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Bimini Besieged

Famous Lemon Shark Nursery May Soon Be Golf Course
February 28, 2005

A Statement by: Ellen K. Pikitch, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Pew Institute for Ocean Science
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

A well-known shark nursery in Bimini's North Sound may become a golf course for a large resort, currently under construction, if the Bahamian government does not intervene.

Bimini's North Sound, a shallow, mangrove-fringed arm of the lagoon between North and South Bimini Islands, is a site well-known to shark enthusiasts around the world. It is here that a pioneering, almost twenty-year study has revealed the life-history of the lemon shark. Almost every young shark in the lagoon has been tagged and genetically profiled with information on its birth, growth rate, and which of the 40-some adult females using this nursery is its mother.

This shark nursery is a richly diverse and productive mangrove eco-system, supporting species ranging from the gamefish that have historically made Bimini a premiere location for anglers (bonefish, tarpon, and permit), to the commercially important species that locals depend on for food (queen conch, spiny lobster, snapper).

The mangroves also serve as a nursery and foraging area for many of the species which populate nearby coral reefs and make Bimini a world-famous diving location. Along with the mangroves' central ecological and economic importance to Bimini, they also help to stabilize these small islands and help them weather erosion, storms and hurricanes.

In 2000, for all of these reasons and with the realization that places like this are rapidly vanishing around the world, the Bahamian government announced their intention to declare Bimini's North Sound, and four other sites, marine reserves, to ensure their preservation for future generations. Not only is it good for the environment and the advancement of science, but ecotourism is a growing multi-million dollar industry.

Unfortunately, before these reserves could have any effect, a new government was elected, and it seems that the resolve to protect these sites left with the old government.

Now, Bimini's North Sound is under increasing threat of development. Construction has begun on the first phase of a mega-resort, including condominiums, a casino, and golf course. If allowed to proceed unchecked, the complex will consume the mangroves of the North Sound and east Bimini, together with all of the animals and plants that live there.

For shark enthusiasts, this would be the equivalent of putting a putting green on Gombe's famous chimpanzee research site, but for Bimini and the greater Commonwealth of the Bahamas much more is at stake.

Hopefully, the government will have the foresight to realize that any short-term gain of a few foreign investors in making Bimini a clone of hundreds of other island mega-resorts will pale in comparison to the long-term ecological and economic benefits of embracing their natural heritage and preserving all that is unique and attractive about these islands for future generations and sustainable tourist dollars.

Many of us in the marine conservation community are calling upon everyone who cares about the environment to contact the following Bahamian officials about the importance of establishing a marine reserve in Bimini's North Sound and protecting the mangroves in north and east Bimini:

The Rt. Hon. Perry Gladstone Christie - Prime Minister
The Office of the Prime Minister
Cecil Wallace - Whitfield Centre
Cable Beach
P.O. Box N 3217
Nassau, N.P. Bahamas
242- 327-5826-9

The Hon. Obediah H. Wilchcombe - Minister of Tourism / Parliament Member West End & Bimini
Ministry of Tourism
Bay Street
P.O. Box N-3701
Nassau, N.P. Bahamas
242- 322 - 7500

Mr. Michael Braynen - Director of Fisheries
Department of Fisheries
East Bay Street
P.O. Box N 3208
Nassau, N.P. Bahamas

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