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2020 Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) National Competition Entry: Tony Gardiner, St.Anne’s School-Nassau, Bahamas
In The Bahamas there are numerous locations like this one that are stocked with waste. The trash’s effect on plants can be contamination, growth restriction and inhibition of nutrient uptake, all which causes stunted growth and eventual death of the plant.
Plants are very important to our ecosystems. They provide us with for food, oxygen and medicine. A decrease in the amount of plants in our country will have a negative effect on our environment.
We can avoid a decline in plants by having set days for everyone to help clean up areas where there are a lot of plants. These days can be named ‘pick up and go.’ We can also set laws on littering no matter the place. Finally, we must teach the younger generation the value of sustainable practices like planting trees, using reusable water bottles, having beach clean ups and more.
As a nation we all should come together and fight to keep our Bahama land clean GREEN and pristine for future generations.
On July 25th, 2020, the island of Mauritius experienced a devastating environmental disaster. A Japanese-owned ship carrying 4,000 tons of fuel oil hit a coral reef in a marine sanctuary. Twelve days later as the ship began to break a part, 1,000 tons of oil leaked into the surrounding marine environment.
“The oil leak from the stranded ship caused severe damage to the people of Mauritius, and the economy of which largely relies on tourism and the beautiful ocean,” said Noriaki Sakaguchi, a representative from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The amount of oil that leaked into the surrounding seas was relatively low compared to other oil spills around the world. However, it is the location of the spill rather than the size that made this spill so devastating. It was so destructive the Mauritian government declared a national emergency.
The location was in the midst of multiple UNESCO protected corals, turtle nesting grounds, mangrove forests, low lying ebony forests, grasslands and important fish breeding habitats – areas that have been protected for decades.
“The toxic hydrocarbons released from spilled oil will bleach coral reefs and they will eventually die,” said Professor Richard Steiner, an international oil spill adviser and a marine biologist in Alaska, US.
The toxic chemicals will not only destroy marine habitats and kill marine animals; they will also gravely affect the health of many Mauritians. This is heartbreaking to say the least.
The Bahamas is also an island nation that relies heavily on the ocean and tourism. COVID-19 gave us all a glimpse of what a crippled tourism industry looks like. Fortunately, we are coming out of quarantine to crystal-clear waters, beautiful white sand beaches and rich biodiversity.
Could you imagine all that soiled with oil? Well that is the reality for our island friends across the world.
Oil is dangerous on many levels and it is vital that we move away from it. As we are seeing with Mauritius, even a small oil spill can have detrimental, long lasting effects.
Together we must urge our nation leaders to make clean energy decisions before it’s too late. Our future depends on it.
“In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum
Twelve years ago this quote was shared with BESS Alumni, Walcott Miller by his Magnet Marine Science programme coordinator, Ms. Marcia Musgrove and it still resonates with him today.
“She really helped foster this love [for the ocean] with her dedication to field based learning,” Walcott said. “This helped me get comfortable working with BREEF and studying at The Island School.”
While at C.V. Bethel Senior High School, Ms. Musgrove introduced Walcott to BREEF, The Island School and the Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars (BESS) programme.
Walcott recalls how the programme pushed him out of his comfort zone and has taught him many lessons that he still uses today.
“One thing a lot of people don’t know about me is that I didn’t learn to swim until high school and didn’t become proficient until I went to The Island School,” Walcott said.
He shared how a teacher at The Island School took him under their wing and helped him become a strong swimmer.
“At the end, I was able to complete the four-mile open ocean swim,” Walcott said. “I felt really accomplished!”
Exciting yet challenging is how Walcott describes his BESS experience. “There were so many memorable moments but I think my most memorable moment was being able to meet so many people from different backgrounds as well as the things I learnt doing research and in classes,” he said.
Upon completing the BESS programme, Walcott spent ten years working at the Atlantis Aquarium. He credits his success in this field to the knowledge gained during his BESS experience.
“The BESS programme helped me immensely when I worked in the aquarium; from basic animal knowledge and species identification to interacting with people from different backgrounds and ideologies,” he said.
Walcott encourages current and future scholars to “embrace the opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone. That’s how you’ll grow and in the process, you may find a part of yourself that you didn’t know you had.”
After a highly competitive application process with candidates applying from Grand Bahama, New Providence, Eleuthera and Abaco, four new Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars (BESS) have been selected. The programme provides scholars with an enriching and life-changing opportunity offered by BREEF and the Cape Eleuthera Island School.
Scholars for the 2020-2021 BESS Programme are Antonia Ferguson from Nassau Christian School (NCS), Edward Munroe from the Leadership Academy, Haley Bethel from Forest Heights Academy and Aquinas College and Dominique Bowleg from C.R. Walker Senior High. Scholars will spend a life-changing semester at The Island School and a four-month paid internship at BREEF. BREEF and The Island School mentor these independent students through solutions-based learning and scientific research internships. Recognizing the growing need to problem solve in a rapidly changing world, the scholars will be well equipped to lead The Bahamas into a more sustainable future once they complete the programme.
Tonia Ferguson, Valedictorian of NCS, made quite a splash in the news stating her aspirations of being a marine biologist and a professional mermaid. “I am aching for an innovative learning experience in BESS. The ocean and science were always my two loves and I have a passion for sustaining our beloved resources for future generations. I want to encourage people, especially children, to care for our beautiful waters and aquatic animals, in particular sharks and their conservation” – Tonia Ferguson
Edward Munroe has been actively involved in caring for our coasts through community and beach cleaning initiatives. He is very excited to be at The Island School, eager to be a part of the Center for Sustainable Development as well as learning about fish farming, food security and marine protected areas. Edward, currently residing in Eleuthera, will also be participating in an internship with the One Eleuthera Foundation before attending the Island School next Spring.
Haley Bethell experienced first hand the destruction of Hurricane Dorian and the loss of her beloved Eco- School, Forest Heights Academy in Abaco. The event taught her, “that material things should not be the focus of one’s life journey because we could easily lose them in a flash”. Her hobbies are swimming, baking and making things with her hands. Hayley is looking forward to studying marine biology and using social media to affect positive change, with a possible focus in eco-tourism or water management.
Dominique Bowleg was the Vice President of her Environmental Club at C.R. Walker. She wants to focus on a career researching new marine plants and invertebrates with hopes to discover possible treatments for incurable diseases. Dominique also wants to help protect key species with new legislation to prevent depletion of our fisheries resources. She will be interning at BREEF this September and attending The Island School in the Spring.
These four scholars will begin their journey this fall, gaining hands-on experiences and forging lifelong relationships in the BESS Programme.
Since 2008, 47 young Bahamians have benefitted from this exceptional educational experience, with most scholars going on to pursue related tertiary studies or being currently employed in the environmental field. Coral Vita’s Alannah Vellacott states that “Hands down the BESS – Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars programme changed my life and was the springboard for the incredible, adventurous life of marine research and conservation I live. BREEF I am forever grateful for you believing in me.”
BREEF and the Cape Eleuthera Island School thank all the partners, donors and sponsors whose support makes these opportunities possible.
From the moment I became involved with BREEF, it has been an enlightening experience. It all began in November 2019, when I learned about the Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) programme through my Eco-School Club at St. Anne’s School. Both the Eco-school Bahamas and YRE programmes provide great opportunities for young people to learn about the need for environmental sustainability and practical measures we could adopt to make a positive difference.
My enthusiasm for the environment led me to register for the YRE national competition. I wanted to gain greater insight on issues such as global warming, ocean pollution and conservation.
Shortly after registering, my schoolmates and I attended the YRE seminar. There, we were exposed to many different forms of media as well as the tools needed to start creating our competition entries. The presentations were not only informative but engaging. The seminar also allowed us to further develop our interpersonal skills as it fostered communication and collaboration with other competitors throughout the island. We were given the opportunity to hear from persons who shared similar passions for the well-being of our planet.
That experience was only the beginning of something exciting and new. BREEF then granted my friends and I, an experience we could not pass up – a chance to explore the mesmerizing BREEF Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden. There, we got to experience unique fish species and marine animals up close. The thrill of this experience compelled me to accept another invitation when the opportunity arose.
On PADI Women’s Dive Day (July 18th, 2020), BREEF afforded me the privilege of snorkeling their underwater sculpture garden for a second time. I felt extremely honoured to be in attendance and embraced by qualified women in science.
Through YRE’s extensive platform, my peers and I have definitely gained an acute awareness of protecting our ecosystems and the species in our native land. I have learnt so much from BREEF – from the significance of the Coral Reef Sculpture Garden to the ways I can help promote sustainability and conservation of our environment. These experiences opened new doors for me, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to participate in BREEF events. I am also appreciative of BREEF’s employees who continue to allow me to spend time with the organization.
I call on anyone that has a passion for our environment to partner with BREEF. It just might be the place that allows you to fulfill your desire to care for our environment.
PADI Women’s Dive Day begun six years ago and has grown to be the largest single day of diving in the world. This year BREEF celebrated PADI Women’s Dive Day with a dive and snorkel at the world-renown BREEF Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden. A variety of women and girls in science were present including Crystal Darling, a journalist who has a keen interest in marine science, Mermaid Linzi, an ocean activist as well as BREEF Young reporters and new BESS Scholars.
The day was filled with laughter and inspiration as the girls got to meet and network with science journalists, conservationists and BREEF Staff.
Check out this ZNS story to view highlights from this special day.
Nine years later, BESS alumni Trueranda Cox still remembers the moment she learned that she was accepted into the BESS programme.
“I was extremely happy – I probably smiled for a week nonstop.” Trueranda said.
Trueranda’s enthusiasm was seen and felt in everything she was asked to do. From research projects to helping with sea camp and even now when BESS students reach out to her, she is ready and willing to assist.
“Looking back on every research trip that I had the opportunity to go on, I am in awe that at 17 years old I was able to contribute to real world science in rooms filled with scientists both local and international,” Trueranda said
Trueranda now runs Ultimate Tours Bahamas, an eco-tour and activity company that highlights Bahamian culture, history and the environment. She credits the opportunities experienced during the BESS programme for the path she is currently on.
“The network of people I have been exposed to during this programme [the BESS programme] is probably one of my greatest assets so far in my career. I don’t think I would be where I am today if I did not have the chance to be exposed at such a young age,” Trueranda said.
This is not the only thing Trueranda gained during her time in the programme.
“The BESS programme has challenged me to be more of a critical thinker. Critical thinking skills are crucial in developing a problem-solving mindset and once you can approach every challenge or obstacle with a problem-solving mindset, I think you may have found the secret to a happy life,” she said.
Trueranda shares this piece of advice to current and future BESS scholars.
“Take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to you through the programme. The skills and network you will gain is priceless. You will be light years ahead of your peers if you do.”
Drive and transparency are two characteristics that BESS alumni Kenaro Malcolm embodies. From the day he accepted his BESS scholarship to now, we have seen Kenaro’s drive take him to new depths!
From a very young age Kenaro was inspired by his Grandfather to foster a connection with the ocean. He comes from a long line of family fisherman and spent a lot of time on the water. His favorite fish is the Atlantic Tarpon, also known as the Silver King in the sport fishing world.
“As the pinnacle of inshore sport fishing just the idea of a 300lb tarpon at the end of my fly rod is enough to make any experienced angler weak at the knees,” – Kenaro said.
Kenaro, a self-confessed Fish ‘FIN’atic, was in heaven during his Island School semester when he participated in research on Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs). During the research, he assisted scientists with monitoring colonization and succession of species on pelagic FADs.
“We dropped a deep anchor with 2,000 ft of line and we monitored the small fish which first came, then larger and larger fish all the up to apex predators. I also got to tag sharks to study their health, growth and migration in the Bahamas,” Kenaro said.
Kenaro also interned at the Bahamas National Trust and took every opportunity he had to dive and snorkel with BREEF.
After completing the BESS Program Kenaro was awarded a scholarship by the Lyford Cay Foundation. He is currently studying Marine Environmental Technology at the College of the Florida Keys.
“The BESS programme made me realize that anything is possible if you’re willing to put your all into it,” Kenaro said. “ I can remember as clear as day one of my professors during the time of BESS saying to me – If you continue to pursue your passion, it will one day become your profession.”
We are looking forward to seeing all that Kenaro accomplishes in the coming years! He is focused, determined and everything we love to see in our environmental stewards!
“Just like everything else in life there’s going to be ups and downs. BESS was the “up” that put me on top of the world,” Kenaro said. “To think something so overlooked could be sitting under people’s noses, oblivious to wondrous experiences are available through this scholarship.“
The BREEF Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden was built as an incredible living art gallery, a habitat for marine organisms, an underwater classroom for students, and to drive marine conservation efforts. Created and deployed in 2014, the Coral Reef Sculpture Garden is now a home to many species of coral, fish and invertebrates such as sponges and sea urchins.
Several sculptures make up our artificial coral reef garden and Ocean Atlas by Jason de Caires Taylor is at the center of them all. Ocean Atlas is a living statue of a Bahamian girl holding the future of our oceans on her shoulders. She calls for the next generation of environmental stewards to take up the torch of marine conservation.
Over the past six years, Ocean Atlas has made a few new coral friends. Her hand is now covered with encrusting brain coral and her back with finger coral.
Star coral, mustard hill coral and fire coral are developing all over her body.
Corals have embraced Ocean Atlas and the other statues in our coral garden. The Virtuoso Man by Willicey Tynes, shown just after deployment in 2014, has been growing fire coral and golf ball coral all over his body. Various fish and marine invertebrates have also made the Virtuoso Man’s staff their home.
The Reef Balls are developing into a living reef, housing octocorals and long spined urchins that help keep algae in check.
The artificial reef sculptures also host sea fans, arrow crabs and other species of corals.
Larger marine animals such as spotted eagle rays, manatees and dolphins have also visited the BREEF sculpture garden.
Near the sculpture garden, you will find one of BREEF’s coral nurseries. There, corals are fragmented and regrown on coral trees using the propagation method. When these corals are large enough they are out-planted on the reef and secured with underwater epoxy.
Two years later, this reef of outplanted corals is full of life! Just look at all of these fish taking shelter in the ‘BREEF Reef’ now!
Restoring coral reefs is very important for the health of the marine environment and sustaining our livelihoods. A structurally diverse reef can provide a multitude of habitats for species. Healthy reefs also reduce wave energy by 95%, thus protecting our coasts during major storms!
We have outplanted over 200 corals from our nursery and counting. Our coral restoration effort is part of the REEF Rescue Network.
You can help BREEF rebuild our precious coral reefs by adopting a coral today!