Why No North Bimini Marine Reserve?
Sep 25, 2015 - 2:26:20 PM


(Statement) EARTHCARE asks, “With the establishment of 18 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) being hailed as an important victory in the ongoing fight to protect the unique ecological heritage of The Bahamas, why then, was one of the 19 proposed MPAs, specifically the North Bimini Marine Protected Area (NBMR), omitted from the designation?”

In January of 2000, North Bimini was listed as the “HIGHEST PRIORITY” site in the entire country for an MPA.  North Bimini, along with 4 other sites, were deemed as the first 5 MPA’s to be established, and the goal was to have all 5 of these sites fully protected by 2002.

In January of 2009, a Town Meeting was held at the Bimini All Age School to discuss Bimini’s MPA and the findings of the recently finished Black & Veatch report, which summarized the past and current scope of the Bimini Bay Project (now Resorts World Bimini).  During this meeting, Phillip Weech from the BEST Commission announced to the people in attendance that the NBMR had been officially declared.  There were over 100 people in attendance, and the meeting was widely publicized in national and international media outlets.  The declaration of the NBMR was reported in media outlets ranging from National Geographic to the Washington Post, and many, many others.

During this meeting, it was also clearly stated that a golf course would not be allowed to go forward.  In discussing the golf course after the meeting, it was widely referred to as a “dead issue.”

From November, 2012 to the present, dozens & dozens of emails and letters have been sent to Minister Wilchcombe, Minister Dorsett, and Minister V. Alfred Gray concerning this matter, yet none of them have offered any information or answers in return.  During this time, the golf course has also reappeared in the marketing for Resorts World Bimini.

The importance of the NBMR is something that has really never been doubted or in question.  It not only will serve to replenish and maintain conch, lobster and fish stocks around Bimini and the Northern Bahamas, but it will also serve as the very foundation for Bimini’s entire tourism industry, which revolves around the island’s healthy waters and marine ecosystems.  

The rules of the NBMR have already been announced, and will allow for Catch-and-Release Bonefishing by Bimini’s Licensed Guides, and also the harvesting of Land Crabs in and around the East Bimini area.  For all other fisheries products, the NBMR will be a “no take” zone.  The NBMR will also help maintain the ecological integrity of Bimini’s reefs and surrounding waterways, and protect the habitats therein.

The NBMR is something that is strongly supported on Bimini.  Bimini’s local District Council recently sent a letter to the Government specifically stating their desire to fully protect the NBMR.  All but one of Bimini hotels and resorts have expressed their support of the NBMR.  Unsurprisingly, only Resorts World Bimini has not officially stated their support.

So why was the North Bimini Marine Protected Area the only MPA that was NOT approved for implementation by the Government of the Bahamas?  Because RAV Bahamas and the new Resorts World Bimini development want to create a golf course on one of North Bimini’s last remaining mangrove wetlands, despite being explicitly told back in 2009 that this would not be allowed.  The current Government refuses to stand up for the stakeholders here on Bimini, and has ignored all requests for information about the NBMR in recent months.  Meanwhile, RWB has unleashed additional reckless development projects on the island, which include further dredging of Bimini’s inshore marine ecosystems, as well as extensive damage to the island’s coral reef habitats.

Bimini serves as the only mangrove habitat on the entire western edge of the Great Bahama Bank.  It is widely understood and accepted that Bimini’s mangrove nurseries are crucial to the island’s tourism industry and fisheries health.  The effects that Bimini Bay/RWB’s past mangrove removal have caused are now well documented, despite the developer’s erroneous claims that their project would not have detrimental environmental effects.

While improvements and additions to Bimini’s tourism industry should always be sought, these additions and improvements should not come at the expense of the existing, proven tourism industry.

The NBMR provides the foundation from which Bimini’s entire tourism industry grows.  The area maintains and improves fisheries stocks, which are essential for both locals and in attracting sport fishermen.  The NBMR also functions to keep Bimini’s waters and reefs healthy for divers, snorkelers and other tourists.  These areas must be maintained and kept beautiful and healthy for both locals and visitors to enjoy.

The NBMR also provides important protection against hurricanes, storms and tsunamis, protecting both the life and the property of the people who live here.

And lastly, the NBMR has demonstrated a PROVEN value in creating and sustaining jobs for locals.

While the Government should have no hesitation or problems with supporting the will of Biminites and the numerous other people and organizations that support the NBMR, lately they seem to only serve the interests of the RWB investors.  If RWB came out in support of the NBMR, it is likely that the MPA would be formalized immediately.  For the Government or RWB to pretend like the NBMR does not exist is absurd.

EARTHCARE urges all Bahamians and visitors who care about the Bahamas to contact the Bahamian Government and the local and international media to express their support of finalizing the protections for the North Bimini Marine Reserve.  Please encourage people to politely urge Resorts World Bimini to express their public support of the North Bimini Marine Reserve, and to work harder towards being respectful guests on the island of Bimini.

© Copyright 2015 by -