By John Hedden
There are several points I would like to make in this final letter and they relate to the natural environment around us, the establishment of a healthy primary production environment (agriculture and fishing), and the protection of both.
As we now know agriculture (and fishing) do have a huge impact on native resources. Agriculture displaces native animal and vegetative populations, and replaces them with non-native (invasive) populations which need intensive care to carry them through to harvest and the market. This usually involves the use of highly toxic chemicals which have the double hazard of poisoning the native fauna (animals), and the potential for contaminating our non-renewable water reserves.
This is especially relevant on Andros, Abaco and Grand Bahama.
Fishing on the other hand exploits the native marine species populations by harvesting from the wild and then allowing the wild population to replenish the harvest stock. Over-exploitation will eventually reach a point where replenishment is no longer possible, and the industry will fail.
Other factors are important for restocking fishery catch, and these include nursery areas such as mangrove forests, shallow protected waters with sea grass, shoals, and reef systems.
We as a people feel blessed by the beauty of our islands, cays, and waters throughout. They generate huge revenues in the tourist industry, through hotels and beaches and also through the boating industry. Yet we do nothing to protect our resources which generate this revenue. We throw our garbage anywhere, as is seen in the pine forest, the sides of the roads, the seafloor, beaches, and even our own backyards. In fact we live in a huge garbage dump. This extends to our treatment of agricultural land, and to the marine environment which supports fishing (bleach, dishwashing liquid, and gasoline for example).
It is high time this country begins to enact environmental protection laws which will protect our natural native resources from abuse in any form, and must include ‘all’ agriculture and fisheries. The prime minister throwing his hands out in front of him to demonstrate how he will protect Andros is not good enough. That gesture means absolutely nothing unless he immediately begins putting relevant laws and regulations in place. Once we have the contamination and spoilage, we have it forever.
With regard to fishing and agriculture the government must encourage and protect production systems which are Bahamian designed, managed and operated. To this end the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries needs to be completely renovated, and rebuilt from the ground up, so that it can function to genuinely foster these essential industries. We need a minister who understands and knows these industries inside out.
The gift of the lawyers gab does nothing to realistically promote farming and fishing. We need a set of tools such as real concessions and incentives to further promote these industries. We need a business friendly government infrastructure to encourage us in our ventures, not frustrate us. We need to encourage environmentally friendly practices such as maintenance of native vegetation in farming areas to protect our biodiversity. Ventures that do this should be rewarded.
As far as foreign investors in these industries are concerned they should be held to the same accountability as native operations, and constantly monitored and evaluated. There is nothing wrong with Foreign Direct Investment, but it must be developed and monitored in such a way as to benefit many aspects of life in these islands, not just financial.
We have elected members of the house of assembly who are put there to run the business of the country for us. However it seems that any business is performed in the back rooms out of sight, while in public view are the shenanigans, comedy acts, and disrespect of a noble and effective system of government.
When will we wake up and do what is right to protect and maintain a healthy Bahamian environment which will support us all.