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Conservation Matters

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Our Goal: BREEF is the leading public advocate on policy issues affecting the marine environment and sustainable fisheries. 

The sea comprises about 95% of The Bahamas’ geographical area. Moreover, with 2200 miles of coastline, our marine environment is a significant part of our natural and cultural heritage.Healthy marine ecosystems enhance our biodiversity, influence our cultural expressions and provide economic benefits through our tourism, fisheries, maritime and education sectors. Conversely as we reap the benefits of the ocean’s resources, 60% of the world’s major marine ecosystems are degraded or threatened from unsustainable practices.

Consider some additional facts

  • 75% of coral reefs around the world are threatened
  • In the Americas mangroves are being cleared at a faster rate than tropical rainforests, and more than 35% of mangroves around the world are already gone.
  • Since 1950 there has been a 90% decline in the populations of all large marine fish species (e.g. tuna, swordfish, marlin, cod) due primarily to overfishing.
  • Approximately 12% of the land area is protected, compared to roughly 1% of the world ocean and adjacent seas.
  • The Bahamas is in the top 10 countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including loss of coastal lands due to sea level rise.

Main threats to local marine ecosystems include

  1. Climate Change (human-induced)
  2. Habitat Destruction – due mainly to coastal development
  3. Overfishing – including domestic and foreign poaching
  4. Pollution
  5. Invasive Species

In the face of these challenges, BREEF takes action to protect crucial marine habitats and species. Several of our current projects are listed below.

Corals, Consumers & Climate Change

The Bahamas is listed among the ten most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. These impacts include sea level rise, increased flooding, stronger & more frequent hurricanes, coral bleaching and more acidic oceans.

Climate Change has been identified by NOAA as one of the greatest global threats to coral reefs. In addition to providing employment and revenue via our local fisheries and tourism sectors, healthy coral reefs also contribute to our food security, help to reduce coastal damage during storm events and replenish sand on our beaches.

BREEF is engaged in a number of initiatives aimed at protecting our coral reefs and raising public awareness on climate change including

  • Participation on The Bahamas National Climate Change Committee – Sub committee on Public Education
  • Production of ‘Life on the Bahamian Coral Reef’ Virtual Coral Reef Field Trip (VCRFT) film, educator’s guide and teacher workshop.
  • Drafting a proposed ‘Coral Reef Protection Act’ submitted to the Ministry of Environment in 2013
  • Hosting the ‘Consumers, Corals & Climate Change’ Exhibition in collaboration with the College of The Bahamas
  • Promotion of the Eco-Schools Bahamas ‘Climate Change Community Action Days’ 2014 in collaboration with the National Coastal Awareness Committee
  • Hosting our ‘Climate Kids’ summer sea camp on three islands
  • Production of the ‘Corals, Consumers & Climate Change’ Educator’s Toolkit & Workshop
  • Installation of the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden in southwest New Providence
  • Becoming the first client of the Environmental Law Clinic facilitated by the Eugene Dupuch Law School, College of The Bahamas & Pace University Law School.
  • Continuing to advocate for the expansion and effective management of The Bahamas protected areas network.

Visit our Resource Library for additional information.

Fish for the Future – Nassau Grouper

mcpic6After years of advocacy and education, BREEF is very pleased that in December 2014, the government of The Bahamas announced its decision to legislate a fixed annual closed season  for Nassau grouper during most of the fish’s winter spawning period.  The annual closed season will run from 1st December to 28th February. Previously, the Nassau grouper fishery was closed at the discretion of the Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries.

The Nassau grouper is an endangered species that is commercially extinct in most of the Caribbean; we need your help to protect it in The Bahamas.  Please support the closed season and our fishermen by purchasing other fish during this period.

Nassau Grouper Red Alert PSA

My Science, My Conch: A Citizen Science Project

BREEF has mcpic8partnered with the Bahamas National Trust, Community Conch, the Department of Marine Resources and a number of other agencies in launching The Bahamas National Conchservation Campaign.  The campaign’s ultimate goal is to see a sustainable queen conch fishery in The Bahamas, through education, research and community involvement.  My Science, My Conch (MSMC) is a hands-on experience for everyday people who want to help ensure that we will have Queen Conch for generations to come.  Participants will complete a training session, then conduct supervised surveys of conch middens (conch shell piles) in the field.  Shell length and lip thickness data will be collected for analysis and discussion afterward.

By participating in MSMC

  • Community members will better understand how scientific information is gathered and be able to make more informed recommendations about sustainable harvest, based on evidence.
  • Everyday people will collect scientific data of sufficient quality to help guide decision-making, thus becoming a part of that process.
  • Communities will have greater awareness of the need and ways to use our natural resources, like Queen Conch, in a sustainable way.

mcpic9Not only is the Queen Conch a favourite food source for Bahamians and visitors, these native herbivores produce valuable conch pearls.  They also help to maintain healthy marine ecosystems by removing algae build-up on sea grasses and serving as a food source for other marine animals such as nurse sharks, loggerhead turtles and eagle rays.

Queen conch are vulnerable to overfishing because they are relatively slow to grow, late to mature, group together to mate, and are easy to harvest in shallow waters. Elsewhere in the region, fisheries for conch have collapsed, or have been prohibited due to the low numbers of queen conch in those areas.

The My Science, My Conch project is the brainchild of BREEF and Community Conch.  It commenced the first week in October 2013 in Grand Bahama and engaged communities on most of the main islands in The Bahamas through 2014. Survey results are being processed and will be made available to the public upon completion.

Visit The Bahamas National Conchservation facebook page for campaign updates.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

A Marine Protected Area is an area of the ocean in which human activity is restricted in some way to conserve the natural environment, as well as resources of cultural or historical significance. These areas are essential for maintaining the biodiversity and productivity of the oceans, especially fish stocks.

In 1998, BREEF sponsored a workshop to advance national discussions on the creation of a network of no-take marine reserves across the country, to serve as “nature’s fish farms” and replenish surrounding fished areas. Subsequently, BREEF commissioned a scientific review for the Department of Fisheries of 39 potential Marine Reserve sites, thus laying groundwork to establish a marine protected areas network in the country. In 2008, The Bahamas’ government was one of several Caribbean countries and territories committing to:

  • conserving at least 20% of their near-shore marine and coastal environments in national marine protected areas systems by 2020; and
  • creating National Conservation Trust Funds, endowed by new sustainable finance mechanisms, dedicated solely to funding park management.(Caribbean Challenge Initiative, The Nature Conservancy 2013)

Our current activities include ongoing collaboration with responsible government agencies and other stakeholders, raising public awareness, production of educational resources, and supporting MPA establishment.

Download Everyman’s Guide to Protected Areas (produced by BREEF for The Nature Conservancy)

Download our Marine Protected Areas of The Bahamas booklet