Why Give Thanks to Coral Reefs?
As another hurricane season has come and gone, we’d like to acknowledge and appreciate the coral reefs that are the first line of defence protecting our islands from storms. Coral reefs can break wave energy by 97%. Bahamian reefs also help generate income and sustain livelihoods through tourism and fisheries. Coral reefs have the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem on the planet;—even more than a tropical rainforest. Occupying less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to more than 25% of marine species.
Coral Reefs Make Life in The Bahamas Possible
By protecting our island from storms, allowing our country to be a top tourism destination and keeping our fisheries afloat, coral reefs are essential to our survival.
Join Us- Adopt a Coral!
Corals are resilient but they need our help. BREEF takes action by combating threats such as climate change and pollution, helping establish marine protected areas, teaching thousands of children every year about our waters, and growing living coral to restore Bahamian reefs. BREEF has created the BREEF Sir Nicholas Coral Reef Sculpture Garden – an exceptional snorkeling and diving experience in the beautiful Bahamian waters off Clifton. It is home to “Ocean Atlas” – the world’s largest underwater sculpture, and the location of one of BREEF’s coral nurseries.
Join us in restoring our coral reefs this holiday season by adopting a coral. For more information on our Coral Restoration activities at the world-famous BREEF Coral Reef Sculpture Garden and the Andros Barrier Reef, visit breef.org.
While most people are thankful 2020 is almost over due to the ongoing pandemic. There is a more urgent threat to our lives and livelihoods… climate change.
By 2030 (without urgent intervention) globally most of our coral reefs will be dead. Plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean and every year we will endure stronger and more intense storms and hurricanes.
It’s not surprising that this year’s hurricane season named storms made it through the Greek alphabet. The memory of the record-breaking storm – Category 5 Hurricane Dorian remains as vivid as yesterday for those who experienced the devastation and the loss of loved ones.
Shark & Turtle Protection
November 9, 2020
The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) is deeply committed to protecting our waters and the marine creatures that sustain lives and livelihoods in The Bahamas.
The Bahamas fully protected sea turtles in 2009 and made the country a shark sanctuary in 2011 in response to increasing threats to shark and turtle populations in The Bahamas and around the world. Sharks and turtles are vulnerable to overexploitation because they are slow to mature and reproduce, they have been the targets of high levels of fishing pressure in many of their ranges, and because they have experienced impacts to the habitats that they need to survive.
Sharks and turtles play critical roles in maintaining healthy coral reefs and seagrass beds and in keeping the populations of other species in balance and healthy. Their presence is important for the well-being of our commercial and recreational fisheries. They are also important components of our Bahamian tourism product. The fact that our country is the premier destination in the region to dive and snorkel with large marine life means that The Bahamas is consistently ranked as one of the top dive tourism destinations in the world. Sharks alone bring in at least $114 million/ year in tourism revenue.
We hear the concerns voiced by some fishermen about a perceived increase in numbers of sharks and turtles, and respect we need to come up with solutions that take the well-being of both wildlife and humans into consideration. Available science does not indicate that populations are higher than historical levels and it would be rash to rush into making changes to existing levels of protection without very careful consideration.
There is a need to make good science-based decisions regarding managing the marine environment. Much more research is needed. This must involve a wide variety of people connected with the marine environment in research design and implementation, and in decision-making, including scientists and fishers, incorporating traditional knowledge and experiences into carrying out rigorous scientific studies, and sharing the findings widely.
There is currently no research that would recommend relaxing the existing protections that are in place for sharks and turtles in Bahamian waters.
BREEF does not support opening our shark and turtle populations to fishing.
Photos Courtesy of Shane Gross Photography
By Nerandza Nikolic
Soon after I moved to The Bahamas in the early August of 2019 to start teaching at the Lyford Cay International School, I was fortunate enough to attend a presentation by Mrs. Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, Executive Director of BREEF, where, among other things, I learned about coral nurseries. Wait, what? Underwater gardening is possible? Where do I sign up?! Needless to say, I was mesmerized and made a decision that once an opportunity presented itself, I was going to join this noble cause.
Although my plans got postponed by Covid-19, I was not going to give up. So, in the meantime, I took part in the BREEF Paint & Sip fundraiser and became the proud adoptive mother of a coral; her name is Renata, which in Spanish means “reborn”, thus symbolically representing the rebirth of our coral reefs and safeguarding the oceans.
So, finally, in October 2020 I got a chance to become a PADI Certified Diver with the help of one of the star BREEF instructors and one of the most passionate environmentalists, Allison Ballester-Longley. Now, bear in mind that the writer of these lines has fought the fear of swimming for years and thanks to the patience and expertise of my instructor, I not only managed to stay underwater, diving for lengthy periods of time, but I also out-planted two corals at the BREEF Coral Reef Sculpture Garden and socialized with various schools of fish which insisted on photobombing and interrupting our communication expecting to be fed. Rude!
Where from here? How does pursuing my Reef Rescue Diver certification and swimming with the sharks at Stuart Cove sound to you? Exactly!
BREEF created the Coral Reef Sculpture Garden to draw attention to the threats facing our coral reefs, and to drive action to protect them. BREEF has created coral nurseries at the Coral Reef Sculpture Gardens and on the Andros Great Barrier Reef. At these coral nurseries, we are growing the endangered species, Staghorn coral.
Under the theme “Lessons from Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19: Building a resilient Eco-Schools Bahamas Programme,” the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) held its annual and first ever Virtual Eco-Schools Bahamas Coordinators Workshop. The Eco-Schools Bahamas Programme is part of Eco-Schools Global which is the largest sustainable schools programme in the world supporting student environmental leaders in 68 countries. During her opening remarks Laura Hickey, FEE Eco-Schools Director said, “Our common goals and interests are to prepare young people to develop the academic, social, and environmental knowledge and personal skills they need to be successful, fulfilled, and able to live in a sustainable world that they help build.”
The three-day workshop hosted participants from the USA, Abaco, Cat Island, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera, Exuma, Long Island and New Providence who examined current challenges facing environmental education. Participants explored strategies to promote healthy oceans and actions to combat climate change.
The workshop featured a wide range of speakers including Mrs. Rochelle Newbold, Director of the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection, Nikita Shiel-Rolle, CEO of Cat Island Conservation Institute and Young Marine Explorers, Dr. Ancilleno Davis, CEO of Science and Perspective, Cha Boyce, Executive Director of Friends of the Environment and Environmental Journalists at ZNS, Julian Reid and Crystal Darling . Presenters discussed topics ranging from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to environmental education in a climate crisis and COVID-19 reality. Workshop participants also shared personal stories about their own personal and professional lessons learned from Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19.
Commenting on the guest presentation by Mrs. Rochelle Newbold, Director of the Department of +Environmental Planning and Protection, Eco-Schools Bahamas Steering Committee member Samantha Cartwright said, “The Director’s presentation was insightful and her advice to Eco-School students and their facilitators to continue to take action no matter how small the effort is was a great take home message. The presentation has helped all of us to understand the connection of how the SDGs help provide insight into the key question: Are we moving in the right direction? And if not, what needs to change now so that we are on a better path as we head to 2030?”
Attendees were encouraged to use outdoor spaces around their homes and school grounds for teaching and learning as studies have shown its vast benefits. BREEF’s virtual presentations were also highlighted as helpful tools that educators can use to continue education in these challenging times. In addition to celebrating the achievements of Eco-Schools Bahamas during 2019 -2020, participants networked to strengthen the growth and impact of Eco-Schools in The Bahamas. BREEF is extremely grateful for the commitment of Eco-Schools Bahamas benefactors, coordinators, partners and volunteers who remain resolute in inspiring future generations of environmental stewards.
Kevin Glinton, BREEF’s Education Coordinator and Eco-Schools Bahamas National Operator stated, “Children are very resilient. I am gratified by the participation of Educators and participants from several islands. And I am confident that our dedicated Eco-Schools Bahamas coordinators will continue to inspire them toward environmental actions in spite of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19.”
According to Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, BREEF’s Executive Director, “The Bahamas belongs to our children and Eco-Schools gives them the tools and the global reach to protect it.”
Having completed a year- long pilot programme, BREEF also rolled out its new Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) Programme with the support of the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme. The Young Reporters for the Environment Programme is also sponsored by the Foundation for Environmental Education and managed in The Bahamas by BREEF.
BREEF is grateful to Rolex’s Perpetual Planet Initiative for their support of the Eco-schools Bahamas programme.
The outdoor classroom is not a new phenomenon. Educators around the world have been practicing it for years. In fact, there is a long tradition of outside learning that includes Waldorf schools and open-air lectures by Aristotle and other ancient philosophers.
At BREEF the ocean is our classroom. We have always believed that incorporating outdoor education with a traditional classroom is beneficial, as it improves kids’ health, gives children a love and appreciation for nature, improves personal child development and provides practical experience. Most of our programmes are outdoors and we see these benefits firsthand.
In this new climate of social distancing, educators across the globe are moving towards the outdoor classroom. Scientists believe that the transmission of Covid-19 is less likely to occur outdoors as the infected droplets disperse faster in fresh air. Studies have also shown that sun and wind can help reduce the presence of viable viruses on surfaces.
As we all search for a new normal, BREEF would like to encourage everyone to find ways to incorporate outdoor learning into their routine. Although the beaches are only open a few hours each day, here are a few ideas to incorporate outdoor activities into your homeschool curriculum:
- Let’s put our feet in the sand – Write a descriptive story about being on the beach from the perspective of your feet. What do your feet see, feel, enjoy, about being on the beach and in the water?
- Go on a scavenger hunt – There are many resources available online with quick scavenger hunt lists. Make a game of it and see how many items on the list they can find in an hour.
- Let’s take a walk – Kids are missing the outside. Sometimes a quick walk on the beach is all they need to catch a second wind and it promotes exercise.
- Discover your neighborhood on a drive – Are there any historical landmarks nearby? How far is it between the house and the beach? Is it faster if we go by bike or by car? How many miles did we travel? Can we convert that to km?
- Channel your inner artist – Have your child draw pictures of fish they may see while swimming or a beautiful tree on the beach. BREEF has waterproof fish slates for sale that you can use to name animals you may see on your beach excursion.
- Relax – Sometimes the best thing for a busy child (and parent) is to rest. What better way than to rest on the beach!
These are just a few ideas. If you are interested in more resources please check out our website https://breef.org/index.php/free-education-resources/
For more land based resources, check out this guide to nature-based classrooms provided by the North American Association for Environmental education.
Outdoor education is certainly at the heart of what we do at BREEF. We believe that once a child can experience nature, they are more likely to protect it.
Are you a school looking to protect your teachers, students and community? Or perhaps a business looking for guidance on how to provide a clean and hygienic environment. Sign up for this online course today and let BREEF certify you and your team!
2020 Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) National Competition Entry: Tony Gardiner, St.Anne’s School-Nassau, Bahamas
In The Bahamas there are numerous locations like this one that are stocked with waste. The trash’s effect on plants can be contamination, growth restriction and inhibition of nutrient uptake, all which causes stunted growth and eventual death of the plant.
Plants are very important to our ecosystems. They provide us with for food, oxygen and medicine. A decrease in the amount of plants in our country will have a negative effect on our environment.
We can avoid a decline in plants by having set days for everyone to help clean up areas where there are a lot of plants. These days can be named ‘pick up and go.’ We can also set laws on littering no matter the place. Finally, we must teach the younger generation the value of sustainable practices like planting trees, using reusable water bottles, having beach clean ups and more.
As a nation we all should come together and fight to keep our Bahama land clean GREEN and pristine for future generations.
On July 25th, 2020, the island of Mauritius experienced a devastating environmental disaster. A Japanese-owned ship carrying 4,000 tons of fuel oil hit a coral reef in a marine sanctuary. Twelve days later as the ship began to break a part, 1,000 tons of oil leaked into the surrounding marine environment.
“The oil leak from the stranded ship caused severe damage to the people of Mauritius, and the economy of which largely relies on tourism and the beautiful ocean,” said Noriaki Sakaguchi, a representative from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The amount of oil that leaked into the surrounding seas was relatively low compared to other oil spills around the world. However, it is the location of the spill rather than the size that made this spill so devastating. It was so destructive the Mauritian government declared a national emergency.
The location was in the midst of multiple UNESCO protected corals, turtle nesting grounds, mangrove forests, low lying ebony forests, grasslands and important fish breeding habitats – areas that have been protected for decades.
“The toxic hydrocarbons released from spilled oil will bleach coral reefs and they will eventually die,” said Professor Richard Steiner, an international oil spill adviser and a marine biologist in Alaska, US.
The toxic chemicals will not only destroy marine habitats and kill marine animals; they will also gravely affect the health of many Mauritians. This is heartbreaking to say the least.
The Bahamas is also an island nation that relies heavily on the ocean and tourism. COVID-19 gave us all a glimpse of what a crippled tourism industry looks like. Fortunately, we are coming out of quarantine to crystal-clear waters, beautiful white sand beaches and rich biodiversity.
Could you imagine all that soiled with oil? Well that is the reality for our island friends across the world.
Oil is dangerous on many levels and it is vital that we move away from it. As we are seeing with Mauritius, even a small oil spill can have detrimental, long lasting effects.
Together we must urge our nation leaders to make clean energy decisions before it’s too late. Our future depends on it.