Guy Harvey Magazine

WIN-SPR 2018

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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www.GuyHarveyMagazine.com | 31 The report's conclusion also laid a visionary foundation for the future: "The Exuma Cays Park under consideration should be regarded as only the beginning of a conservation movement that is vital to The Bahamas as a whole. It will also be a beginning of a new concept, integrated land-and-sea conservation, in which The Bahamas will take the lead and show the way to other nations throughout the world." However, the report of the Exuma survey team was only the first step. Methods for choosing the best locations for parks and protected areas in The Bahamas remained to be developed by future scientists and managers, and mechanisms for park management required a new Bahamian law. Consequently, the Honorable Godfrey Higgs followed the model of the 1909 British National Trust Act. Its passage on July 13, 1959, allowed the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP) to become an incipient reality, pending only an official lease from the Crown. It was not until March 5, 1964, that a 99-year lease awarded to the BNT made the park official. The lease was signed by BNT President William Wikoff Smith and Vice- President J. Andrew McKinney, and witnessed by Godfrey Higgs. Under the wording of the lease, all of the enclosed area that had been suggested by the report survey is included under Bahamas National Trust jurisdiction, but in actuality, some of the islands remain to this day as private in-holdings.* Today, the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is a conservation success story. Initially, park bylaws allowed each boat a daily fishery catch quota. In 1986, recognizing unsustainable pressures on fish, lobster and conch populations, as well as coral reefs, the BNT declared the entire 176-square-mile park a no-take fisheries replenishment area, or fishery reserveā€”a first for the wider Caribbean. Scientists and managers now promote such areas as among the best ways to sustain fishery resources. Despite many challenges and the need for detailed planning and action, today, the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is a conservation success story as a functional marine reserve. Scientists have documented that not only are the marine resources of the Exumas being enriched, but also that the park serves to replenish areas as far away as South Long Island, almost 150 miles away. The ECLSP is also an important factor in the economy of the Exuma Cays, providing direct benefits through the increased tourism that it attracts. *Private landholdings in the park (taken from the ECLSP Management Plan). Within the boundaries of the ECLSP, approximately 68% of the land area is Bahamas National Trust property. When the park was founded in 1958, there were existing landowners whose rights and privileges were protected under statute law in The Bahamas. Development on private land is controlled through permits issued by the central government and local government authority. They advocate stricter zoning laws of private lands both within and adjacent to national parks. The enactment of the Bahamas National Trust Act did not take away the inalienable rights of private landholders in the ECLSP, as enshrined within the Constitution of The Bahamas. The current high real estate value of these in-holdings makes it cost prohibitive for outright purchase by the BNT. Thus, the BNT must maintain close, professional and cooperative relationships with landowners within the park in hopes of encouraging activities that are compatible with the objectives of the park. Simultaneously, the BNT will always maintain as a long-term goal the development of the financial resources and support needed to acquire existing private lands when they become available. Carleton Ray and Oris Russell examining a native orchid. Photo courtesy of Bahamas National Trust.

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