Monday, March 4, 2013

Losing Atlantis...Again?


Bimini, just 50 miles off the coast of Miami,
sits beside the Gulf Stream. (Kristine Stump)
The house was built on the highest part of the narrow tongue of land between the harbor and the open sea…It was shaded by tall coconut palms that were bent by the trade wind, and on the ocean side you could walk out of the door and down the bluff across the white sand and into the Gulf Stream.  The water of the Stream was usually a dark blue when you looked out at it when there was no wind.  But when you walked out into it there was just the green light of the water over that floury white sand...
 - Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream

The barge that has recently appeared off the coast of Bimini
is not just interrupting the view. (Craig O'Connell)
If Ernest Hemingway were alive today, he would look out across the beach on the island of North Bimini in the northwestern Bahamas and see more than just the floury white sand and the Gulf Stream.  He might furrow his brow and purse his lips, wondering why a dark barge was anchored over Three Sisters, a coral reef popular with snorkelers.  

Bimini’s close proximity to the United States, just 50 miles east of Miami, is both its blessing and its curse.  Tourism from its American neighbor is its lifeblood, but if a foreign developer has his way, it may also be its downfall.

That dark barge is a platform for equipment testing the seabed for a massive proposed dredging project to build a cruise ship terminal.  If the project is approved, this close-knit island community of 1,988 people1 could watch floating fortresses lumber in through the dredged remains of once pristine coral reefs. 

Ernest Hemingway in Bimini. (source)
Hemingway romanticized and immortalized the laid-back, fishing town that is Bimini in his novel.  For decades, the little island known as the Big Game Fishing Capital of the World has been a place people visit to be a part of the epic deep sea and flats fishing traditions.  Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. sought the serenity of Bimini’s natural environment, hiring local bonefish guide Ansil Saunders to take him into the mangrove creeks.  There, bobbing on a skiff in the deafening silence of a pristine forest where ocean meets land, King found the inspiration to write both his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and the final speech he would deliver to sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. 

That Bimini – the Bimini that has thrived on the appeal of its natural resources for decades – is now threatened.    

The reefs are important to locals and tourists and are home to critically endangered elkhorn coral and two endangered reef-building boulder corals

The Bimini Road is believed to be the
road to the lost city of Atlantis. (source)
The dredging process destroys not only the target reef and associated fish, but also nearby reefs, which become smothered by thousands of cubic meters of sediment2.  Ten popular reef sites are within two miles of the proposed dredging, the closest of which is the world-renowned Bimini Road, an underwater rock formation believed by some to be part of the lost city of Atlantis, and a huge tourist draw for the island. 

In 2008, the Government of the Bahamas established the North Bimini Marine Reserve to protect invaluable mangrove and seagrass communities (see a recent post on Southern Fried Science).  It is the hope of many that the coral reefs will be afforded the same protection before this destruction proceeds.

In an era of increased environmental awareness and sensitivity, is it reasonable to destroy coral reefs, dredge through the pride of an island, and bring unsustainable development to a community that has thrived for decades on its reputation as a relaxing ecotourism destination?

Endangered elkhorn coral on Three
Sisters Reef in Bimini. (Kristine Stump)
What Can You Do?
For those who want to help promote a positive, sustainable future for Bimini, please consider submitting a polite email to the addresses below.  Bimini, and The Bahamas as a whole, relies on its ecological health as a foundation for the tourism industry, which accounts for well over half of the country’s gross domestic product, wages and employment3.


           ● The Honorable Obie Wilchcombe, Minister of Tourism and Member of Parliament for Bimini
       ● The Nassau Guardian News Editor
·         The Bahamas Tribune

Please copy the Bimini Blue Coalition (bimini.blue.coalition@gmail.com) so they can forward your email to additional representatives as needed.  If you’d like to keep the letters anonymous, please send them directly to the Bimini Blue Coalition and they will respect your privacy.

For More Information
Please visit the Bimini Blue Coalition’s Facebook page for more information, updates on progress and ways you can get involved.


By Kristine Stump
When not tagging adult tiger sharks, Kristine conducts research
on the role of mangroves as nurseries for juvenile lemon sharks.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting, Patrick. Let's make some noise!

    ReplyDelete

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