Imagine staying at a beautiful resort on a secluded island in the Bahamas with a sunset Oceanview room. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? These reorts are found all around the Caribbean and in many other tropical island places around the world. But have you ever stopped to think about how those resorts got there in the first place?
Think about it for a minute…Many of the islands have a small population, which mainly survive on natural resources like fish and ecotourism. The countries aren’t rich, but they tend to be happy with their lives. All of a sudden, a large development company swoops in and decides to build a massive resort along the beach where there is currently a dense forest.
The developent company starts to make promises like the resort will be good for the local economy and it will not impact the local fishing or natural resources (fish and fish habitat like mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs). The government ends up giving the proper permits after reading the developers semi-scientific report saying no damage will be done to the environment. Some local people may not be happy with the situation, but they go with it anyway because the permits are already issued.
Next thing you know, the development company removes over half of the Mangroves from the lot, dredges most of the area to fit a large marina, and clears most of the forest for golf course(s), the hotel, and other amenities.
Does that sound about right? It’s what happened in Bimini within the island chain of the Bahamas.
The Destruction of Bimini Bay
Bimini is located within the Islands of the Bahamas. It is a small island with a small population (less than 5,000 people), which relies on fishing and ecotourism for income. The current way of life of the tiny Island is under threat to construct a 2500 unit resort, marina, and golf course that will occupy most of the island exiling many of the local people from their land.
Check out the video with Fabien Cousteau about the controversial development to find out more about this issue:
The short documentary describes the histroy of the development and the current status as of a few years ago on the development. The video describes how the permits were issued to the developer after a coarse environmental assessment was conducted by a consultant contracted by the developer. Construction has already begun on the development and the situation is not good!
Here is a breakdown of what has happened and their implications to the environment and local economy:
1) Destruction of important habitat – The developer dredged and clear cut over 50% of the island destroying important mangrove forests. Why are Mangroves so important to the community? Well first of all, they are sanctuaries for young and juvenile fish as the complex system of tangled mangrove roots provide protection of young fish from larger predators. An island whose population relies heavily on fishing would be screwed if they lost their mangrove forests. A loss of mangrove habitat can result in a smaller amount of fish over the long term affecting other habitats such as seagrass meadows (which is another important juvenile habitat), and coral reefs (which is important for tourism and fishing).
2) Loss of food, income, and jobs for the local people of Bimini – The loss of mangrove habitat will have long term affects on the fish populations in Bimini – no sanctuary for small fish means no fish. It will also impact the state of coral reefs as less fish on the reef will result in more algae growth on the reefs, which will eventually outcompete with the corals for space. You see, some fish eat algae off reefs maintaining the coral reef from being overgrown by algae. Less fish means more algae and less coral reefs.
Less fish will result in less fish being caught. This means fishermen and their families will not be able eat fish as much (the staple food of the island. Tourism will also decrease as there will be no fish to catch on charters.
The resort developers insist the resort will benefit the economy of the island as it will provide jobs to the local people. Think about it…if you were a fishermen who spends most of his day out on the Ocean, would you want to work inside a hotel cleaning rooms and looking after stuck up rich people? I certainly wouldn’t. History suggests that the promise of jobs to local people end up being labour positions as management positions are given to people not from the island. Does this sound fair to you?
A Call to Action!
There are many ways in which you can help out the people of Bimini. 1) You can inform yourself on the situation by visiting the Save Bimini website as well as the Restrict Bimini Bay Resort; and, 2) You can write an email to the Prime Minister to tell them that you will not accept the destruction of an entire island and community for money that does not stay within the local economy.
Watch the video and SPEAK UP and SHARE!