BREEF was founded in 1993 by the late Sir Nicholas Nuttall to address growing concerns on the state of the Bahamian marine environment. Almost single-handedly, Sir Nicholas turned the organization into a leader in educating Bahamians about the value and need for conservation our marine environment.
BREEF’s initial efforts focused on raising public awareness among educators, youth, policy-makers and other key stakeholders about ways we impact our oceans ‘for better or worse’. Reaching out to the Ministry of Education, the idea was conceived to host an annual summer training workshop for teachers that would equip them with knowledge, skills and resources to transmit these important stewardship messages to successive generations of Bahamians. Since the late 1990’s, the annual summer workshop has grown to become the flagship teacher training programme for marine conservation in the country.
Coupled with BREEF’s education campaign was the push for a closed season on the iconic Nassau grouper during its breeding period, as available evidence showed the collapse of populations throughout the region due to overfishing. BREEF also recognized the need for improved management measures to ensure that our Queen Conch fishery would not suffer a similar fate. Consequently, in November 1998, BREEF sponsored a workshop to discuss the creation of a network of marine reserves for the entire Bahamas archipelago that would serve as natures ‘fish farms’. BREEF also supported a subsequent scientific review of 39 sites proposed by the Department of Fisheries and other stakeholders. BREEF continues to collaborate with partners and local communities to help meet The Bahamas government’s commitment to conserve at least 20% of our near-shore marine and coastal environments in national marine protected areas systems by 2020.
As the organization took a more active role as public educators and advocates for improved sustainable development policies, it transitioned from being a voluntary entity to a more formalized non-government organization. In 2002, BREEF hired its Executive Director, Casuarina McKinney. During the ensuing decade, BREEF added to its cast of staff members and volunteers, diversified its public education & youth programmes, partnered on research projects and continued to advocate for public policies that would help to sustain a healthy marine environment.
In 2013-2014, BREEF celebrated 20 years as agents for the preservation of our ocean heritage. The odyssey continues . . .