BREEF News

Reproduce, Replenish, Restock

For 34 years, The Bahamas has enforced an annual closed season for the Caribbean Spiny Lobster – commonly known as crawfish. From April 1st to July 31st, crawfish are given the chance to reproduce and replenish their population, in return allowing Bahamian fishermen to restock on tasty crawfish tails once the season opens.

Reproduce

Crawfish mate throughout the summer months.

Confiscated female crawfish bearing eggs – Bahamas Department of Marine Resources

When mating, the male passes a sperm packet to the female through an opening called the genital pore. The packet attaches to the underside of the female’s carapace and hardens. Once hardened, the packet is referred to as a black ‘tar spot’.

The female then releases bright orange eggs and fertilizes them with the sperm from the ‘tar spot’. When the eggs are fertilized, the female houses them beneath her abdomen. The eggs must remain attached to the female in order to hatch. 

Female crawfish can lay eggs several times in one season. The larger the female the more eggs she can lay.  A female with a 6’ tail can produce 285,000 eggs while a female with a 9’ tail can produce 860,000 eggs every time they spawn. 

LIFE CYCLE OF SPINY LOBSTER

Replenish

Crawfish larvae are especially vulnerable within the first 6-8 months of life. During this time, they are floating as zooplankton in the open ocean and are often eaten by other tiny marine animals. This is also the time when they go through metamorphosis.

Once metamorphosis is complete, the juvenile crawfish begin to look more like adult crawfish. They then settle into nearshore areas such as mangrove creeks and seagrass beds.

Ensuring that crawfish are able to reproduce and that many of their offspring grow to maturity is very important. This is where closed seasons and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) play a crucial role. 

Closed seasons help ensure that during peak reproductive seasons, crawfish have a chance to reproduce. Effective MPAs serve as replenishment zones for crawfish by increasing the number of large adult crawfish. MPAs also improve the chances of mature crawfish finding each other to reproduce.

“Closed seasons and Marine Protected Areas assist in the efforts to preserve our marine ecosystems, ensuring fish for future generations to come.”

 – Allison Longley, Education and Outreach officer, BREEF

Restock

It is vital that crawfish get a chance to reproduce and replenish their population. They bring in millions of dollars to the economy every year and help support communities throughout the country.  A healthy population of crawfish is a good thing for The Bahamian economy.

“When we were trapping we used to do good. We caught a lot of crawfish and all of our bills got paid. A healthy population of crawfish is crucial to sustaining the crawfish industry.”

– Jacob Leroy Fox, Bahamian Fisherman for 30 years

Laws and guidelines were established to ensure that The Bahamas maintains a healthy population of crawfish. Some of the regulations pertaining to crawfish include:

  • The minimum harvestable size is 3¼” carapace length or 5½”  tail length.
  • A closed season: April 1st – July 31st
  • A permit is required for all vessels trapping crawfish
  • Crawfish traps must be wooden traps
  • The possession of ‘berried’ (egg-bearing) crawfish is prohibited.
  • The Sportsfishing (non-Bahamian or Bahamian resident) bag limit is 10 crawfish per vessel. 

See a complete list of Fisheries laws and regulations at www.laws.bahamas.gov.bs.

Responsible fishermen know and obey fishery regulations, respect closed seasons and respect the rules of Marine Protected Areas. They practice sustainable harvesting techniques and only buy and sell legal seafood.

April 1st marks the start of another closed crawfish season and we encourage everyone to adhere to the fishery regulations. By doing so, you are helping to preserve the next generation of crawfish in The Bahamas. 

Learn more by reading our crawfish guide for Bahamian schools.

For more information on fisheries regulations please visit www.breef.org and download the FishRules app for free on your android or iPhone today!


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BREEF PIONEERS POST-DORIAN “RESILIENT BLUE BAHAMAS” PROJECT IN GRAND BAHAMA & ABACO

BREEF’s “Resilient Blue Bahamas” programme is inspiring young people to get involved with building a more resilient Bahamas. Starting in February 2020, BREEF has delivered a curriculum-based educational model to nearly 500 students from Hugh Campbell Primary School, Bishop Michael Eldon School, Mary Star of the Sea Academy, Lucaya International School and Freeport Gospel Chapel School. The presentation and activities were designed to increase students’ awareness of climate change and the role coral reefs and mangrove wetlands play in safeguarding our islands from storms.  

Hurricane Dorian was a stark reminder of how vulnerable our low-lying islands are in the face of increasingly intense hurricanes. It was also a reminder of the critical role that our nearshore ecosystems of coral reefs and mangroves play in protecting our islands and making our country more resilient. Coral reefs can break wave energy by 97% and the flexible prop roots of the red mangroves absorb wave energy and serve as a buffer between land and sea. 

BREEF’s Education Coordinator stated:  “BREEF recognizes the critical role that young people have in conserving the Bahamian marine environment and developed the “Resilient Blue Bahamas” project to support their recovery and ongoing efforts to restore and protect these ecosystems that protect us. I was impressed with the students’ attentiveness, questions, and positive attitudes.”

When asked to share her thoughts about the project, Freeport Gospel Chapel School teacher and Eco-Schools coordinator Ms. Helen P. Tynes said, “Bahamians are known as a resilient set of people and in light of what our country recently experienced with hurricane Dorian there is an urgent need to educate our children on ways to protect and preserve the earth that we have borrowed from them.”

In addition to learning about several human threats to coral reefs and mangroves, students were able to view video messages of solidarity and empathy from other Eco-Schools students in The Bahamas and around the world supporting the Children for Children Campaign.  The Children for Children Campaign was initiated by BREEF and the Foundation for Environmental Education last November to support the 12 Eco-Schools in Grand Bahama and Abaco that were impacted by hurricane Dorian.  

In order to assist schools with recovering educational materials that were lost in the hurricane,  BREEF gave each school laminated copies of the “Life in the Bahamian Mangrove Creek” educational posters and copies of BREEF’s Educator Toolkit, “Corals, Consumer & Climate Change,” and “Life on the Bahamian Coral Reef”  Educators Guide to the Virtual Coral Reef Field Trip. BREEF will continue to provide additional educational materials to schools impacted by Hurricane Dorian in Grand Bahama and Abaco, including laminated fish, coral, and mangrove identification slates. 

Speaking about the programme, Luke Hopper, Assistant Head Teaching and Learning at Lucaya International School said, “Thank you for further developing and setting the local context in terms of the opportunities and threats facing the vital ecosystems of the Bahamas.” 

According to Cam Chandler, a student at Lucaya International School, “It was an enjoyable and educational presentation. It was really nice to learn about something we had studied in depth, with more local and specific details. We also enjoyed the personalized setting.”

The Resilient Blue Bahamas Project is made possible through the generous assistance of the Moore Bahamas Foundation, the Lyford Cay Foundation and the many donors who continue to support BREEF’s hurricane recovery efforts. 

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BREEF Shares Online Learning Resources to Support Students

While schools are closed and we are all embarking on social distancing, BREEF would like to help students, teachers and parents continue to learn from home. Our team has put together a selection of resources that can keep kids engaged and learning about the waters around us.

One of the tools we would like to highlight is our Virtual Coral Reef Field Trip (VCRFT). With funding from the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) created the Virtual Coral Reef Field Trip Toolkit for educators. The toolkit includes a 25-min educational film titled “Life on the Bahamian Coral Reef” and a guide with interactive extras and student worksheets.

VCRFT-BREEF

The VCRFT Toolkit was developed by BREEF as a result of direct requests from teachers for an educational resource that would assist them with overcoming the challenges they face in taking students out to observe a real coral reef. 

It exposes students to the wonders of Bahamian coral reefs without them ever leaving their classrooms or homes. It also lays the groundwork for further field studies on coral reefs and other ecosystems.

Through the use of the tools provided in this kit, students develop their scientific processing skills and gain an appreciation for the need for conservation of coral reefs both locally and globally. It provides an enriching and engaging experience for students learning about coral reef ecosystems.

Coral reefs play an important role in our tourism and fishing industries, providing food, recreation and shoreline protection for us all.

Take a Virtual Coral Reef Field Trip Today!

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Young’s Fine Wine Pairs with BREEF’s Coral Restoration Efforts

Coral reefs are under threat around the world and Young’s Fine Wine, has partnered with BREEF to protect them in The Bahamas. Part proceeds of every bottle of Murphy Goode and Gulfstream wine sold at Young’s support BREEF’s coral conservation efforts. William Young presented BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney with a cheque for $13,275 for coral conservation and restoration. 

Jackson Family Wines, the producers of Murphy Goode Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc have a long commitment to sustainability throughout the wine production process. Young’s Fine Wine, the local distributors, are matching and raising the support locally and showcasing their commitment to protecting the nature that surrounds the islands and makes The Bahamas so special.

“When Jackson Family Wines approached us and inquired about a way to contribute to a sustainability project in The Bahamas, we immediately thought of BREEF” says William Young, President of Young’s Fine Wine. “We have always been inspired by the work BREEF does and are thrilled to have formed a beneficial partnership combining two things we are really passionate about: great wine and supporting the environment.”

BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert speaks of the collaboration: “Special thanks to Young’s Fine Wine, Jacksons Family Wines, and all the customers who are purchasing bottles of Murphy Goode and Gulfstream, knowing that every bottle supports BREEF’s coral conservation work. Please do continue to enjoy, knowing that your glass is helping our ocean! Our coral reefs protect us from hurricanes, but they are also vulnerable to the impacts of wave energy toppling coral heads over, sedimentation, and damage from debris and pollution washed into the ocean from land. Coral reefs protect us, but they need all the help they can get.” 

Coral reefs are particularly important in The Bahamas for the role that they play in protecting our islands from hurricanes; they are able to break wave energy by 90% and in this way protect the shorelines behind them. In addition, they have huge value as hubs for biodiversity, fisheries, and tourism.  

BREEF is growing endangered Staghorn coral at coral nurseries in New Providence and with Kamalame Cay at the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Andros. Once the corals are large enough, the restoration team out-plants these corals to restore adjacent reefs. BREEF is part of the Reef Rescue Network that works to restore coral reefs in the Bahamas and neighbouring countries.

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Coral Out-planting Season in Full Swing!

Coral out-planting season is in full swing and we are happy to report our Staghorn coral babies have grown up so beautifully and bountiful!

BREEF has two coral propagation units (CPU) located at the Coral Reef Sculpture Garden , and here you will find hundreds of our out-plants. The goal of coral propagation efforts is to restore the health of the adjacent reef by increasing the population recovery and eventually contribute to sexual reproduction, site propagation and the recruitment of new corals.

Find out how you can help save our coral reefs. Contact us! breef@breef.org

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BREEF ECO-SCHOOLS STUDENTS ARE LEADING THE WAY AND TAKING ACTION TO SUPPORT THE 2020 PLASTIC BAN

Young Bahamians around the country are voicing support for the Plastic Ban and highlighting creative solutions that the public can use to support the initiative to decrease marine pollution and improve human health.  Students in The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation’s (BREEF) network of 33 Eco-Schools throughout The Bahamas are excited to be part of the change and have thrown their full support behind the Plastic Ban.

“Young children are leading the way to a more sustainable future.” stated BREEF Executive Director, Casuarina McKinney-Lambert. “It is the next generation who will especially feel the benefit of these forward-thinking policies, and children in Bahamian Eco-Schools have already been inspiring others around the country to get on board with creating a healthier environment for all.”

In Grand Bahama Bishop Michael Eldon School’s (BMES) Maleah Wilchcombe, head of the Eco-club’s Energy Department says, “Our School has implemented the use of cardboard lunch containers instead of styrofoam containers, because we saw this practice as Eco-friendly.  Even before the implementation of the Plastic Ban our school began selling plastic straws and forks for 25 cents to encourage students to bring metal forks from home. We’re planning to sell and distribute customized reusable bags and have placed information on our Eco-School bulletin board about the 2020 Plastic Ban.   An “On- the-Spot” reusable bag design making competition and a recycled materials themed Project Runway fashion show are also in the making.”

Eco-club students at  C. I. Gibson Senior High School are all united in this initiative and said, “We the members of the C.I. Gibson Eco-Schools Programme totally support the ban on plastic items  by the Bahamian government as a necessity to save our marine resources.” 

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Young Reporters for the Environment: BREEF’s New Educational Programme Empowers Bahamian Youth

The Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) programme aims to empower young students aged 11-25 to take a stand on environmental issues they feel strongly about and give them a platform to call attention to these issues through the media of writing, photography or video. There are more than 350,000 young reporters in 45 countries across the world.

On Saturday, February 8th, YRE students from Eco-schools in New Providence and Eleuthera participated in a 2-hour YRE workshop hosted by BREEF. Presenters at the workshop included professional photographer and social media influencer Shane Gross and environmental media reporter Crystal Darling from ZNS.

YRE is an amazing programme because it allows young people to utilize social media in an impactful way, expressing their concerns about the environment and proposing solutions. YRE teaches our youth how to communicate effectively by utilizing a cutting-edge approach to disseminate news.”

-Allison Longley, National Operator for the Young Reporters for the Environment.

YRE participants were asked what motivates you to protect nature.

Kaitlyn Archer, age 17, responded “What motivates my group members and I to protect nature is the sustainability of our surrounding for future generations. Nature is often neglected by human beings in today’s world and now it’s survival is becoming such a vital aspect of life; we have to protect it.”

Georgia Birkweiser, age 14, exclaimed “If we don’t take care of the environment, our future will be bleak or non-existent.

Caden Smith, age 16, replies “I have a passion and strong love for nature and the environment. I enjoy caring for the nature that surrounds us. I enjoy engaging myself in any activities that benefit nature.”

YRE participants will compete in a national competition on Earth Day (April 22, 2020). The winner of the competition will receive country-wide recognition and will be eligible to enter the 2021 Foundation of Environmental Education (FEE) international competition. The launch of this programme is being made possible with the help of a Strategic Grant from the Global Environment Facility.

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Nassau Grouper Closed Season starts December 1st

December 1st – February 28th marks the Nassau Grouper Closed Season.

This means that it’s illegal to land, purchase or sell Nassau Grouper during this 3 month winter period.

Let’s give them some time and privacy to make more Nassau Groupers.

In the meantime, try out other tasty options like Lionfish.

If you support the closed season, B.R.E.E.F. encourages you to make our image your social mediaprofile picture and share it with your friends.

Learn More About Nassau Grouper And Why They Are So Important

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Countdown to 2020 Conservation Challenge

More than 10 years ago, the Government of The Bahamas committed to protecting and effectively managing 20% of our marine environment by 2020 to ensure a healthy marine environment and sustain livelihoods in fisheries and tourism. With this deadline less than one year away, 10% of the country’s nearshore environment has been set aside in protected areas, placing The Bahamas at the halfway mark. 

As our country tackles the ongoing challenges of foreign poaching, stretched law enforcement capacity at sea, declining conch stocks, and the international downgrade of the Nassau grouper to critically endangered status, a well-managed and designed network of marine protected areas provide a viable solution to address these issues.

“We have a great opportunity right now to safeguard our environment for future generations,” said Shenique Albury-Smith, Bahamas Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. “We are all concerned about the decline in our marine resources, so we proposed a solution to the problem because we care about our country and our heritage.”

Marine Protection Plan Presented to Government: L-R: Karen Panton Executive Director of Bahamas Protected Areas Fund, Lakeshia Anderson Director of Parks Bahamas National Trust (BNT), Casuarina McKinney-Lambert Executive Director of Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira, Lynn Gape Deputy Executive Director Bahamas National Trust (BNT), Patricia Minnis Office of the Spouse, Janet Johnson President of Bahamas National Trust, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard, Shenique Albury-Smith Bahamas Director at The Nature Conservancy, Opposition Leader Philip Davis, Eleanor Philips Director at The Nature Conservancy, Eric Carey Executive Director Bahamas National Trust (BNT)

During the September 2018 submission of the Bahamas Protected Marine Protection Plan, Minister of the Environment and Housing, Hon. Romauld Ferreira restated the government’s commitment to the 20% protection goal. Bahamas Protected is now encouraging the government to declare and legally establish the full list of proposed areas as MPAs as 2020 draws near.

Until this time, partners will continue to work alongside key government agencies to provide information and technical support. Once the new MPAs are declared, work can begin again with communities to determine the best way to effectively manage these areas for the benefit of people and nature.

In 2016, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), and Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) joined forces with relevant government agencies and numerous other stakeholders under the Bahamas Protected project.

Science team surveying a coral reef 

To help our country achieve its 2020 goal, the Bahamas Protected science team examined previous research that was done in numerous local marine environments to determine where the country was still short of its national conservation targets for protecting key species and important areas. This data was combined with additional research, local knowledge and community input to identify priority areas for inclusion in the Bahamas National Protected Area System and reach conservation targets for key marine features.

“By identifying and actively protecting key features such as fish spawning sites, and areas where adult conch are reproducing, this will not only ensure rich biodiversity in these waters, but increase their spillover into fished areas will help protect the livelihood of fishermen for many generations,” said Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, Executive Director for BREEF.

 

 

South Andros Community Meeting

 

The culmination of work by the partnering organizations was the submission of the Marine Protection Plan (MPP) to the government, identifying a suite of areas around the country that would create the most effective network of protection and enable the country to meet its 2020 goal. An online support petition was also submitted and to date has generated more than 11,000 signatures in support of marine protection, with more than 10,000 of those signatures coming from Bahamians.

“We didn’t operate in a vacuum. We went into communities to find out what areas they thought were important to help guide our planning,” said Lashanti Jupp, Conservation Planner for the Bahamas National Trust, “We’re connected by water, not separated. So we need to ensure that everyone benefits from the areas being proposed.”

Follow the Bahamas Protected Facebook page for more information (@242protected), and sign and share the petition if you want to get involved in protecting The Bahamas for today and the future.

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Residents Take Charge of Managing Their Marine Protected Areas

San Salvador is known as the place where the first steps into the New World happened and has long been globally recognized for its historical significance. This little island formerly known as ‘Guanahani’ has once again stepped into the forefront as the first island where a community group has entered a formal agreement with a national agency to share responsibility for managing the national parks on their island.

For more than a decade the San Salvador Living Jewels Foundation, island residents, Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) and the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) advocated to protect natural resources and special places on the island through the creation of national parks. Finally, in April 2015, the Government of the Bahamas announced the creation of five national parks on that island to be managed by the BNT; Southern Great Lake National Park, Pigeon Creek and Snow Bay National Park, Graham’s Harbour Iguana and Seabird National Park, West Coast Marine Park, and Green’s Bay National Park.

BNT President, Janet Johnson noted “It was a long road that took more than a decade of perseverance by the BNT, San Salvador Living Jewels, BREEF and The Nature Conservancy, combined with decades of local knowledge and scientific research gathered through the Gerace Research Centre.  In addition to these partners, we are also very grateful for funding support from Nancy Taylor, Jerry Bryant, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and Oceans 5. This collective effort gave us an understanding of the areas now designated as national parks and now enables us to continue work to effectively manage these areas.”

San Salvador National Parks

In 2017, under the Bahamas Protected project, the BNT worked with the local community to finalize the management plan which provides a long-term vision for overall management of these five parks.  The plan will help to ensure that natural resources are protected, while supporting traditional sustainable uses by residents and visitors.

Following the completion of the management plan, BNT embarked on another phase of work to develop a co-management agreement with the San Salvador Living Jewels Foundation. During a capacity-building workshop on 19 October, 2018, both organizations signed the country’s first formal agreement between a national protected area management agency and a community group which allows for sharing the responsibilities, rights, and duties of managing a group of national parks; a novel approach to ensure residents will continue to be involved in the decision-making process and operations related to protected areas on their island.

“The amount of time, effort and money that went into getting these areas declared and finalizing the management plan was significant. But it was all worth it because we can now get started on ensuring these natural areas are properly managed and we can all continue to reap the benefits,” said San Salvador Living Jewels Foundation President, Michael Goffe.

Describing a historical site near Green’s Bay National Park at Idell Jones Hall in San Salvador. October 15th, 2018. L-R: Michael Goffe, SSLJ President and Brendalee Jones-Strachan, SSLJ Member

“The co-management agreement between our organizations is a template that can be used to develop agreements with community-based groups on other islands. Each island and park is unique, so every management plan and co-management agreement must cover the needs of that area to ensure it is effectively managed and protected.” said Bahamas National Trust Conservation Planner, Lashanti Jupp. 

Collectively, the San Salvador National Parks cover 25,750 acres of marine and freshwater habitats with the aim of conserving native and endangered plants, animals and historical resources. This includes the critically endangered San Salvador Rock Iguana, Pigeon Creek –  the only tidal creek and mangrove nursery area on the island, the greatest diversity of nesting seabirds found anywhere in The Bahamas and the Columbus landfall site. 

“San Salvador has always been a shining example of a community working to protect their resources, said BREEFs Executive Director, Casuarina McKinney Lambert. “For more than 20 years, BREEF has had tremendous support from the San Salvador community during our Teacher Training Workshops and Sea Camps held at Gerace Research Centre, to build an awareness and appreciation for our marine environment. With so much community support and the completion of the management plan for its national parks, San Salvador has set a great example that the rest of the country can follow.”

Capacity Building Workshop group at Idell Jones Hall, San Salvador. October 17th, 2018. L-R: Andiany Matthyssens, ICCF CFO, Todd Koenings, ICCF Director, Lashanti Jupp, BNT Conservation Planner, SSLJ Member Garnell Williams, Mel Turner, Global Parks, Eric Carey, BNT Executive Director, Michael Goffe, SSLJ President, Karen Fernander, SSLJ Treasurer, Lakeshia Anderson, BNT Director of Parks, Catherine Pinder, BNT Director of Finance & Operations, Derek Thompson, Global Parks and Brendalee Jones-Strachan, SSLJ Member

In 2008, The Bahamas committed to effectively conserve at least 20% of its near-shore marine environment by 2020, as part of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative. In 2015, new MPAs were declared including the five parks on San Salvador, which brought The Bahamas to 10% protection. The new set of MPAs proposed under the Bahamas Protected project in September 2018 will bring the country to its goal of 20% protection, if all areas are declared and legally established.

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