Local environmental group warns against “selling our soul” to the Chinese & another stressed that sensitive marine habitats simply could not withstand large scale fishing initiatives.

Published in The Nassau Guardian.       Nov 07th 2016

The executive director of one local environmental group has warned against The Bahamas “selling our soul” to the Chinese and another stressed that sensitive marine habitats of the country simply could not withstand the large scale fishing initiative outlined in a proposal presented by Bahamas Ambassador to China Paul Andy Gomez, and stamped for further development by Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources V. Alfred Gray. “After reading the proposal, frankly I don’t think there’s anything in the proposal that makes sense. We were alarmed, we were shocked,” said Kristin Williams, executive director of the Abaco ­based Friends of the Environment. “Our marine resources are our livelihood; it’s the soul of our country, and we would essentially be selling our soul to the Chinese government. “None of this makes sense, and our country has worked so hard and the government has taken such great steps in the marine conservation world. “It would just be setting us back so far, which was a part of the reason I was so alarmed to read the proposal. But I think I was pleasantly surprised of the initial reaction of the Bahamian people, standing up for our marine resources.” Williams said her group intends to be involved in open discussions with the government, the Bahamian people and NGOs moving forward, but she hopes the proposal dies an early death. “I’m hoping it won’t move forward. I think the government has seen the initial reaction of the Bahamian people and I don’t think there’s any amount of money that could be injected into our economy that would be worth sacrificing our marine resources for,” she said. Casuarina McKinney­Lambert, executive director of the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), also said the proposal should be a no go. That proposal, which has been the subject of intense national discussion in recent days, calls for the incorporation of 100 companies — owned equally by Bahamian and Chinese entities. If it is agreed as presented, the government of The Bahamas would provide fishing licenses to each of the 100 companies, and approvals for fishing and farming experts “for a limited period, who will probably be Chinese”. McKinney­Lambert told National Review, “I think the most important thing to realize is that our fishing industry is very fragile here. “The main reason why we still have fish here is because we have a tiny population, 390,000 people; whereas you look at a country that has several billion people. We just don’t have that capacity within our waters to be able to supply food to China at that scale.”