Friday, March 30, 2012

Request for support to protect Bimini Island

March 12, 2012

The Right Honourable Hubert A. Ingraham
Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield Centre
P.O. Box CB 10980
Nassau, N.P., The Bahamas

A new chapter is being written in the colorful and rousing history of the islands of Bimini. These incredible islands, ecological gems sitting alone on the western edge of the Great Bahama Bank, are experiencing their own unique environmental renaissance. Long lauded as the “Big Game Fishing Capital of the World,” Bimini is now emerging as one of the top ecotourism destinations in the Bahamas.

The fishermen are still drawn here en masse, fanning out over the shallow flats in search of bonefish and permit, with others venturing just off-shore to the rich waters of the Gulf Stream hoping to hook marlin, wahoo, sailfish, and hoards of other big-game pursuits. Now, joining the traditional fishing crowd is an ever-growing number of SCUBA divers, snorkelers, kayakers, paddle-boarders, sightseers, scientific researchers, filmmakers, and all-around nature enthusiasts. Along with Bimini’s fascinating history and vibrant culture, the wildlife and natural beauty of these islands are now sharing center stage.

In an effort to maximize Bimini’s potential and sustain the very base of our tourism industry, we, the stakeholders, community leaders, and residents of these islands now present a unified front to support the full implementation and realization of Bimini’s long-awaited Marine Protected Area (MPA).

The Bahamas has established itself as a leader in marine conversation, and by formally declaring Bimini’s MPA, that reputation will be strengthened exponentially.

For the sake of our people and our precious marine resources, we understand that
Bimini’s MPA will serve as the foundation from which this island’s future will grow. As the only mangrove nursery habitat on the western Great Bahama Bank, Bimini’s MPA will serve to replenish conch, lobster, and fish stocks for the greater Bahamas and far beyond.

We hereby present in one united voice, the undersigned, who offer full support in finalizing Bimini’s Marine Protected Area and respectfully ask the Government of the Bahamas to treat this as a top priority for 2012.

For Bimini,

Editor's Note: Please send letters voicing support of the Marine Protected Area to the Bahamian officials listed below, using the letter above as a reference for your own letter.

Bahamas National Trust
P.O. Box N4105
The Retreat Gardens
Village Road
Nassau, Bahamas

Department of Fisheries
Ministry of Agriculture & Marine Resources
East Bay Street
P. O. Box N 3028
Nassau,  Bahamas 

The Nature Conservancy - Bahamas Program
West Bay Street
Caves Village, Suite 2
Building 5
P.O. Box CB - 11398
Nassau, Bahamas

The Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission
Ministry of Health and the Environment
PO Box N3730
Nassau Court
Nassau, New Providence
The Bahamas

Friday, March 2, 2012

A MAP Volunteer's experience in visiting Koh Libong and Krabi

On my way from Koh Libong to the mainland
 Raghav Mettakhun, MAP volunteer intern
Trang Province, Southern Thailand
Friday 24th February
I had an opportunity to attend a 4-day study tour to Koh Libong (Koh meands ‘Island’ in Thai) in Trang Province and Krabi Province (located next to Trang). MAP organized the trip for the Community-based Tourism (CBT) groups for Lion village on Koh Pra Thong where MAP has established a Coastal Community Resourse Centre (CCRC) and the CBT members from Ta Laenok village. This tour allowed them to absorb new experiences and implement new knowledge into the CBT, natural resource management and sufficiency living for their own villages. I was really excited and looking forward for such an eventful journey. This was because the island caught my attention when I visited a month earlier with delicious cuisine, the nature and friendliness of the locals there made me so eager to visit again. After swiftly packing my bags with an hour van ride to the pier meeting the villagers from Phra Tong Island, Phang Nga Province and Baan Talae Nok, Ranong Pronvince for a half an hour boat trip, we have arrived in Libong Island.
Koh Libong is the largest island in Trang and it’s home to a thriving Muslim population that earns their its livelihood almost exclusively from fishing and rubber plantation. After a few minutes ride into the Batu Butae village we were greeted by the village coordinator and a few members. We were allocated to stay with different host families and were lucky enough to get a room with a spectacular view of receding seawater and mangroves. The view was to- die-for and with the price of only $5 per night! Best for watching sunset!

Saturday 25th February
After a good night sleep I woke up to sea breeze passing through our bedroom. The talks from Community-Based Tourism (CBT) coordinator and other village representatives came to share their community management strategies and local wisdoms. Then, we were taken by a double deck wooden boat for a tour around the island, which was made by a 78-year-old man. He assembled every single piece by hand and we are the first group to use it.  Bang Maan our young witty guide was eager to ensure we all had a wonderful experience. He pointed out the dugongs swimming in the sea. It was breathtaking and we were told we were very lucky as it is a rare chance to see them, as dugong are a characteristically shy and reserved sea mammal. In the evening, I participated in an activity that I would remember for the rest of my life, shrimp hunting. After sunset, the villagers, MAP staffs headed to the muddy beach with torchlights on our heads and spears on our hands ready for the mission. However, I caught nothing but a shellfish.

Presenting a calendar to a village representative in Krabi Province

Sunday 26th February
I think the dinner last night caused me difficulties going to the bathroom in the morning, blaming my overindulgence of shellfish OOPS! After saying Good Byes to the locals, we left the island to Krabi Province as early as 8.30am. In Krabi, we went to a sustainable farming village and observed how they plant hydroponic vegetables. Interestingly, an alternative method of rice cultivation for household consumption was demonstrated utilising used car tyres, which helped saving irrigation costs and prevents the spread of leeches and pests like in the paddy fields. We saw bananas planted upside down to speed up the growth. Also, we learned using ash water from firewood is good for disinfecting and brushing teeth, so no need for toothpaste. I have managed to learn a good amount from this village, which demonstrated many examples of sustainable living. At night, another MAP volunteer from Spain, Alba and I went to the night market in town, where we found plenty of food and cheap clothes!

Monday 27th February
Back at the office, I usually write the list of ‘First Times’ onto a sheet of paper as part of my time as a volunteer at MAP. Another item to be added to my list were eating Roti with curry for breakfast at a Muslim restaurant. It was really yummy! We took a 10-minute boat ride by Krabi River from the town along with mangrove forests and then we arrived in Klong Prasong village, located on an Island in the Krabi River estuary. Bang Non, a retired NGO worker and village coordinator welcomed us. I was impressed by the waste bank scheme he founded. Plastics, paper, metal and glasses were separated and collected for sale in the mainland Krabi town. The overall trip gave me a clearer idea on the CBT that is created as a supplementary income to local people, not the sole income. CBT could not be organised if they did not protect their own natural resources from destruction since they come hand-in-hand. CBT is different from a tour package that it gives the community spirit to allow them to build a better future for the mangroves and their people. It was a great experience and has inspired me to take more interest not only in nature but their livelihood too.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


This years attempt by the Florida legislature to never let a good deed go unpunished is a renewed attack on the 2008 ocean outfall bill that outlaws the archaic practice of dumping 396,000,000 gallons a day of inadequately treated sewage into the coastal waters of southeast Florida.
Last year Tallahassee heard your voices and the attempt to delay the implementation of the outfall law was never brought to a vote in the Senate.

This year more of the same. This 2012 version is seeking to derail the outfall law by extending the compliance deadline by two years.

Delaying reporting and other parts of the bill simply rewards counties who have done nothing since the bills passage, said DeeVon Quirolo founder and retired executive director of Key West based Reef Relief. Adding nothing has changed to justify weakening the original bill whereas the over-riding need for improving water quality for coral reefs has increased with every year.
This bill has just passed the FL House and is headed to the FL Senate.


We are asking for your help:
Email the Florida Senate Committee on Rules and tell Chairman Senator John Thrasher you are opposed to the Miguel Diaz de la Portilla Senate Bill 724 (Domestic Wastewater Discharged Through Ocean Outfalls) and request the Committee on Rules not schedule SB 724 for a vote before the Senate.
If you live in Florida email your FL Senator and tell them you oppose Senate Bill 724 and if the bill comes before the Senate ask them to vote against it. (Click here to find your Senator).
If you do not live in Florida you can still help, Tell VISIT FLORIDA®, the states official tourism marketing corporation you do not want to visit Florida to swim in the sewage polluted ocean:
Looking for a Spring Break destination tell VISIT FLORIDA® how you feel about swimming in sewage.
Below is a letter sent to the Florida Senate from environmental and industry organizations.
February 23, 2012

Re: Senate Bill 724, Domestic Wastewater Discharged Through Ocean Outfalls

Dear Senator:

We, the undersigned ocean advocacy, industry and conservation organizations, on behalf of our tens of thousands of members and supporters strongly urge you not to support Senate Bill 724 (Domestic Wastewater Discharged Through Ocean Outfalls). SB 724 is intended to delay implementation of the 2008 Florida Ocean Outfall legislation which was enacted to phase out the archaic practice of discharging inadequately treated sewage into southeast Florida’s coastal coral reef ecosystem.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 239,000 acres of coral reefs and associated reef resources lie within the four-county area affected by SB 724. This northern portion of the Florida Reef Tract stretches more than100 miles from the northern boundary of Biscayne National Park in Miami-Dade County to the St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County. These reefs are part of the third longest reef system in the world which annually sustains more than 71,000 jobs and generates $6.3 billion dollars in sales and income for Florida. (

Floridas corals are dying at an alarming rate; between 1996 and 2001 the Keys experienced a 40 percent decrease in coral cover. Since the 1980s, 97% of Floridas Staghorn and Elkhorn reef building corals have died prompting the federal government to elevate these species to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. Recent studies have linked Elkhorn coral white pox disease with Serratia marcescens, a human pathogen found in sewage, (Sutherland KP, Shaban S, Joyner JL, Porter JW, Lipp EK (2011) Human Pathogen Shown to Cause Disease in the Threatened Eklhorn Coral Acropora palmata. PLoS ONE 6(8): e23468. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023468).

Along with the mix of nutrient pollution and pathogens spewing from south Florida’s ocean outfalls, EPA reports Personal Care Products and Pharmaceuticals (PCPPs) now represent and ever increasing threat to the environment. Recent studies have found Prozac in fish organs and disrupted sexual development in fish cause by estrogen.

The 2008 Florida Ocean Outfall legislation was not all about saving coral reefs. A key driver of the legislation was the need to conserve water in south Florida. Water needed for agriculture, population growth and Everglades restoration. The southeast counties have one of the lowest water reclamation and reuse records in Florida. Everyday 396,000,000 gallons of wastewater is discharged into the coastal waters of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The 2008 legislation mandates that 60% of this wastewater be allocated for reuse.

We strongly urge you not to turn back the clock; time is running out for Florida’s coral reefs. Please vote no on SB 724.

Clean Water Network of Florida
Linda Young, Director

Dan Clark, President

Eastern Surfing Association National Head Quarters
Eastern Surfing Association South Florida District
Eastern Surfing Association Palm Beach County District

Tom Warnke, Chairman of the Board

Global Coral Reef Alliance
Thomas J. Goreau, PhD, President

Greater Fort Lauderdale Diving Association
Jeff Torode, President

Nature Travelers Club, Delray Beach
Hope Fox, President

Ocean Rehab Initiative Inc.
William Djubin, President

Palm Beach County Dive Industry Association
Van Blakeman, Director

Palm Beach County Reef Rescue
Ed Tichenor, Director

PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
Jerry Phillips, Director Florida Chapter

Surfrider Foundation
Miami Chapter
Broward Chapter
Treasure Coast Chapter
Sebastian Inlet Chapter
Cocoa Beach Chapter
Volusia Flagler Chapter
First Coast Chapter
Suncoast Chapter
Central Florida Chapter
Emerald Coast Chapter
Ericka Canales, Florida Regional Manager

Surfrider Foundation Palm Beach County Chapter
Todd Remmel, Chapter Chair

Reef Relief
Peter Anderson, Chairman & President

Reef Relief Founders
Craig & DeeVon Quirolo