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 Bahamas Commentary

2003-06-21 03:55:01

Short-Term Greed Will Bring Long-Term Hunger

Our marine resources are threatened as never before with overfishing, pollution and habitat loss.

Today, the Guardian runs a startling story on three major studies that point to a catastrophic reorganisation of ocean ecosystems with global consequences and serious implications for The Bahamas, as well.

Fish and the sea are an integral part of Bahamian life some may even say a distinguishing feature of our culture. But our marine resources are threatened as never before with overfishing, pollution and habitat loss.

Our fishing industry currently earns about $70 million a year. But it is mostly unregulated and thus subject to overfishing not only by us but by American tourists and Dominican poachers among others. Even scientific experts have no idea of the total amount of fish taken in Bahamian waters, so it is unlikely that we will react until a particular species is already gone.

We also have no idea what we are putting into our water. Coastal pollution is probably already hurting the fish we do have, and affecting the near-shore areas where small fish grow up. We still have no land-use plan, even for New Providence.

We are developing or blocking up all of our coastal wetlands and mangrove creeks, so many fish don't have the habitat they need. We want to catch more fish, but we are giving them less space and shelter in which to live, grow and reproduce.

We don't care

We simply do not care enough, or value our marine resources enough. We want the fish now. We want the revenue from tourism and fisheries now. But there is no ethic of stewardship that will protect our fisheries for our children and grandchildren to enjoy, too.

The results of large-scale studies of the world's collapsing fisheries should be very frightening to us. If we have depleted an ocean that covers three-quarters of the planet in only half a century, we should be taking a cold, hard look at what is happening right now in our own territorial waters.

Fisheries experts are unanimous in the opinion that our grouper, conch, lobster and other fish stocks are under severe pressure. The situation cannot be addressed simply by creating a few marine reserves or closing grouper aggregations. We need to address fundamentally the way we use and value our natural environment.

We need to look at the big picture quickly.

We need to act.

Editorial, The Nassau Guardian

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