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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Amazing Conservation Opportunities Available to Young Bahamians.

BREEF and the Island School are now accepting applications for the 2019-2020 Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars programme (BESS).

The BESS programme is for motivated graduating high school students between the ages of 15-18 who are interested in learning more about the environment, conservation, and sustainable systems as they transition from high school to university studies.

Since the programme’s inception forty-four BES Scholars from schools throughout the country have participated in the programme.

Two young Bahamians, Katelyn Cambridge and Stacy Pinder, are interning at the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) as part of the BESS programme. 

Both scholars attended the Eco-Schools Coordinators Workshop in October. In addition, they assisted BREEF by guiding students in nearshore field trips to coral reefs, mangroves, and rocky shores during the BREEF Field Trip Block.

Katelyn taught students how to identify and survey fish and discussed how fish populations can help indicate reef health.

 BREEF congratulates Katelyn on attaining her PADI Open Water Diver certification. She also completed a one-week Seahorse research internship with Dr. Heather Masonjones in Eleuthera.

BESS Scholar Stacy is helping to care for the corals in the BREEF coral nursery and assisted partners at the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and Reef Rescue Network. In the last 50 years, Bahamian Reefs have declined by 80%.

Growing and outplanting endangered Staghorn Coral, Acropora cervicornis, is one piece of the puzzle in restoring our reefs to health. 

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BREEF is proud of Stacy for attaining his PADI Reef Rescue Diver certification.

Additionally, Stacy was able to assist the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization on a research expedition studying whales and dolphins in Abaco.

Crashonda Garvey and Carlton Taylor were also awarded scholarships by the Island School for 2018-2019. They have just completed their one hundred day semester in Cape Eleuthera and will be interning at BREEF and the Exuma Foundation in the Spring of 2019.

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Apply for BESS online:

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December Full Moon

The Nassau grouper is one of the most commercially important species throughout the Caribbean – including here, in The Bahamas.

As a top predator, Nassau grouper are vital to us and our oceans survival as they maintain the health of our reefs and therefore, they play an important role in securing our fisheries food supply.

Due to overfishing Nassau grouper is on the brink of extinction. It is currently listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Unlike other species of fish that may produce offspring year-round, Nassau grouper reproduce in only a few places and only during the winter months each year. These fish spawn immediately after the full moon from December to March. Individuals travel several dozen miles and more to form part of a very large group called spawning aggregations — thousands of individual groupers reproducing together for just a few days before returning to their home reefs.

They aggregate in the same place at the same time every year making them an easy target. Even fishers who use a line and a hook can be extremely harmful to the species.

In efforts to protect Nassau grouper, it’s now the official closed fishing season. This critically endangered species is off limits – that means no catching, purchasing or selling it from December 1 through February 28th.

If you are a restaurant or a chef – don’t serve it – even frozen. If you are a customer, or shopping – choose an alternative dish!

You can help ensure Nassau grouper does not go extinct by writing to our government to manage and establish more Marine Protected Areas to promote the preservation of spawning sites.

And you can report any illegal activity to law enforcement agencies.

Let’s do our part to protect the Nassau grouper for future generations. Choose another fish – and help spread the word by telling a friend.

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Nassau Grouper Closed Season Begins Today

Today marks the beginning of the Nassau Grouper Closed Season.
This means that it’s illegal to land, purchase or sell Nassau Grouper from December 01st to February 28th.

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 media profile picture and share it with your friends.

Learn More About Nassau Grouper And Why They Are So Important

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