Formed around concerns about unregulated development, Abaco Defenders took a step forward by asking an independent scientist to visit Sand Banks/Gunpowder Creek in Treasure Cay to verify the health of and life in the creek.
According to a group representative, “When work was done here by Treasure Sands, no environmental impact study was performed, so we, as a community, had no way of knowing how this creek would be affected, and what was in it to affect. Since the Government and the developer were not providing that information we decided to try and get it for ourselves.”
Zach Zuckerman, a researcher for the Cape Eleuthera Institute volunteered to come and do a quick survey of the creek area on Saturday, April 5th. Olivia Patterson, the Program Coordinator from Friends of the Environment, joined him and a group from Treasure Cay to kayak and snorkel through the creeks. Together they found a creek teeming with life.
He stated that as Sand Banks Creek contains dense turtle grass the area supports a high density of turtles. Throughout the day they saw at least 75-100 turtles of three species. There is a high density of sub-adult lemon sharks, as they were able to see more than 25 individuals ranging 3-6 feet in length. The creek boasts large areas of submerged mangrove prop roots, and a variety of habitat types, which is important to a healthy creek system.
Particular areas contained dense mats of Laurencia algae, which are critical habitat for the juvenile Nassau grouper that were observed in ledge and grass habitats. Crawfish ranging from juvenile to harvest-able size were present in rock ledges as well as ledges found beneath red mangrove roots. Medium to large mutton and adult grey snapper were also in abundance, which are important mid-range predators to assist in keeping the system healthy. Bonefish, an important species for eco-tourism, were also found in healthy numbers.
He stated that continued disturbance, from activities related to large scale development, may have a negative impact on species assemblage and abundances. If any works in and around the creek do take place he recommended an ongoing assessment of species to provide data to monitor the impact on continued health of the creek.
That evening Mr. Zuckerman volunteered to host an educational session on the importance of mangroves based on the work that is taking place in Eleuthera. It was a well-attended session, people seemed interested to learn the role that mangroves play in protecting nearby land from storm surges and their importance as juvenile habitat for critical species like grouper and snapper.
After the talk, the question and answer session turned to the work that has been done in the area.
Fiona Bootle from Abaco Defenders rose and spoke about the group’s concerns that a full development proposal had not been provided for review. She added that local Councils are being asked to approve independent buildings without knowing how they fit into the larger picture and the story about the size and location of the development continues to change over time, so it is difficult to know how the creek and community will be affected.
Concerns about the increased potential for flooding were also raised as well as the historical importance of the area as a portion of the Carleton landing site. They assured residents that they were not against the development, they just want to know what is it and how the community will be impacted before it moves forward. An area such as this, once damaged, takes a great deal of time and money to restore.
Abaco Defenders explained that they are working to try and get those answers. They have become a community partner with Save The Bays, which is currently assisting other local groups around the country in holding the Government accountable to their own laws when it comes to development.
Bootle encouraged people with concerns to reach out to Abaco Defenders, as they are here to work with the community and protect the environment of the Bahamas, which is critical to the economy and quality of life in the country.