BREEF News

The Queen Conch- A Bahamian Treasure with an Updated Scientific Name


The Queen conch is important to Bahamian culture. It has been used for centuries for food, decoration, jewelry, bait for fishing, and even as a musical instrument.

A Bahamian treasure by any name, its scientific name is now Aliger gigas, originally known as Strombus gigas or more recently as Lobatus gigas. Periodically species can be renamed when further information becomes available for their reclassification. Aliger is a genus of sea snails, marine
gastropod mollusks are in the family Strombidae.

Sadly, conch populations around the region have collapsed due to over-harvesting and harvesting of juveniles. Conch is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITIES). The Bahamas is actively working to protect the country’s conch population for
current and future generations. As a reminder to all fishers, a conch must have a well-formed, flared lip to be harvested. We ask the public to support Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that serve as replenishment zones, and only
purchase and consume sustainably harvested seafood.

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BREEF Partners with AimHi Earth; Offering FREE Access to Climate Education.

Sign up for the 4-part course, streaming live and online at 2pm EST on Mondays starting 20th September:  http://aimhi.earth/climate-course
Use promo code BREEF at checkout for a free ticket! 

BREEF is pleased to announce their partnership with AimHi Earth to offer free access to the empowering, solutions-focused course, ‘Climate, Nature, and how to make a difference.’ 

 “At BREEF, we believe that an educated and aware public will call for action to protect the world around us. We are delighted to be able to collaborate with AimHi to offer this free online course to Bahamian schools and children of all ages,” says Kevin Glinton, Eco-Schools Bahamas National Operator.

With 95% of our territory underwater, and our highest point reaching only 206 feet above sea level, The Bahamas and our fragile ecosystem are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. 

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our Bahamian youth to connect with other like-minded students from different countries and discuss solutions to national and global environmental issues.” Allison Longley, Young Reporters for the Environment National Operator.

Backed by the likes of the United Nations Environment Programme, the University of Cambridge and Dr Jane Goodall, this course brings together the expertise of top-level scientists and educators and incorporates a deep understanding of behavioral psychology, accessible and relatable narratives and a clear focus on solutions and what can (and must) be done. 

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BREEF Presents 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, our First Ever Online Auction!

Click image to visit Online Auction website

BREEF is happy to announce 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, our first ever online auction! Through this fundraising initiative, we aim to raise funding enabling us to continue our ongoing education and research programmes. Dollars raised through the online auction help to support present and future generations of students, families, scientists, educators and guardians helping to preserve our precious oceans and coastlines.

We are inviting you to share BREEF’s love for the beautiful Bahamian oceans by buying a ‘virtual ticket’ and holding your own special COVID-safe dinner (following locally relevant COVID restrictions).

The ticket donations replace funds we would normally raise through attendance tickets at our BREEF Ball and instead go directly to support our ‘Adopt a Coral’ initiative, growing and nurturing our two coral nurseries at the Coral Reef Sculpture Garden and on the Andros Great Barrier Reef.

The virtual tickets are available to purchase now on our ‘Virtual Ticket’ page.

The online auction goes live on World Oceans Day (Tuesday, June 8th 2021) and closes on Wednesday June 30th! We encourage you to bid on these generously donated items.

CLICK HERE TO VISIT ONLINE AUCTION WEBSITE!

For information about the auction items and delivery (if relevant) please contact events@breef.org.

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BREEF Kicks Off World Oceans Month with Release of New Beach Cleanup Guide

With the release of a new guide providing best-practices and tips to host effective beach cleanup events, the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) is encouraging local businesses to be responsible corporate citizens and embrace the important role they play in the sustainable future of our ocean.

World Oceans Day is recognised by the United Nations and organisations and individuals around the world on June 8th every year. Given that The Bahamas is 95% underwater, BREEF is celebrating the whole of June as World Oceans Month.

Executive Director of BREEF, Casuarina McKinney-Lambert describes the annual celebration as “an internationally coordinated effort promoting the protection and restoration of the one shared ocean that connects us all.”

The yearly observance, beginning in 2002 and officially recognised by the United Nations in 2009, unites individuals, governments, civic organizations, religious groups and businesses worldwide through thousands of in-person and virtual events organised across 140 countries throughout the globe. This year’s theme of ‘The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods’ is especially relevant to The Bahamas as our primary industry, tourism, relies heavily on the ocean through beaches, seafood, snorkelling, yachting and more, along with the countless supporting jobs that go along with each.

The head of the local marine-conservation non-profit indicated that this time each year her organization often receives requests by companies wishing to participate in coastal cleanup initiatives and to engage their staff in activities that help protect the ocean. “It is extremely encouraging to see businesses becoming more environmentally conscious and keen to take action. In these challenging times, there is no better place to be than outdoors and in the fresh air, or even better wearing a mask underwater!” To facilitate this, BREEF has created an easy-to-use toolkit that businesses can use to organize their own events.

“Rather than facilitating one single cleanup, this year we decided to think out of the box and shift our focus to building capacity. We wanted to equip our partners with a simple but detailed guide that will help them to be successful” McKinney-Lambert continued.

The guide, which can be found on the BREEF’s website (breef.org) provides breakdowns for before, during and after cleanup events, important contact information for relevant agencies and data collection sheets that can be reported and input into a global database. The goal is that with multiple businesses conducting their own respective cleanup exercises throughout the month of June and beyond, the overall impact will be multiplied across the entire Bahamas.

BREEF is also offering companies planning on hosting beach clean ups the opportunity to have a BREEF team member schedule time slots on the day to speak with their groups on the importance of action to protect Bahamian marine life and how both the business and its team members can continue to do their part year-round.

With June 1st simultaneously serving as the beginning of the Atlantic Hurricane Season and initial projections forecasting an active season ahead, the BREEF executive felt there was no better time to release the publication. “Our coral reefs serve as the first line of defense during major storms, reducing wave energy by up to 97%. Human impacts like pollution are just one of several major threats wreaking havoc on coral reef ecosystems worldwide. With this new guide we really hope to maximize our reach and see an increase in the number of cleanups, no matter how big or small.”

The non-profit foundation will also be hosting a public cleanup and snorkel event at 10AM on Saturday, 12 June at Saunders Beach for interested individuals, small groups and families to attend.

Organisations wishing to coordinate their upcoming cleanup events with BREEF can get in contact by calling (242) 327-9000 or by emailing breef@breef.org.

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BAHAMIAN ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDS RECEIVE SCHOLARSHIPS THROUGH OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME

After an unprecedented year of distanced virtual learning, newly selected Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars are ready for hands-on research and in-person experiential learning through the BESS programme. Applicants throughout New Providence and Grand Bahama competed for coveted seats in this gap year programme offered in partnership by the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) and The Island School.

Scholars for the 2021-2022 BESS Programme are Heather Brockbank from Bishop Michael Eldon School, Isabelle Petty from Sunland Academy, Theodore Moss from C.R. Walker and Promise Russell from St. George’s High School.  Fully funded by The Island School, each scholar will participate in a life-changing experiential Semester on their Eleuthera campus, in addition to a four-month paid internship funded by The Island School. This year, scholars will participate in internships at either BREEF, IDEA Relief or the One Eleuthera Foundation.

Recognizing the growing need to problem solve in a rapidly changing world, BREEF and The Island School mentor these independent students through solutions-based learning and scientific research internships. Upon completion of the programme, each scholar leaves well equipped to lead The Bahamas into a more sustainable future!

Heather Brockbank has shown exceptional leadership in international plastic pollution boot camps and volunteer work with several environmental organizations. “I want to develop a platform to ensure the cultivation of sustainable products for The Bahamas. I also intend to assist The Bahamas in the conversion to a plastic-free land and in this promise, a sustainable lifestyle.”

Isabelle Petty is a Waterkeeper Cadet and an avid diver interested in coral restoration. “My desire to be a front runner in environmental rehabilitation has directed me to apply for a BESS scholarship. The experience I’ve had as a junior ambassador for the environment cannot compare to the hands on education and college prep advantages gained here.”

Theodore Moss is a Royal Bahamas Police Force Cadet and is in the Maritime Cadet Corps. He has had a longstanding interest in solar energy. “In school I created a miniature solar powered vehicle using a plastic bottle, solar panel and my imagination. I am also excited to explore some of the mysteries of the ocean in BESS.”

Promise Russell learned to dive in the Marine Science programme at St. George’s High School and expresses her love for the ocean through visual art. Speaking about the calm she feels underwater, she states “All of my worries stay on the surface. I love it there but there are many issues compromising that beautiful world. I want to protect and preserve this utopia, my underwater home, so others can be inspired and feel that freedom, too.”

In addition to these four young scholars, Brianna Brown from St George’s and Arianna Goulbourne from St. Anne’s School were chosen as BESS Summer Scholars. They will receive a full scholarship from The Island School to participate in the organisation’s 4-week Summer Term beginning July 2021.

Since 2008, 51 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.

BREEF thanks The Island School for providing the BESS scholarships and also thanks their partners, donors and sponsors whose support makes these unique opportunities possible.

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BREEF HOSTS VIRTUAL YOUTH ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP SUMMIT

BREEF hosts virtual youth environmental leadership summit

Cat Island Conservation CEO Nikita Shiel-Rolle (second right) prepares Oceans Guardians for an afternoon of safe ocean fun on Cat Island in this undated photo.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) convened its second Youth Environmental Leadership Summit virtually on March 30 and 31, 2021 under the theme “Carbon, Corals and Conservation”.

During the two-day summit, over 80 students and educators from Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Exuma, New Providence, Bermuda and the US Virgin Islands examined the impact of human-induced carbon emissions on coral reef ecosystems. These young people shared their stories of how they are protecting the coral reefs that protect us, and they inspired each other to take action.

BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, in her opening remarks, said: “All actions begin with small actions and there are many things that everyone can do to address climate change in The Bahamas — at home, at school, in your communities or with your local organizations.

“This complements the Bahamas government’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular the goal to Protect Life Above and Below Water, and a commitment to Climate Action.”

A flyer showing the speakers for the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) Youth Environmental Leadership Summit held on March 30 and 31, 2021.

During her keynote address, Cat Island Conservation Institute CEO Eagleray Empress, aka Nikita Shiel-Rolle, inspired participants.

“We will do whatever it takes to create thriving ocean nations, where we have the opportunity to celebrate and enjoy all that our beautiful countries have to offer,” she said. “We are the innovators and dreamers capable of creating the climate solutions that will combat the fierce and real threat of climate change.”

Other presenters included Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) alumna Georgia Birkwieser, Bishop Michael Eldon School Eco-Schools students Heather Brockbank and Nevaeh Russell, Cat Island Conservation Institute intern Camesha Wilburgh, Ministry of Works Assistant Environmental Specialist Alexio Brown, world-renowned underwater photographer Shane Gross and Lucaya International School Eco-Schools students Isabella Gouthro, Jeanine Tinajero and Loisa Wiegand.

Brown, a former BESS Scholar (2007-2008), said: “The coastline is one of our greatest natural treasures from God. To ensure it continues to provide its many benefits for centuries to come, we must ensure that the future generation has the knowledge, skills and appreciation to advocate for the sustainable use of our coastlines.”

According to Brockbank: “As environmental beings, it is our duty to speak for those who do not have a voice for themselves in the environment in order to encourage a positive change in the world we wish to live in.”

When asked why she thought it was important to participate in the summit, Bermuda’s Greenrock Youth Council member Salayah Stange said: “Our surrounding reefs play such a key role in coastal protection, employment [and] upholding biodiversity, and as the future leaders of our nations, we young people need to be discussing and learning about what is happening to our coral reefs to ensure their importance is not forgotten.”

BREEF YRE Coordinator Allison Ballester-Longley, commenting on the success of the summit, stated: “I was truly impressed by all of the students who participated during the Youth Summit. In particular, their conversations about how their schools and communities are taking action to combat climate change and plastic pollution were truly inspiring.”

BREEF’s Young Environmental Leaders Summit was made possible by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) and the Rolex Perpetual Planet Initiative, and BREEF’s youth coral action is supported by a grant from the Vibrant Oceans Initiative.

For more information about BREEF’s Young Reporters for the Environment and Eco-Schools Bahamas Programmes, please visit www.breef.org, email breef@breef.org or phone (242) 327-9000.

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BREEF Announces Young Reporters for the Environment 2021 National Competition Winners!

BREEF is proud to announce St Anne’s School student, Schemia Major as the winner of the 2021 Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) National Competition. Her winning photo entry titled “Who said a Kalik bottle couldn’t be a plant pot?” offers creative thinking to combat pollution and waste by reducing and reusing items that would otherwise be discarded and turning them into something purposeful. Schemia will receive a brand-new GoPro HD camera gifted by BREEF to support her future in environmental reporting. She will now represent The Bahamas in the 2022 Foundation of Environmental Education (FEE) international YRE competition.

When asked what motivates you to protect nature? Ms. Major replied, “I would like to preserve the planet not only for future generations but for me to live in right now. This is my home, my environment, the place in which I live and I think that protecting and conserving it should be a priority of my everyday life. Protecting nature also gives me the opportunity to show others to do the same and try and educate them while doing so.”

BREEF congratulates all YRE participants for submitting their articles and photos, generating some tough competition. Entries focused on various real-time issues such as food security in The Bahamas, single-use plastics, and pollution. Amy Dickson, age 13, Windsor School, New Providence won second place for her photo entry focused on biodiversity loss. Finley McKinney-Lambert, age 11, Deep Creek Middle School, Eleuthera ranked in third place with his photo entry calling attention to marine debris and the continual harm it causes to our precious coral reefs. 

“I was impressed with the variety of competition entries that were submitted from all over the archipelago, and reflected the wide range of environmental issues that our young people are concerned about. Young people are giving the natural world around them a voice and are inspiring others to get involved”, stated BREEF YRE Coordinator, Allison Longley. 

The YRE Programme aims to empower students aged 11-25 to take a stand on environmental issues they feel strongly about. It gives them a platform to call attention to these issues through writing, photography, or video. There are more than 350,000 young reporters in 45 countries across the world.

BREEF is the National Operator for the Young Reporters for the Environment Programme which is supported by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme. To learn more about the Young Reporters for the Environment programme and how you can get involved, please visit www.breef.org.

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BREEF launches photography book “Bahamas Underwater” with award-winning photographer Shane Gross in partnership with Rolex

Every school in The Bahamas to receive a donated copy

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas Reef Environmental Educational Foundation (BREEF) and partner Shane Gross Photography are thrilled to release “Bahamas Underwater”, a new hardcover book of stunning images of life underwater in The Bahamas.

BREEF Sea Campers are all smiles after exploring Lighthouse Reef, Eleuthera. Photo featured in “Bahamas Underwater” by Shane Gross.

Bursting with over 200 vibrant images, the book featuring award-winning photographer Shane Gross captures the intriguing marine life from around The Bahamas while including a selection of personal stories that captivate the reader.

It includes a foreword by world-renowned ocean explorer and advocate Jean-Michel Cousteau and an introduction by BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, recently recognized as one of the “50 people changing the world” by the Explorers Club.

The breathtaking images throughout the book capture everything from sharks and dolphins to octopus and seahorses. Learn about the many fascinating, diverse and often endangered sea creatures that call this island nation home.

The Bahamas is made up of over 700 islands and a whole lot of ocean. From sand and seagrass flats to coral reefs to the deep ocean, The Bahamas has a rich abundance of amazing and extraordinary animals. It is now more important than ever to celebrate these creatures and their habitats as our seas in The Bahamas and worldwide are under increasing threat from myriad sources. If we can learn to love our oceans, we just might be able to save them.

Gross and BREEF are particularly proud to be donating a copy of the book to every school in The Bahamas. Additionally, all funds raised from sales of this book will be used to support the BREEF Sea Camps where children from around the Bahamian archipelago are taught about the ocean and conservation while getting to explore the sea in their own backyard. Each book sold introduces one Bahamian child to the ocean.

A green sea turtle in The Bahamas. Photo featured in “Bahamas Underwater” by Shane Gross.

McKinney-Lambert said: “Our incredible underwater world is just waiting to be explored. This book opens a window to the vibrant world under the seas that makes The Bahamas so special.

“Award-winning photographer Shane Gross shares inspiring tales of efforts that are underway to protect the incredibly important and endangered species, the beloved places that are under threat and the Bahamian livelihoods that depend on a pristine ocean.

“Funds raised through this book will help sustain BREEF’s continued marine conservation work.”

Gross stated: “I have spent thousands of hours exploring the world under the waves in The Bahamas, trying to capture her beauty with my camera, as impossible as that is. The result is this book, ‘Bahamas Underwater’ — a collection of my favorite images and personal stories.

A queen conch walks along the seabed in The Bahamas. (PHOTO: SHANE GROSS)

“I am honored to collaborate with BREEF to make this book available in virtually every school in The Bahamas, with sales funding BREEF Kids Sea Camps and other conservation and education initiatives.”

The book was made possible by the generous support of individual donors and the sponsorship of Rolex through their Perpetual Planet initiative. Rolex supports organizations and initiatives raising environmental awareness and fosters tomorrow’s explorers, scientists and conservationists through grants, and is a key contributor to BREEF’s youth education programmes.

View EWNEWS press release

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Young Reporters for the Environment National Competition

Join the BREEF Young Reporters for the Environment programme by participating in the 2021 Young Reporters for the Environment National Competition! #givenatureavoice

For Registration and Entry submission details please visit https://forms.gle/fr1rV4qFVCh5vMPE9

Entries are due by March 26, 2021. The winner will be announced during the BREEF Youth Environmental Leadership Summit (March 30-31).

Click here to view acceptance criteria

The Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) programme aims to empower 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. Through the Foundation of Environment Education, BREEF runs the YRE programme in The Bahamas.

BREEF is the National Operator for the Young Reporters for the Environment Programme in which is being supported by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme.

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Drilling will stop on controversial oil well 150 miles from South Florida after company finds the well too dry

Chris Perkins, South Florida Sun Sentinel

A company will stop drilling a controversial oil well it started in December about 150 miles from the South Florida coast, after saying it did not find a valuable oil source.

Bahamas Petroleum Company began drilling the exploratory well off the west coast of Andros Island on Dec. 20, despite wide criticism from Bahamian conservation groups as well as a group of U.S. Representatives led by Alcee Hastings.

After six weeks of drilling, the company said it found oil, but a not a commercial quantity of it. BPC plans to plug and abandon the well in the next few days and move its drillship, Stena IceMax, away from the site.

The Port of Palm Beach was used as a hub for a supply ship assisting the Stena IceMax during its drilling.

The project drew concern in Florida over the possibility that a spill could cause major problems fortourism, fishing, diving, coral reefs, wildlife and the environment, particularly in South Florida and the Florida Keys.

The drilling shutdown is good news for the projects opposition.

“Offshore drilling in the Bahamas is dangerous for both the country’s tourism-driven economy and its pristine waters,” said Diane Hoskins, offshore drilling campaign director for Oceana, an international organization that advocates for ocean conservation.

“We hope the Bahamian government takes this as a sign to stop this senseless journey. The United States and the Bahamas have a shared interested in preventing the associated devastation to our climate, coastal communities and economy.”

Despite the victory for conservationists, the battle isn’t over. BPC said it hasn’t yet decided whether or not to drill in the area again in the future, saying its focus now is to shut down the well it was working on.

“This is a huge breath of fresh air for the future sustainability of our country,” said Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, executive director of the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation. “But the threat is not over because BPC is still hoping to drill additional wells in Bahamian waters. We absolutely need permanent protection from any oil exploration or extraction in the future.”

McKinney-Lambert said the drilling caused “considerable damage to the seafloor and was a clear threat to our waters and our economy and that of our neighbors.”

BPC said it hasn’t yet conducted a final report but doesn’t believe there was any significant amount of harmful material leaked into the water. Still, some want the Bahamian government to take strong action so no more exploratory oil well are drilled off its coasts.

“We now need a full moratorium on oil exploration in Bahamian waters,” McKinney-Lambert said. “This will send the message to the world that we take protection of our environment seriously, that we care about the current and future well-being of our people, and that we are serious about building a climate-resilient future.”

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