They’ve got a golf course, and the chemicals are seeping into the reefs that are there. It is environmental rape and pillage.”
Smith, chairman of fast-growing social and environmental
movement Save The Bays, fought alongside the SCGRA between 2004 and 2009
for the rights of Guana Cay residents. During a recent visit to the
island, he dove the reefs along
with association president Troy Albury to witness firsthand the extent
of the damage.
Albury explained that nutrients applied to maintain the
health of the golf course drain into the surrounding water and lead to
accelerated algae growth.
“We know the nitrogen is running off the course,”
he said. “We know that from algae samples we’ve taken right close
into the shore and algae samples we've taken at the reef. We have lost
40 percent of the coral cover in the last two years.
“Algae is always in competition for turf area on the reef. When
you have algae growing, coral cannot grow and even when there is coral
growing and existing, the algae gets close to it and starts to destroy
The situation is dire, Smith said, but not yet past the point of no return.
“This used to be one of the most beautiful
dive spots in the world, and it still has the potential to be if they
would stop destroying it with all the chemicals,”
Smith added that Guana Cay is a perfect example of the destructive power of the “Anchor Project”
theory of national development, which ruins traditional communities –
often without living up to the many promises made by the developers and the local politicians who facilitate the deals.
Albury said the once idyllic community has been severely
affected by the location of a large-scale resort on the island,
undertaken without proper consultation with the locals.
“We have traffic now, we have crime, we have car accidents. We
actually now have a policeman on the island, because we are having
problems with people breaking into houses. Before, you knew everybody,”
Albury said it is important for all traditional Bahamian
communities to fight for their rights, as they have the most to lose. If
the environment ends up being ruined by an anchor project, the wealthy
developer can simply “pick up
and start again someplace else”.
The SGCRA president said the community has been waiting “for a long time”
for Baker’s Bay to fulfill its obligations under the heads of agreement that allowed the project to go forward.
These included building a community center, reserving the
water sports business exclusively for Bahamians, creating a beach park,
building a solid waste facility for the whole island, and providing
housing for police officers.
“In addition to that, there were also promises of environmental monitoring, and none of that ever came into play,”
A newly released video of Smith’s visit to Guana Cay is part of an
ongoing series of short films covering key aspects of STB’s fight for a
better Bahamas. It can be viewed on Save The Bays website,