Minister Dorsett announces over 3 million hectares of protected land, near shore and marine environment.
Nassau, Bahamas – In a remarkable demonstration of the Christie Administration’s commitment to the nation’s environment, Minister of the Environment and Housing, the Hon. Kenred Dorsett, has announced over 7 million acres of new protected marine areas.
“Today, we have set the foundation for the protection of approximately of 7.5 million acres (3 million hectares) of land, near shore and marine environment,” announced Dorsett on Monday, August 30th. “This includes the new San Salvador National Parks announced in April of this year.”
The government of The Bahamas, through the Ministry of the Environment and Housing, the Bahamas Environment Science & Technology Commission, the Bahamas Department of Marine Resources, and a dedicated team of conservation professionals from the Bahamas National Trust and The Nature Conservancy have been working to declare an expansion of marine protected areas of 2.5 million hectares. Thanks to support funding from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) the newly-protected areas announced last night have undergone scientific assessment as well as extensive community outreach to protect these areas.
In 2008, The Bahamas announced its acceptance of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) and reaffirmed the country’s commitment to protecting at least twenty percent of their marine environments by the year 2020. “Today, as the current co-chair of the CCI Council and Minister responsible for the Environment,” said Minister Dorsett, “I am here to announce with great pride and a sense of accomplishment that we are progressing steadily towards this 2020 target.”
The new additions to the protected areas system are:
The Marls of Abaco National Park
East Abaco Creeks National Park
Cross Harbour National Park
South Abaco Blue Holes National Park
In Crooked Island / Acklins:
Southeast Bahamas Marine Managed Area
Bight of Acklins National Park
Andros Green Cay National Park
The Joulter Cays National Park
The Cay Sal Marine Managed Area
In Grand Bahama:
The North Shore – The Gap National Park
East Grand Bahama National Park
Lucayan National Park Expansion
Peterson Cay National Park expansion (further consultations are being held with the key Grand Bahama stakeholders)
(All Grand Bahama parks exclude Grand Bahama Development Company holdings)
Hogsty Reef Protected Area
Booby Cay National Park
In New Providence:
Southwest New Providence Marine Managed Area
Perpall Tract National Park
In Great Exuma:
Expansion of Moriah Harbour Cay National Park.
The Minister also wanted to dispel any concern regarding land rights associated with these new Marine Protected Areas and he stated that all private land will be excluded from the boundaries of the protected areas and the rights of landowners will not be infringed upon.
“Today is a great day for conservation in The Bahamas,” said Eric Carey, BNT Executive Director. “The Bahamas continues to be a leader in the arena of protected area designation. Protected areas are an important to secure a sustainable future for the Bahamas.”
With this 2020 goal in mind, the government of The Bahamas, realizing the cost of managing protected areas, increased its subvention to the Bahamas National Trust in the 2015 budget. Additionally as part of the ‘Global Environmental Facility Full–Sized Project’ the government also implemented the Bahamas Protected Area Fund to help finance this huge commitment. The Bahamas is the first country in Caribbean Challenge Iniative to establish a legal trust fund for protected areas management.
Additionally, The BNT would like to thank the National Audubon Society, with whom they worked closely, to develop proposal of the Joulter Cays National Park. The process included comprehensive community and stakeholder consultation. Similarly, Island Conservation, with funding provided by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, supported the Booby Cay proposal process. Thanks also to Bonefish Tarpon Trust for providing both funding and scientific research to support the creation of some of the Grand Bahama and Abaco parks.
“The Bahamas National Trust is extremely pleased that the Government of The Bahamas has created these new national parks and marine protected areas,” said Larry Glinton, President of the BNT. “We are especially excited about the inclusion of Joulter Cays, which will provide much needed support to our thriving fly-fishing industry while also protecting the critical wintering habitat of several endangered shorebird species.”
Glinton went on to note that “the Joulter Cays also has tremendous potential as an area for ecotourism and can generate significant revenue from bird-based tourism. BNT and Audubon are presently developing a program that will allow local residents to take full advantage of these exciting new opportunities.” Joulter Cays has also been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife international. BNT and Audubon are both BirdLife Partners.
The BNT wishes to note that this was a fully collaborative initiative at the national level with many government and NGO partners playing key roles. In addition to the entities listed above, BNT also acknowledges the support provided by FRIENDS of the Environment (Abaco), San Salvador Living Jewels, Nature’s Hope for Southern Andros, Andros Conservancy and Trust (ANCAT) and BREEF.
BNT is now committed to a process of further consultation with communities and key stakeholders to develop the management plans for ensuring the effective management of the areas entrusted to its responsibility. We look forward to continued support from the public to ensure this is a success.
Maps of all of the new areas will shortly be posted on the BNT’s website at www.bnt.bs.