Bonefish Pond National Park Contributes Millions to Tourism, Storm Protection and the Local Economy
On a recent Sunday Anna Fitzek from Germany took the invitation from some friends to take a tour of The Bonefish Pond National Park in the southwest end of New Providence.
“I was totally surprised by this park,” she said. “It’s pretty cool.”
She experienced the mangroves and wildlife in the park on a kayak with the afternoon sun setting. The tour guide taught her and the other kayakers about the importance of mangroves to the Bahamian environment.
“I am surprised that I never heard about this place,” she said before hitting the tour in her kayak.
Anna is just a part of the 383,000 annual visitor days to marine protected areas and 67.8 million dollars spent over those days by tourists according to a recently-released report.
The “Economic Valuation of Ecosystem Services in Bahamian Marine Protected Areas” report was commissioned by ‘Bahamas Protected’, a three-year collaborative initiative between The Nature Conservancy, the Bahamas National Trust and the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) to manage and expand marine protected areas in the country in an effort to safeguard the economic value of marine ecosystems.
About 1,100 annual visitor days to The Bonefish Pond National Park account for about a $1 million addition to the country’s tourism spend values.
The report also highlighted that investment in protecting and managing coral reef and fish communities can foster a world-renowned location for tourism in the area of the Bonefish Pond National Park and the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park.
“These areas attract more tourists to our shores and in turn increases the amount of money tourists spend in our country,” said Lakeshia Anderson, BNT Director of Park. “This illustrates how important investment in the infrastructure and access to these areas will help support the country’s touristic product. This investment can open the proverbial floodgates for tourists looking for a nature-based experience that can be found only in The Bahamas” Lashanti Jupp, Conservation Planner at the Bahamas National Trust.
The Bonefish Pond National Park outside of touristic stimulation also helps to protect 30,416 New Providence residents in terms of erosion and flooding, according to the report. This protection is attributed to the mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass, which decreases the intensity of waves and surges from storms and essentially protects about 718 million dollars’ worth of household income in that area. “Given the fact that all Bahamian islands are low lying and particularly vulnerable to storm surges, mangrove wetlands such as Bonefish Pond provide a critical role in protecting people and infrastructure from storm damage and sea level rise,” said BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert.
This park also provides economic opportunities for Bahamians. Frenderick Tucker from Ultimate Tours Bahamas leads tours with tourists a few times a week. “We have a lot of tourists and locals who come here to kayak,” he said during a recent tour. “Most people are wowed by the tour because they know very little about the importance of the mangroves in The Bahamas.”
He is also counting on the country getting to the goal of protecting 20% of marine resources because a loss of these areas would mean fewer tourists and less tours. “If something happens to these areas it would destroy me,” he added, because of the loss of a job and income.
Jay Forbes has visited the park a few dozen times and has taken the guided kayak tour at least 10 times. “It’s relaxing and fun,” he said after wading in crystal clear water at the park. “I get to go out there and enjoy nature,” he added.
Forbes and Tucker both support the increased protection of marine areas in The Bahamas.
“Every day we are tearing down natural habitats, it’s good to know that we have this park for future generations,” said Forbes. “We need to continue the push towards getting more areas protected.”
Bahamas Protected is a joint effort between The Nature Conservancy, the Bahamas National Trust, and BREEF in collaboration with other national stakeholders, with major funding support from Oceans 5. This study also had support from the Disney Conservation Fund and the Perry Institute for Marine Science.
With about 10% of the Bahamas marine environment being declared a protected area, there is still much to do to reach the 20% protection goal by 2020.
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