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.
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.
Every June 8, we celebrate the beauty, wealth and promise of our oceans. Preserving it for future generations is important for the health and well being of our planet. This World Oceans Day organizations, scientists and activists around the world are calling on our leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) do just that!
Help BREEF protect our oceans, rebuild our reefs and preserve our blue Bahamas by purchasing a Paint N Sip package today!
The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) and Rolex are celebrating their partnership for a better future with a short film about our beautiful blue Bahamas. The film highlights BREEF and Eco-Schools Bahamas students and the actions they are taking within their schools and communities to combat climate change and to sustain our way of life. Rolex’s Perpetual Planet initiative celebrates partnerships like this that encourage and inspire the next generation of underwater explorers and conservationists.
“We are thrilled to share the wonders of the underwater world with children who live in our archipelago. Through our Eco-Schools programme we are able to reach young people in The Bahamas and around the world and inspire local and global action. We are working on the ground to protect and restore our coral reefs and the tremendous biodiversity they contain. This short film is an inspiration and a reminder to us all of our responsibility to protect the marine environment especially in the face of a changing world. ” stated Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, BREEF Executive Director.
The pandemic has left people around the world searching to find a new normal. Amid digital meetings, lockdowns, and curfews it is important to remain connected to the environment. Whether it’s growing a garden, watching a nature film, or teaching children about the ocean, people are finding ways to bring the outside in. And meanwhile, there is a growing understanding of the importance of protecting the world around us for our long-term sustainability. Global challenges such as climate change are still crucial issues to address as countries rebuild in ways that provide social, economic and environmental resilience.
Rolex – the vision and values of Hans Wilsdorf still guide the company today. From exploration for pure discovery to exploration as a means to preserve the natural world, Rolex continues the legacy of its founder. For nearly a century, Rolex has supported pioneering explorers, pushing back the boundaries of human endeavour. With the Perpetual Planet campaign, launched in 2019, Rolex is committed for the long term to support the explorers in their quest to protect the environment. To start with, this commitment focuses on the Rolex Awards for Enterprise and partnerships with the National Geographic Society and Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue initiative. But this is just the beginning.
Carleah Culmer, age 13, Eco-School student at Deep Creek Middle School, Eleuthera, is motivated to protect nature and here is her explanation- “I am a young teenager who will be inheriting this earth and if we do not make more sustainable choices in our everyday life the next generation will suffer. I believe that my generation can change the direction we are headed for the better.’’
The film was created before the COVID-19 pandemic and includes students from Deep Creek Middle School, Eva Hilton Primary School, Harbour Island Green School, and C. I. Gibson Senior High School. It will debut on May 19th, 2020. It will be released on the BREEF website www.breef.org and BREEF’s social media platforms, Instagram, and Facebook.
BREEF is an important part of the conservation and education community in The Bahamas and the world. From providing on-the-ground instruction for Bahamians to be stewards of the environment and advocating for strong policies, to actively restoring reef habitat, BREEF has a successful multi-pronged approach to protecting the waters around us.
BREEF also is the Bahamas National Operator for the international Eco-Schools programme that operates in 68 countries around the world and reaches 19.5 million children. Our Bahamian Eco-Schools network currently consists of 34 public and private schools on Abaco, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Long Island, and New Providence.
Schools interested in learning more about or joining the Eco-Schools Programme can contact BREEF at 817-0772 or email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
As scientists race to find cures for the COVID-19 virus, maybe they should look to the ocean for some help. Ocean discoveries that helped advance the medical field are not something new. For decades, scientists have turned to the ocean for new drugs.
Think about it, marine organisms are often surrounded by fungi, bacteria, and other organisms waiting to turn them into food. As a result, both the predator and the prey have developed complex biological molecules that help them survive. Over the years, scientists found that biological molecules created as a defense mechanism by marine animals often turn out to be great antiviral, antibacterial, and anticancer drugs.
Take sea sponges, for example, they cannot move and lack physical defenses, which make them vulnerable to other marine organisms such as turtles and fish. However, sea sponges have developed a variety of defense molecules to ward off predators.
In the 1950s, the first marine-derived anticancer agent, Ara-C was created from a shallow-water sea sponge – Cryptotethya crypta, now known as Tectitethya crypta. Today, the drug is still used to treat lymphoma and leukemia. Cryptotethya crypta was also used to make the drug AZT which helps fight the HIV virus.
The mangrove tunicate is a colonial sea squirt that’s found right here in The Bahamas. It was used to create a cancer drug called Trabectedin. Similar to the sea sponge, adult mangrove tunicates have limited to no mobility. Sea hare eggs also produce compounds that inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Then there is the Pacific cone snail whose venom is used to create the drug Prialt. The cone snail has harpoon-like stingers that release poison strong enough to paralyze and/or kill fish and humans.
“I thought that if these snails were so powerful that they could paralyze the nervous system, smaller doses of the compounds from the venoms might have beneficial effects,” said Baldomero Olivera, a biochemist at the University of Utah.
Olivera conducted the research that led to the discovery of the drug Prialt. The drug is used to treat severe and chronic pain and is said to be 1,000 times as powerful as morphine.
Other ocean discoveries like marine microalga acids have revolutionized human life. The marine microalga, Cryptocodinium cohnii, produces two essential fatty acids found in human breast milk. Scientists have extracted these acids and used them to create infant formula.
These discoveries only scrape the surface. With more than 80% of the ocean unexplored, who knows what new discoveries are out there.
There is an old Island saying that goes “Take care of the boat and the boat will take care of you.” From the beginning of time, the ocean has supported human life. It provides us with food, medicines, water, and oxygen.
As we look to the ocean for medical solutions, we must ensure fair access to and equitable benefits from the marine resources extracted. It is important that local communities, indigenous people, and the world benefit from these resources.
Let us all do our part to conserve, protect, and preserve our marine resources, discovered or undiscovered.
Quote from biochemist, Baldomero Olivera extracted from Smithsonian article.
When Jason Petty first arrived at BREEF in 2017, he was a nervous wreck. Moving from Grand Bahama to New Providence was very scary but he was excited to be a part of the Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholarship (BESS) programme and his eagerness to learn stood out.
“For as long as I can remember I have had a deep interest and connection with the ocean,” said Jason. He spent the first part of his BESS year with The Island School and the latter part interning with BREEF.
“The BESS programme was one of the greatest decisions I have made thus far,” said Jason. “I was exposed to other cultures and ways of thinking unlike any that I have experienced before.”
Throughout the year, Jason conducted research on Queen Conch populations alongside The Cape Eleuthera Institute and The SHEDD Aquarium. During his time with BREEF, Jason assisted our team with sea camp, marine presentations, and field studies. We watched as his life skills and passion for marine life grew stronger and stronger. Our staff also had the privilege of watching Jason excel in things that once challenged him.
“I was terrified of public speaking at first but as time went on I became more comfortable with it,” said Jason. “Giving these presentations allowed me to display my true personality and gave me the confidence to ace my interview with my current organization.”
Jason is currently working on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is an Emergency Medical Technician at Doctors Hospital in New Providence. In his spare time, he continues to volunteer with BREEF, especially during our field studies block. He is always ready and willing to answer questions from new BESS interns.
“There was no part of my BESS experience that I would trade,” said Jason. “Now I have tools for life and every day I try to be an advocate not just for the ocean but for the environment.”
The BREEF Team is very proud of Jason and wishes him continued success in all of his future endeavours!
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.