The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) in partnership with The Bahamas Wildlife Enforcement Network (BahWEN) and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) hosted its fifth week-long Marine Conservation Workshop from the 15th to 19th January 2024, at the HMBS Coral Harbour Base. The long-term objectives of the environmental education workshop are to promote collaboration and partnerships between law enforcement agencies and build awareness and capacity around conserving our Bahamian marine environment and its resources.
During the workshop, 20 participants from BahWEN, RBDF, the Departments of Marine Resources, Customs and Immigration, the University of The Bahamas and the Bahamas National Trust
engaged in a week of enriching experiences. This included presentations on Plastic Pollution, Climate Change, Invasive Species and CITES- the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna. Additionally, the agenda featured comprehensive discussions on fisheries regulations presented by specialists from Environmental NGOs and the Department of Marine Resources, highlighting some of the science that underpins the fisheries regulations. Participants engaged in daily marine organism identification in the classroom that was reinforced in the field.
“BREEF is pleased to collaborate with BahWEN and the RBDF to host this workshop bringing together a variety of law enforcement personnel who all have a critical role to play protecting our marine heritage.,” stated BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert “As an archipelago a healthy marine environment is essential to sustaining our lives and way of life.”
Bonefish and Tarpon Trust Bahamian Mangrove Creeks Bahamas Initiative Coordinator Nina Sanchez shared about Bonefish: “These workshops provide an incredible opportunity for conservation organisations to collaborate with law enforcement agencies.” She continued, “This week, we had discussions surrounding the economic importance of the bonefish industry. Annually, this catch and release industry generates approximately $169 million dollars in The Bahamas. Conversations like this between agencies will continue to play an important role in the protection of our vast marine resources here in the Bahamas.”
According to Commander Desiree Corneille, Lead Designate for the Bahamas Wildlife Enforcement Network (BahWEN), “The 5th annual BREEF/BahWEN Marine Conservation Workshop for Law Enforcement Officers are a vital force multiplier, empowering members of our respective law enforcement agencies with knowledge and awareness that aids in protecting our coastal areas and oceans. This is important for them to truly understand the science behind the policies and laws as we are all working towards ensuring a sustainable future.”
RBDF Senior Lieutenant Danielle Morley said, “The successful completion of this workshop leaves our nation one step closer to harmony between our beautiful Bahamaland and its people as more officers become equipped with the skills to aid in conservation of our natural resources.”
Throughout the week, participants also seized the opportunity to engage in a beach cleanup activity along with other field activities such as educational snorkels at BREEF’s Underwater Coral Reef Sculpture Garden and Coral Nursery, Bonefish Pond and Saunders Beach, and engaged in fins-on learning about the diverse marine ecosystems in The Bahamas.
RBDF Chief Petty Officer Denise Oliver commented, “It was strategic including several of our Training Instructors and we enjoyed learning about the importance of marine habitats and various marine species in a way we had never learned about them before. We look forward to making this a staple within our training offerings.”
According to BahWEN Able Seaman Donald Neely, “BREEF MCW has impacted me deeply, igniting a spark that inspires me on my journey to becoming a marine scientist.”
Another participant, Elkeno Major, an officer from The Bahamas Immigration Department said that the workshop was an eye-opening experience, “It was amazing to find out that things like mangroves that we see everyday have such a great and understated impact on us and our environment.”
This series of Marine Conservation Workshops provide law enforcement personnel with practical experience in Coastal Ecology, Marine Conservation, and Laws to empower participants to monitor and enforce marine resources regulations more effectively. This fifth workshop was made possible through the generous support of the Bonefish Tarpon & Trust, Moore Bahamas Foundation, Builders Initiative, Primat Foundation and the Mactaggart Third Fund.