4 Sep 2015

Protecting The Bahamas’ Future

Joulter Cays is an important side for migrating shorebirds (Walker Golder)
By Martin Fowlie

In a remarkable demonstration of commitment to the environment,  the Bahama's Minister of the Environment and Housing, the Hon. Kenred  Dorsett, has announced over 7 million acres of new protected marine areas.

“Today is a great day for conservation in The Bahamas”, said Eric Carey, Bahamas National Trust Executive Director. “The Bahamas continues to be a leader in the arena of protected area designation. Protected areas are an important to secure a sustainable future for the Bahamas.”

One of these, the new 113,920-acre Joulter Cays National Park protects a group of uninhabited islands and intertidal sand flats in the Bahamas. The Bahamas National Trust (BNT, BirdLife Partner) and The National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the USA) collaborated on the proposal for the new national park. The area will be protected from unregulated development and destructive practices while ensuring a sustainable local economy.

“This is a great victory for heroic birds that don’t know borders and the people who depend on the shores and waters of the Joulter Cays to make a living,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “By protecting these birds’ winter homes, we create the opportunity for new ecotourism jobs. That reflects the true power of Audubon’s partnerships across the hemisphere and we commend the government of the Bahamas for its leadership in protecting migratory birds.”

The Bahamas is a coral-based archipelago of more than 700 islands and 2,500 cays sprinkled across 100,000 square miles of the Caribbean with over 340 bird species and vital pockets of marine and coastal biodiversity. The Joulter Cays National Park represents 113,920 acres of pristine habitat located approximately two miles north of the main island of Andros. The area showcases an astonishing congregation of birdlife and is a globally recognized hotspot for sports fishing.

“The Bahamas National Trust is extremely pleased that the government of the Bahamas has approved the creation of this new national park, which will provide much needed support to our thriving fly-fishing industry while also protecting the critical wintering habitat of several endangered shorebird species,” says Lawrence Glinton, president of Bahamas National Trust. “The park also has tremendous ecotourism potential and can generate significant revenue from bird based tourism. BNT and Audubon are presently developing a program that will allow local residents to take full advantage of these exciting new opportunities.”

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Of the bird species documented in the Bahamas, more than 50% are migrants from the U.S. and Canada. The national park’s isolated sand flats and mangroves provide essential habitat for thousands of shorebirds representing 13 species, including the largest congregation of the endangered Piping Plover outside the U.S. The region is also important for breeding White-crowned Pigeons, wading birds and seabird populations and its mangrove forests support numerous migrating songbirds.