Recently, Bahamas National Trust (BNT) officials met with local communities in Abaco to discuss proposed parks. Meetings were held in Marsh Harbour, Cherokee and Cross Harbour.
Additionally, the BNT met with fishermen in Sandy Point, Abaco, to address concerns about the proposed national park for Cross Harbour in South Abaco. The meeting went extremely well; as the BNT assured fishermen that their interests were considered when proposing the park.
“When new national parks are designated under the BNT, traditional uses by the communities are taken into consideration,” noted David Knowles, BNT Director of Parks. “Knowing that the Sandy Point fishermen depend on Cross Harbour, it is proposed for multi-use, just like the recently expanded Andros West Side National Park.” Knowles added that the entire west coast of Andros is now a national park, and fishermen are still able to fish within the park, and the same will be incorporated for Cross Harbour and The Marls of Abaco.
The proposed protection of the new Abaco areas will ensure that prime fishing grounds and important nursery habitats are protected from unsustainable development. As such, the livelihoods of fishermen that depend on the natural resources will be safeguarded and for those of future generations to come.
Cross Harbour was first proposed as a no-build zone in 2006 by Friends of the Environment following a creek restoration project. Their proposal received support from the Abaco Fly Fishing Guide Association (AFFGA) and local fishermen. However, there were concerns on whether this would provide the protection needed, and discussions advanced for the area to be proposed as a national park under the BNT’s mandate.
Lakeshia Anderson, Grand Bahama Parks Manager was also present at the meeting, and provided attendees an overview of the work completed to date. She noted that Abaco fishermen and research have shown that bonefish travel long distances from The Marls of Abaco to Cross Harbour to spawn, which has led to the decision to protect both areas. Additionally, surveys have been conducted of important areas including the offshore reef, mangroves, conch beds and fish populations, and the BNT is ready to move forward with proposal development for submission to Government.
Eric Carey, BNT Executive Director was present at the meeting and spoke to the fisherman saying, “The intention for Cross Harbour was absolutely never to be proposed as a no-take area. Before any decisions are made, fishermen will be involved in the entire process.” Carey noted that relationships between local fishermen, local government and the BNT are crucial to ensuring the area is effectively managed and protected.
Carey suggested to the fishermen present that they should appoint individuals who will be responsible for transferring information, and be involved in discussions on management decisions on their behalf, once the park is created.”
At the end of the evening the fishermen voiced their gratitude to the BNT for assuring them that the proposed national park for Cross Harbour will protect their fishing grounds from unwanted development, and reiterated their support through rounds of applause.
To learn more about the proposed parks in Abaco and other islands please visit the BNT website. Many more meetings will happen before any parks are officially granted as the Government, the BNT and local NGO’s want community participation and support.