In a landmark decision, the Ministry of Environment announced a list of new Marine Protected Areas (MPA) across the Bahamas, including four areas on Abaco, as they seek to meet the goal of protecting at least 20 percent of its marine environment by the year 2020.
The parks designated in Abaco are: The Marls of Abaco National Park, East Abaco Creeks National Park, Cross Harbour National Park, and South Abaco Blue Holes National Park.
Fishing within the boundaries of the existing laws is still permitted in these areas.
“Protected areas constitute an important stock of natural, cultural and social capital, yielding flows of economically valuable goods and services that benefit society, secure livelihoods, and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” Mr. Dorsett said. “Moreover, protected areas are key to buffering unpredictable impacts of impending climate change. As a low-lying archipelagic ocean-nation, The Bahamas is mindful of the effect that sea level rise and climate change will impact our way of life and survival if immediate and significant global action is not taken.”
Mr. Dorsett announced that the government, realizing the cost of managing protected areas, increased its subvention to the Bahamas National Trust in the 2015 budget.
“Additionally, the Bahamas Protected Area Fund has been legislated and implemented. I am advised that The Bahamas is the first country to enact legislation establishing a legal trust fund dedicated specifically to financing protected areas management,” he said.
“Today, we have set the foundation for the protection of approximately of 7.5 million acres of land, nearshore and marine environment. This includes the new San Salvador National Parks announced in April of this year and in total exceeds the target of 2.5 million hectares set for our Global Environment Facility full-sized MPA project, thus achieving the protection of 10 per cent of our nearshore and marine environment.
“This major achievement and commitment moves us closer to our national goal of protecting 20 per cent of our near shore and marine environment by 2020.”
The newly-protected areas will conserve and protect habitat for Grouper and Bonefish spawning aggregations, coral reefs, sea grass meadows, mangrove nurseries and important bird areas, he added.
Larry Glinton, President of The Bahamas National Trust, said they were “extremely pleased” that the new national parks and marine protected areas has been created.
Other new additions to the protected areas system are:
Crooked Island and Acklins: Southeast Bahamas Marine Managed Area, Bight of Acklins National Park.
Andros: Andros Green Cay National Park, Joulter Cays National Park, Cay Sal Marine Managed Area.
Grand Bahama: North Shore – The Gap National Park, East Grand Bahama National Park, Lucayan National Park Expansion, Peterson Cay National Park expansion (further consultations are being held), Hogsty Reef Protected Area.
Mayaguana: Booby Cay National Park.
New Providence: Southwest New Providence Marine Managed Area, Perpall Tract National Park.
Great Exuma: Expansion of Moriah Harbour Cay National Park.