LONG ISLAND, BAHAMAS (August 14th, 2018) – Long Island in the Bahamas has been declared a Hope Spot by international non-profit Mission Blue in support of the Bahamian government’s tentative plan to proclaim a marine protected area in the area. Long Island Marine Management Area (LIMMA) has been a source of food, recreation and economy for Long Islanders since the settling of the local communities. Establishment of the 257,000 acre Long Island Marine Management Area would repair and protect the population of marine species important to the local and global economy, such as the endangered Nassau Grouper and the Queen Conch, and would aim to provide a sustainable balance between culture, economics and conservation.
“The Long Island Marine Management Area (LIMMA) contains a rich biodiversity of habitat, ranging from mangroves and sea grasses, blue holes to coral reefs and deep water sites; habitat that is critical to the life cycle of the biodiversity of the Long Island fisheries and associated bird and marine species. Replenished and sustained health to the LIMMA means continued good health for humans and the rest of the world. Degradation of these areas will negatively impact fish, conch, crawfish (spiny lobster), sponge and bird populations,” said Hope Spot Champion and Ocean Crest Alliance founder Joseph Ierna Jr. Ocean Crest Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating awareness to inspire and to educate others about the Earth and oceans through conservation, research, education, science and technology programs.
“Our once healthy marine ecosystem has been overfished and not properly managed,” said Ierna. “Although the Bahamas has fisheries law, they need to be updated, and enforcement of the current laws is non-existent in the area due to lack of resources to fund these efforts. Locals, scientists, researchers and tourists have all noted the decline in the abundance of the Long Island ecosystem. This is due to all the factors of human impact.”
The proposed Long Island Marine Management Area would repair and protect important mangrove, seagrass and Spawning Aggregation (SPAG) habitats, which are vital for the egg bearing adults and juvenile nursery function for the offshore reefs and banks.
Creation of the proposed Long Island Marine Management Area would also help meet national protected area goals established under international agreements including The Convention of Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention, The Caribbean Challenge Initiative and the IUCN goals of creating a Bahamas: National Network of Marine Protected Areas.
The Ministry of Environment and Bahamas Protected Areas Fund has recently launched their next 10% of Marine Protected Areas designation, of which the Long Island Marine Management Area was included. This is part of the commitments and goals of the Bahamian government to reach their goal of having 20% of their waters protected by 2020.
“The Long Island Hope Spot offers real hope for enhanced marine conservation in the Bahamas,” said Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue. “Protecting the area would not only benefit wildlife in the sea, but also secure a vibrant part of Bahamian national heritage for the future. Now, as never before, we have the chance to get it right. Let’s hope the Bahamian government moves quickly to protect the Long Island Hope Spot.”
Achieving protection status for Long Island Marine Management Area would assist in repairing the rapidly diminishing Nassau Grouper population. The majority of scientific research on the Nassau Grouper is, in fact, conducted off the shores of Long Island. Long Island has seven Nassau Grouper Spawning Aggregations, and protecting these aggregations is integral to maintaining a stable population. The Nassau Grouper is greatly endangered due to overfishing and reef destruction in the area, and failure to protect their habitat may result in the extinction of this beautiful species.
Long Island, besides its reputation for beautiful, diverse marine life and white sand beaches, is home to Dean’s Blue Hole, the second deepest blue hole in the world. Dean’s Blue Hole is world renowned as a tourist attraction and home to the largest annual free diving competition in the world. The blue hole invites the world community to Long Island to connect people with the ocean, and the Bahamian government enacting their plan to ensure protection status of Long Island would be beneficial to the country’s economy and would result in the preservation of this globally-recognized spot for generations to come.
“Whilst collecting visual content, we experienced firsthand the coral reefs communities and blue holes off Long Island and incredible wall dive of Conception Island making the area critical for protection. We believe this area is worthy of protection given the special nature of the marine biodiversity of the area being proposed as part of the Nations next 10% for MPA designation,” states Lorna Parry, co-founder of Underwater Earth, the organization that captured beautiful 360 degree photos of the area a few years ago.
William Trubridge, a leader in the free dive community, shares his support in the efforts to make Long Island a Marine Protected Area.
“I first came to Long Island in 2005, and together with my organization, Vertical Blue, have been running an annual freediving competition in Dean’s Blue Hole since 2008. This is now the largest annual freediving event – the “Wimbledon of Freediving” according to the New York Times. Over 30 World Records have been set during the 10 editions of the event thus far. In the same period I have experienced a decline in the quality and abundance of marine life in the coastal waters of Long Island. The pressures that have caused this are many, and complicated, but it is very clear from experiences in other locations that a Marine Management Area would have a strong positive impact at restoring some of the habitats and species’ stocks.”
“Long Island is unique in many ways. It has amazing underwater biodiversity that is appreciated by the people living there. It has already been a place of hope for our ocean. The designation of Hope Spot establishes its value and ensures the resilience of neighboring islands to which it is connected,” says Claire Paris, Ph.D., Professor in Ocean Sciences at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
About Mission Blue
Led by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue is uniting a global coalition to inspire an upwelling of public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas – Hope Spots. Under Dr. Earle’s leadership, the Mission Blue team implements communications campaigns that elevate Hope Spots to the world stage through documentaries, social media, traditional media and innovative tools like Google Earth. Mission Blue embarks on regular oceanic expeditions that shed light on these vital ecosystems and build support for their protection. Mission Blue also supports the work of conservation NGOs around the world that share the mission of building public support for ocean protection. The Mission Blue alliance includes more than 200 respected ocean conservation groups and like-minded organizations.
About Ocean Crest Alliance
Established in 2012, Ocean Crest Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating awareness to inspire and to educate others about the Earth and oceans through conservation, research, education, science and technology programs.