BREEF AND BAHWEN HOSTS 5TH MARINE CONSERVATION WORKSHOP FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS

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.  

BREEF staff and Marine Conservation Workshop participants take part in a coordinated Beach Cleanup near the RBDF Coral Harbour Base
Participants document debris found during beach cleanup
Officers dive off vessel into BREEF’s underwater Coral Reef Sculpture Garden and Coral Nursery
 BREEF Education Coordinator, Kevin Glinton gives MCW Fisheries presentation at RBDF Training Centre
BREEF Executive Director, Casuarina McKinney-Lambert leads MCW group snorkel at Bonefish Pond 
MCW attendees participate in a mangrove snorkel at Bonefish Pond National Park
Snorkeler uses Fish ID slate to identify marine species during Saunders Beach Snorkel
MCW participants prepare for a snorkel at Saunders Beach
All participants received certificates for attending BREEF’s Marine Conservation Workshop at the closing ceremony on Friday afternoon. (L-R) Commander AG Desiree Corneille (BahWEN), Casuarina McKinney-Lambert (BREEF Executive Director), CPO William Burns (BahWEN, Participant), Captain Glen McPhee (RBDF, HMBS Coral Harbour), Kevin Glinton (BREEF Education Coordinator), Senior Lieutenant Themo Berkeley (RBDF Base First Lieutenant)
MCW Participants, Facilitators, BahWen Commander AG Desiree Corneille (6th left), Capt. Glen McPhee of HMBS Coral Harbour (7th left), BREEF Exec. Dir. Casuarina McKinney-Lambert
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Student Partners with BREEF in Clothing Sustainability Initiative

Benjamin Shear, an 11-year-old Kings College student, originally came up with the idea to upcycle clothes as a school project. Ben’s UpCycle initiative, upcycle.one, has swiftly evolved into an innovative online marketplace for upcycled clothing with all proceeds raised supporting the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF).

Shear shared that his inspiration for this initiative came from learning about the severe negative impacts of clothing waste. “When I studied the effects of fashion on the environment and our oceans I was truly shocked at the devastation that textiles cause. I wanted to use my passion for technology to help create a way to promote sustainability in our community. Aligning myself with BREEF seemed like a natural choice,” he said.

UpCycling is defined as repurposing materials, such as clothing and shoes, which would have otherwise been thrown in the trash, contributing to more waste. The initiative actively encourages individuals to make sustainable choices in their clothing. Instead of continuously purchasing new clothing, people can declutter their closets, find local lightly-used clothing, or both.

UpCycle customers may donate children’s clothing, or shop at UpCycle.one for gently used clothing. All proceeds from each purchase is donated to The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF). BREEF is an organisation established in 1993 to address threats to The Bahamian marine environment, and was recently recognised as National Youth Organisation of the Year.

BREEF Executive Director, Casuarina McKinney-Lambert noted: “I’m so impressed how Ben has transformed a school project into meaningful action for conservation and sustainability.”

Young entrepreneur Benjamin Shear has committed to allocating funds raised from UpCycle to marine conservation because he recognizes The Bahamas’ heavy reliance on the ocean for economic, cultural, and various aspects of livelihood and well-being.

“My hope is not only to raise money for the organisation,” Shear said, “but I hope that by giving these clothes new life, we will aid in decreasing the amount of items that pollute our oceans and encourage people to shop sustainably”.

To learn more about UpCycle please visit upcycle.one and for information on how you can support more of BREEF’s marine conservation initiatives, please visit www.breef.org.

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BREEF Film Wins Kids N’ Film Festival Award for Best Documentary

The compelling documentary, “My Island My Future,” produced by Eleutheran students Taryn McKinney-Lambert and Kieon Sands, clinched the top spot in the ‘Best Documentary’ category at the Kids N’ Film Festival in California. This win marks the second award for the film this year, as it continues to make its impact on the global stage.

The Kids N’ Film Festival celebrates the creative endeavours of youth worldwide, showcasing family-friendly films that inspire, entertain, and provoke thought, regardless of background or ethnicity. 

The film features videos of snorkelers in south Eleuthera

The short “My Island, My Future” film was inspired by the “Our Islands Our Future” campaign, which addresses the perils of oil drilling in The Bahamas. As an archipelago heavily reliant on its marine resources, any threat to the ocean poses a direct risk to the livelihoods of Bahamians. “Our Islands, Our Future” is a devoted collective of Bahamian and international advocates committed to safeguarding the nation’s waters. 

The film was made two years ago, when 12-year-old Taryn initiated the project, penning a letter to former Prime Minister, Hon. Hubert Minnis, expressing her determination to raise awareness about a cause that was important to her as a young Bahamian.

Taryn McKinney-Lambert in “My Island, My Future” short film

The renowned Bahamian film director Kareem Mortimer lent his expertise to the project, which was filmed on the picturesque Bahamian island of Eleuthera. He said that he was excited for the opportunity to collaborate with the young, passionate environmental advocates.

“I am happy to support the next generation of filmmakers and storytellers in the best way I can. 

“All the credit is deserving to the young filmmakers that wanted to tell their story. All I did was provide support,” Mortimer said. 

Taryn McKinney-Lambert and Kieon Sands pull sailboat ashore

Taryn devoted several days to crafting the script, with the following film production demanding additional time and effort. Reflecting on the process, the South Eleutheran resident recalled,

“It was a lot of work to make a very short film and I gained a better appreciation of what goes into filmmaking after this experience.”

Taryn and Kieon, both students of Deep Creek Middle School at the time, formed a partnership through shared hours of discussions on environmental conservation and marine life during school projects. Their school has long been active in the Eco-Schools Bahamas programme that BREEF has been leading since 2009.

“We both really cared about the things that we are talking about in the video and about our island; and we shared a lot of experiences and an appreciation for the ocean,” Taryn explained.

Ariel image of sailboaters in South Eleuthera

The coalition that endorsed the film, “Our Islands, Our Future,” is a group of local and international organizations championing Bahamians dedicated to safeguarding their heritage and economic sustenance from the threat of oil drilling. Together, they advocate for an enduring prohibition on oil drilling in The Bahamas

To learn more about how you can get involved in BREEF’s marine education programmes,
please visit www.breef.org.

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BREEF Honoured with 2023 National Youth Award for “Youth Organization of the Year”

(L-R) BREEF (BESS) Intern Maya Lindeman, Operations Officer Nicola Fernander, Grant & Project Manager Nadia Pinder-Morris, Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, Education Co-ordinator Kevin Glinton, Outreach Officer 1 Heather Brockbank, Communications Officer Crystal Darling-Sargent

The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) proudly received the 2023 National Youth Award for “Youth Organization of the Year” at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture’s 37th annual ceremony.

This prestigious honour coincides with BREEF’s 30-year anniversary of dedicated marine conservation efforts, amplifying the significance of the accolade. 

Hon. Mario Bowleg, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, underscored the importance of these awards, which are given during national youth month, to celebrate exceptional achievements and pay tribute to those who have consistently demonstrated excellence in their respective areas.

Under the theme “Youth Excellence is the Standard,” this year’s awards highlight the remarkable contributions of individuals and youth organizations to the nation.

Over the past three decades, BREEF has been at the forefront of equipping educators with vital marine conservation and sustainability knowledge through teacher training workshops, training the trainers and supporting the next generation of environmental stewards. 

Schools across the Commonwealth of The Bahamas have the opportunity to participate in BREEF’s Eco Schools Bahamas programme and attain Green Flag status, striving for excellence in environmental action and education, and joining an international network in 68 countries around the world. 

BREEF’s multifaceted youth initiatives include summer sea camps, community snorkels, beach cleanups, a youth environmental reporting programme, and conservation competitions, all tailored to empower and engage young people in environmental preservation.

The Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars (BESS) programme stands as a testament to BREEF’s commitment to nurturing local young aspiring environmentalists. This scholarship, offered in collaboration with the Cape Eleuthera Island School,  has provided comprehensive training for numerous Bahamian scholars, many of whom have gone on to make significant contributions to the field of marine conservation and island sustainability.

BREEF gratefully accepts this national award with unwavering commitment to advancing the conservation of the Bahamian marine environment that sustains the Bahamian way of life.

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PRIME MINISTER DAVIS ADDRESSES BREEF’S ECO-SCHOOLS COORDINATORS WORKSHOP

Prime Minister Philip Davis, Min. Vaughn Miller, and Min. of State Zane Lightbourne with Eco-Schools Bahamas Workshop Participants, and the BREEF’s Executive Director, Casuarina McKinney-Lambert

Prime Minister the Hon. Philip E. Davis delivered the keynote address at BREEF’s Eco-Schools Bahamas annual Coordinators Workshop on Friday, October 6, 2023, at the New Providence Community Centre, under the theme, “Advancing Climate Resilience in The Bahamas.” Hon. Vaughn Miller, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, and Minister of State, Hon. Zane Lightbourne, also brought remarks at the event.

Over 40 educators and participants from Abaco, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Long Island, and New Providence attended the workshop. The two-day workshop culminated on Saturday October 7, 2023, with a BREEF 30th Anniversary Snorkel at BREEF’s Coral Reef Sculpture Garden in Clifton Heritage Park.

The Prime Minister underscored the government’s dedication to advocating for compensation for The Bahamas and other Small Island Developing States, vulnerable to climate impacts from major carbon emitters in larger nations.

He noted that as The Bahamas celebrates 50 years of independence in 2023, BREEF is also celebrating 30 years of conservation, recognizing the impact that BREEF has had in the country throughout the years.

“BREEF’s comprehensive approach to protecting our environment – from offering policy recommendations to engaging in hands-on restoration work and collaborating with the international community – has proven invaluable to conservation efforts.

“I commend you for helping to preserve our natural environment for generations of Bahamians to come,” Davis said.

During his official opening remarks, Minister Miller expressed his hope that through the Eco-Schools programme, the next generation of environmental professionals would emerge to confront the challenges posed by climate change and loss of biodiversity.

“To the educators among us, thank you for leading the charge in 44 schools across our archipelago to engage with our young people in a meaningful way regarding our environment,” Miller said.

(L) BREEF’s Executive Director, Casuarina McKinney-Lambert gives certificate to Abaco’s St. Francis de Sales Eco-Schools coordinator, Samantha Johnson (R) at the BREEF Eco-Schools workshop.

Beth Hall, Eco-Schools Coordinator at St. Andrews International School, expressed her optimism, stating, “BREEF gives me hope in today’s world when you only hear bad news when it comes to the environment, and we sit right at sea level, and I want to give our children the best possible advice and up-to-date information on how to fight climate change.”

Thanking the BREEF team, Abaco’s Hope Town Primary School Coordinator Amanda Lightbourn said, “BREEF Eco-Schools Workshop did not disappoint! The workshops are always engaging and informative. It’s always a pleasure learning from the best. They help us acquire new knowledge in a supportive and informative environment, inspiring us to move forward and share it with our students and fellow teachers.”

Cheng Bee Selim-DeLa Pena, Eco-Schools Coordinator at the Bishop Michael Eldon School in Grand Bahama, described the annual workshop as a rejuvenating experience. She expressed, “The annual workshop is like a refuel for me. It allows me to ignite the spark, and the interest I have for the environment to encourage students in our school to become environmental stewards.”

Distinguished speakers included representatives from Waterkeepers Bahamas, The Bahamas Bureau of Standards & Quality, Bahamas Ecology Park Researcher, Drexel Gomez and the Youth Climate Ambassadors of The Bahamas Ashawnte Russell and Stephen Hunter.

(L-R) Minister of Environment, Vaughn Miller, Prime Minister Hon. Philip Davis, BREEF’s Executive Director, Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, Waterkeepers Bahamas Executive Director Rashema Ingraham, Minister of State for the Environment Hon. Zane Lightbourne at the BREEF Eco-Schools workshop.

The second day of the educators workshop included an in-water snorkelling experience at the BREEF Coral Reef Sculpture Garden. This snorkel was also open to the public and all snorkelling spots where Participants were treated to a complimentary snorkelling tour of the vibrant BREEF Coral Reef Sculpture Garden and Nursery, an ecosystem teeming with a rich variety of underwater flora and fauna.

“My first experience with BREEF was as a student on a field trip, and there’s always an amazing difference when you teach the theory in class about coral and marine ecosystems and when you have the students go out and get an increased level of appreciation for it.” Queen’s College Science Teacher, Delreco Bonaby explained.

Students snorkel above the 60 ton Ocean Atlas, the largest underwater sculpture in the world 

First-time snorkelers shared their thoughts after touring the underwater sculpture garden.

“I had a great time! My BREEF instructor was really informative and I think what we learned today about coral reefs and marine ecosystems is general education that every Bahamian should have,” University of The Bahamas student, Yolanda Johnson said.

Another student from the Bahamians, Birds & Botany Club, Taneisha Davis said that this was also her first snorkel. “I was definitely nervous at first but with BREEF I felt safe and I felt like I enjoyed something that I wouldn’t normally consider doing in a safe and fun way,” Taneisha said.

 Bahamians, Birds & Botany Club participate in BREEF public snorkel

“Our vision at BREEF is for a nation where all people appreciate the value of our oceans and everyone takes action to protect them,” stated BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert during her opening remarks reflecting of BREEF’s 30th Anniversary and Its Eco-Schools Bahamas programme.

She continued, “Over the years, we’ve reached every school across the country, we’ve had teachers from every school participate in in-water training, and we have been working tirelessly to get our entire community involved in conservation.”

 BREEF Eco-Schools National Operator, Kevin Glinton, (left) gives presentation to teachers at workshop

Eco-Schools Bahamas is part of a global sustainable school programme active in over 79 countries. BREEF’s ESB network spreads over six islands with 19 government and 26 private schools. The workshop allows educators to network, share experiences, and gain valuable information to inspire students toward positive actions to adapt to and combat climate change through their respective programmes. BREEF has been running the Eco-Schools Bahamas programme since 2009.

The workshop was made possible through the generous support of the Primat Foundation, the Bloomberg Vibrant Oceans Initiative and Rolex Perpetual Planet Initiative. To learn more about BREEF’s Eco-Schools Bahamas Programme and its work in promoting the conservation of the Bahamian marine environment, please visit www.breef.org or email ecoschoolsbahamas@breef.org.

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Students Explore Androsian Mangroves & Coral Reefs at BREEF Kamalame Cay Summer Camp

BREEF held a successful 2023 Sea Camp in Andros. Twenty-two students aged 8-14 years from North Andros participated in the annual Kamalame Cay Sea Camp  where they engaged in an immersive outdoor learning experience. 

Sea campers pose for a group shot at Pigeon Cay

Sea Camp is an empowering, educational event in which students embrace the natural environment while having fun. The outdoor classroom is used as a teaching tool, helping students to understand the value of protecting and caring for the ocean. 

Students head off in boat excursion at BREEF Kamalame Cay Sea Camp

Attendees had a chance to understand the critical roles that mangroves and coral reefs play in the Bahamian environment- especially for fisheries, tourism and shoreline protection. Enlightening presentations aboutlocal sea creatures were followed by snorkels and boat expeditions where students were able to identify the marine areas and organisms they learned about during presentations. They also learned about threats facing our marine environment including warming waters that especially affect our fragile Bahamian coral reefs. 

A key component of Sea Camp is teaching children practical water skills that inspire them to be environmental stewards.  BREEF and Kamalame staff along with volunteers showed students how to maneuver in the outdoor environment as they snorkeled through mangroves and around corals while learning about the value of the underwater world around them. 

Camper Dwayne Munnings age 10, shared his thoughts about the hands-on educational excursions students participated in.

“I had a lot of fun learning about the mangroves and fish; and I found lots of interesting things in the ocean,” he said. 

Camper, Dwayne Munnings finds a sand dollar in waters near Staniard Rock

Another camper, Stevenique Johnson, age 10, said that she enjoyed snorkeling with others and learning about new types of fish she had never seen before.

“When we went into the mangroves I didn’t know there were so many fish that live there, I found a lot of interesting things that my teacher told me all about,” she said. 

Camper Stevenique Johnson finds a shell during mangrove snorkel 

Leading camp activities, BREEF Outreach Assistant, Heather Brockbank said her goal was to ensure that students get the opportunity to interact with our marine environment.

“We really like to engage kids from other islands, we want them to snorkel and see what’s under the water and feel comfortable while they are doing it.”

Brockbank continued, “If young people are exposed to the environment they will care more about it and spread the word, not only to their parents but to the community, and use that opportunity to make a difference for the future.” 

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BREEF Outreach Assistant Heather Brockbank teaches campers how to put on snorkeling gear

BREEF Executive Director, Casuarina McKinney-Lambert noted “95% of the territory of The Bahamas is underwater. There is such a tremendous opportunity to use the underwater world as a living classroom and expose children to career opportunities connected with the ocean.” 


BREEF extends their gratitude to Kamalame Cay who hosted camp, and to all of the BREEF volunteers who assisted during the duration of the camp.

To learn more about how you can get involved in BREEF’s marine education programmes,

please visit www.breef.org.

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Bahamian film wins Atlanta Children’s Film Festival Award for short-film on danger of oil exploration and climate change

The passionate voices of Bahamian youth were documented in a short-film written by Eleutheran Deep Creek Middle School students, Taryn McKinney-Lambert and Keion Sands and produced by the well acclaimed filmmaker Kareem Mortimer.

Tayrn (L) and Keion (R) bring in a boat to shore

The two students wrote and narrated the short film, “My Island, My Future” that illustrates how The Bahamas depends on its oceans for survival. The film won first place in the Best Youth Short Documentary category. 

The story surrounds a call to action made by ten-year-old Taryn in a letter to then Prime Minister, Hubert Minnis asking him to hold off on any future oil drilling in the country. 

“I saw that we were starting to do oil drilling in The Bahamas and that is not a good idea. If a spill were to happen, which it will, that would just destroy everything” she said.

Keion Sands, age twelve spoke about the delicate marine eco-systems which would be directly impacted if an oil drilling accident occurs. 

“We need to protect mangroves and coral reefs because they protect us from the waves,” he explained. 

Tayrn (L) Finley (center) and Keion (R) walk through Eleuthera mangroves

In the film, aerial shots of the island of Eleuthera, showcasing its lush greenery and coastal areas play over the voices of the two young environmental advocates. Shots of the narrators and other children interacting with the marine environment were also featured. 

Producer Kareem Mortimer says after the students approached him, he jumped at the opportunity to assist them with the passion project. 

“I am happy to support the next generation of filmmakers and storytellers, and people with something to say in the best way I can. 

“All the credit is deserving to young filmmakers that wanted to tell their story.” Mortimer continued, 

“It’s great that they are able to be recognized at a film festival where people may have never been to The Bahamas before.” 

Sailing vessels in waters near Eleuthera

The film was endorsed by Our Islands, Our Future, a coalition of local and international organizations that was established to support Bahamians who are passionate about protecting their heritage and their livelihoods from oil drilling, and who are calling for a permanent ban on oil drilling in The Bahamas. 

The film can be viewed here: My Island My Future

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Tribute to Mallory the Mermaid

Our dearest Mallory Raphael was an ocean lover who exercised a strong passion for sustainability and was eager to share knowledge about the sea she loved. Although she was always an avid swimmer as a child, it was not until a trip to Hawaii as an adult that she fell in love with diving and the coral reefs. 

She brought a brilliant and inspiring energy to every project she embarked on, most notably BREEF’s Bahamas Environmental Scholars (BESS) programme and the BREEF Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden at Clifton Heritage Park.

Mallory was initially hired to assist in building the Sculpture Garden, which is the largest underwater sculpture garden in the world. However, once the project was completed she was immediately hired as the Research and Environmental Education Officer. 

During her time coordinating the BESS programme, she mentored hundreds of students in marine science and sustainability, many of whom are now practicing environmentalists and marine scientists in the field today.

She made it her mission to educate the youth through hands-on demonstrations that helped them to understand and appreciate the Bahamian waters and everything in it. What she found most rewarding was first-time snorkelers experiencing the ocean firsthand. She was quick to provide encouragement and also useful facts about the fish and invertebrates under the sea. 

Mermaid Mallory’s selfless dedication to her coral “babies” enabled her to cultivate a flourishing coral garden with hundreds of new outplants, creating the framework and foundation for ongoing sustainable initiatives.

BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert shared: “ Mermaid Mallory shared her love of the ocean with everyone she met. She was a true ocean advocate.”

Her BREEF family will miss her greatly. 

We invite you to share your memories of Mallory in the comments.

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PADI Women’s Day highlight: Shannen Miller: Diving for Knowledge

Twenty-seven-year-old Bahamian Entrepreneur, Shannen Miller owns her own dive tour company Shannen’s Scuba Safari. In a country where marine and conservation education is limited, she says that expanding Dive Education is essential. 

“Once people start to enjoy interactions with the ocean and marine life they better understand that there is a need to protect and preserve it.”

As a child Shannen was always passionate about marine life and she wanted to be close to the animals she loved so she became a professional dive instructor.

She commends organizations like the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) for teaching people about the thriving Bahamian marine life and beauty of the ocean.

“This is our resource, this is our home, so education pushes the issue of you being more interested or at least more knowledgeable about what’s going on at your home.”

Shannen expressed loving the career she chose, but at times life’s waters got rough. One day she reached her breaking point and was ready to quit, but she reflected on encouragement from PADI.

“I remembered this quote from the last PADI Womn’s Dive Day where they said, “it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can never, not start diving”.” she said.

The young Bahamian entrepreneur decided to take a break for a few months after reassessing her goals. When she returned to the water for a coral restoration dive, she felt rejuvenated and more passionate than ever.

Shannen is now focused on expanding her business and is completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Science. Working in a field dominated by men, she gives this advice to girls who are deciding on the career path,

“The field is for everybody, not just men. You can do it just like them.” 

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PADI Women’s Day highlight: Dominique Bowleg, A Budding Environmental Advocate

Graduating from high school in 2020, Dominique Bowleg said that all of her college application plans came to a screeching halt. Fast forward to today the 19-year-old former BREEF BESS Scholar is now completing her junior year in college abroad. 

This young Bahamian said that after applying for, and being accepted into the BREEF BESS Scholar Program, she regained the momentum she needed to get back on track. 

“The opportunity at BREEF really helped to steer my motivation again and help me to realize why I entered this field,” she said. 

Dominique is studying Marine Biology at Spring Hill College. As she narrows down on exactly what she plans to specialize in, she is taking more classes on the genetic synthesization of coral reefs. 

“That’s one of my passions, so one field I’m looking at is synthetically genetically modifying coral DNA.”

“I know some people say it sounds tough but I find it really interesting and if that works it’s going to be a huge game changer in helping to keep these things long-lasting in their environment. So that’s what I’m focused on at the moment.” she said.

“When I was younger I watched this show called Dolphin Tale and I told my mother that I wanted to do that.” She continued, “When I grew up I realized that a lot of females were not in this field so that’s one more thing that drove me to come more toward this profession.” 

At the end of the day Dominique says she understands that she may face obstacles as a woman working in STEM. However she is not dismayed in the slightest and encourages everyone to be a part of the solution for a more sustainable future. 

The college student explained how she gained a strong love for the ocean and marine life, and what motivates her to work in this field.

“We all need to promote and conserve our environment and once we take gender away from that we can come together and do a better job at protecting the natural resources that we have.”

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