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FRIENDS Ecosystems Camps Teach Love of Environment and Fishing Skills

Campers enjoying the beach during one of the Ecosystem Camps.
Campers enjoying the beach during one of the Ecosystem Camps.

Summer is here and with it a multitude of restless children waiting to be entertained with interesting projects and new learning experiences. For the past ten years, Friends of the Environment, Abaco’s environmental education organization, has been offering children’s camps to awaken their interest in preserving Abaco’s delicate environment and teaching them how to obtain a more sustainable future.

Most of the camps were coordinated by Education Officer Cassandra Abraham, with research scientists or professionals as guest presenters. The camps have taken place in various settlements, with theory teaching in the mornings and field trips in the afternoon. Children are sorted by age and presented with fitting topics. Several young adults from various parts of the United States and Abaco joined Friends of the Environment as interns this summer. The interns included Tace Sutherland from Chicago, Tanya Garcia and Courtney Lam from San Francisco, Aine Collins from Connecticut, as well as young locals DaShane Knowles, Zoya Thompson, and Ebany Hanna.

The first camp, held June 27 to July 1, was for ages 6-9. The topic was Abaco’s ecosystems. During a 3-hour morning class, Abraham described to the students the various habitats found on Abaco. The list included mangrove coast line, coral reefs, caves and fossils, and farmland. During a second session held July 12 to 15, they discussed pine forests, blue holes, and sandy beaches. The afternoon was dedicated to immersing campers in what they had been taught in the class-room that morning.

The ages 6-9 ecosystems camp ended with a trip to the Crossing Beach, during which children gathered trash in jute bags and itemized what they had found before enjoying a well-deserved dip in the sea.

One session of the sustainable fishing camp, for ages 10-12, included kids from Dundas Town and Murphy Town and was held at the Zion Baptist Cathedral in Murphy Town on July 5 and 6. The first day was dedicated to learning about sharks, since the Bahamas is the shark capital of the world. The session was instructed by Stephanie “Enie” Buhler, a research student from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who shared information on behalf of “Sharks 4 Kids”, an educational program developed in Bimini. During her presentation, Buhler gave the children a fish history, explaining how vulnerable sharks could be. She also gave them an anatomy overlook and told them how important they were for the local economy; millions of dollars are made in the shark-filming industry alone.

The second day, two presenters, a representative of IGFA (International Game Fish Association) from Florida, Rob Kramer, and a local bone fishing guide, Paul Pinder, instructed the children about fly fishing.

After giving the class information on the role of his organization in the fishing industry, Kramer proceeded to impart some practical fishing knowledge on the kids. He explained about fly fishing rods, using the one he had bought with him for demonstration. He showed how to cast a line, with practice taking place outside later, and spoke about flies.

Before going outside to practice casting on the basketball court, Pinder addressed the group about bone fishing, a widespread industry on Abaco, he said, which brought a lot of revenue to the island. Bone fishing requires a longer rod, he explained, as long as 9 feet.

Following line casting practice demonstrated by both professional fishermen, the group went back inside to learn all about the different types of flies, how to make them, how to tie line and flies as well as the different types of knots.

The afternoon session was spent practicing fishing off the South Side dock in Murphy Town. The children had great fun catching and releasing their catch. The participants were instructed to make sure that they intended to eat the fish they caught, otherwise to release them.

On July 7 and 8, the camp was repeated on Green Turtle Cay where Amy Roberts Primary School’s teacher, Jan Russell, awaited the organizers who arrived on the 8:30 ferry and provided assistance during the two-day camp. A dock at the end of a beach offered the perfect location. Again it was a full classroom—the maximum of fifteen children—that eagerly expected what they were about to learn. For the second day in a row, Kramer and Buhler were the presenters.

Students participating in both fishing camps were given spinning rods donated by IGFA, which allowed them to practice their newly learned skills at home.

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