The Guana Cay blog focuses on the conflicts between small island communities and large mega-developments.
A growing body of evidence shows that megadevelopments are a major culprit in coral reef , mangrove and local culture decline. The Guana Cay blog explores current conflicts in the Caribbean and beyond, and seeks to share information between local groups concerned about the future of their islands.
We focus on the Bakers Bay Golf & Ocean Club, a Bahamas golf and marina development that caters to Hollywood celebrities, and which is fiercely opposed by Bahamian natives, coral reef scientists, human rights advocates and locals on Guana Cay.
Locals on Great Guana Cay have worried that the culture that Bakers Bay would bring unwanted noise, dangerous recklessness and trashy culture to the island.
Nobody could have imagined how bad it would be. In 2012, a helicopter crashed on the island, killing one and creating an international flurry of news reports about celebrities and lawsuits on Guana Cay.
Regular reports of Bakers Bay personnel driving wildly and dangerously through the settlement continue.
Bakers Bay cart crash in 2007.
The latest incident involves a Baker's Bay Club VIP boat, Rhumdum, which hit the fishing boat along its side. According to the Police Report filed on July 4, 2014:
"My wife and I were on my sixteen-foot boat about 100 feet from the shore. We were fishing, when suddenly a Baker's Bay boat sped past us and hit our boat. I thought they were going to come head on, so I held onto the chair tight and my wife was about the jump in the sea. The chair on my boat broke and the rod holders were broken, and they cut my fishing line as well. After they hit my boat, they heard my wife screaming, so they stopped. The captain of the boat asked us if we were okay, and I said I would call the police, and they left. They drove past us at about 40mph. They were going very fast. I reported the matter to the police on Guana Cay. I then talked to Livingstone Marshall, who asked us what we wanted in compensation...(later)...Mr. Marshall then said they would give me $1000 for the damages of my boat. I did not accept because we could have been dead.""
"WPLG, the ABC Miami ABC, is set to air "Gambling with Bimini's Beauty," a report on a controversial resort and gaming development underway on the island in the northern Bahamas that environmentalists fear will destroy Bimini's fragile coral reefs and world-renowned marine environment.
The report is slotted to appear Friday, January 17 in the 11 pm Local News and repeated in whole or part over the next few days. It was researched, written and produced by award-winning journalist Christina Vazquez who was on site in Bimini to investigate the development by Malaysian-based Genting Group and its potential environmental impact. At the heart of the matter is a planned 1,000-foot pier to convenience cruise traffic and mega-yachts feeding passengers into the casino that opened in 2013. Along with the pier the developer has announced plans to build an artificial 4.5-acre island."
September 8, 2013 | Bakers Bay
Why No Sales at Bakers Bay?
Sales are way off at Bakers Bay in 2013. The question is, why? The recession has ended, and real estate sales are booming across North America. Locals, hearing the chatter from Bakers Bay, are posing some reasons why:
1. Theory One: James Bond.
Did you know that Ian Fleming named his super-spy character after the author of birding field guides to the West Indies? This theory, then, is fitting.
The national Bahamian environmental movement Save the Bays has been growing rapidly in 2013. The movement, which is embraced widely by Bahamians and which all major environmental groups in the nation have become a part of, was bolstered when Sir Sean Connery, aka, James Bond, joined the group and publicly urged support. Save the Bays was created in response to three major environmental issues in the Bahamas, one of which is Baker's Bay. As the Caribbean's most well known resident - and most highly regarded among millionaires and billionaires in the region - threw his support behind the barefooted locals who opposed Bakers Bay, the idea of buying a property there has soured.
2. Theory Two: Bakers Bay is Boring.
Several features at Bakers Bay, such as the newly created baseball field, were never in the original plans at Bakers Bay. These new features seem to show that Bakers Bay is trying to respond to what has been all too clear to locals for years. It is boring to live in an isolated community of rich old farts.
The 15 homes that have been built on the property appear from the air to be enormous. Some are 15,000 square foot homes. They feature elevators, garages (even though there are no roads), movie-screening rooms and millions of dollars of indoor entertainment merchandise. In fact, the buildings are so large and enclosed, they seem to ignore the outdoor space so common as a theme in Bahamian vacation homes.
At the Albany development on New Providence Island, which is a similar property targeting similar income levels, sales are gangbusters. But there is a key difference. New Providence has casinos, restaurants, night-life, people. There is always something to do if you get bored. You can go dancing, buy a Rolex, go out to the movies.
But Bakers Bay is very, very isolated. It has no airport, no roads, nowhere to go. As a resident of Bakers Bay, you are inside Guantanamo; a gated community at the end of the world. The only thing you can do at Bakers Bay is golf. But owners are learning that the season for golf is short. In winter, cold winds whip up, rain is rampant, and the golf just plain sucks. In the summer, the bugs are bad and the heat is unbearable.
Everything that makes Guana Cay a beautiful, wonderful experience for the tourists who frequent it cannot be bottled up within the security-guarded, metal-gated Bakers Bay. Nothing is authentic, nobody is friendly, and the feeling is more of Irvine or Phoenix than of the Out Islands.
Theory Two is that the hyper-rich now have context about Bakers Bay. And the chatter across North America is: bo-rrrring.
3. The Coral Decline
About 15 homes are completed at Bakers Bay. Of these, about 6 are vacation homes of the initial Bakers Bay investors. The other homes are almost certainly of Discovery Land Company's rabid fan club. This is the core group that will buy anything Discovery Land Company creates, often to flip the property or just to be part of the inner circle.
This group cannot be a very good bunch. These cannot be nice, friendly people who care about the bigger picture of the place they buy property in. We have a sense of who this crowd is because of the three celebrities who have voiced support or interest: Lance Armstrong, Rush Limbaugh and Martha Stewart. As unofficial public voices for a place, regardless of what we all think of their various achievements, each of these individuals, through drug abuse, cheating the system and lying to cover up, represents a certain kind of ultra-successful person: one who believed their wealth and success meant they didn't need to live by our rules.
If Lance, Rush and Martha are our views into who these people are, we have to ask...how many of the grinch-set of the mega-millionaires and billionaires of North America can there really be? One theory is that the news of the marine environmental degradation and the lack of interest from Bakers Bay in mitigating it is enough of a turn-off to slow sales to a standstill. There can only be so many grinches who want their 15,000 foot homes butted up against a coral reef.
Updated October 8, 2013 | Bakers Bay
New Photos Show White Plague in Corals adjacent to Bakers Bay Development.
New photos taken by divers off of the Guana Cay coral reef, in waters directly off from the Baker's Bay development, show significant damage from White Plague. White Plague is a disease which is identified by a stark white band. Typically, corals succumb to the disease quickly. Smaller corals can be killed within a few days.
White Plague is one of the leading killers of large reef systems. Larger corals, like the 400-600 year old massive formations off Guana Cay, can succumb to the disease in mere weeks.
Corals are resilient living structures that have survived millions of years, but persistent pollutants, fertilizers and nutrients being leached off the Bakers Bay Megadevelopment are causing stressors to the reef, according to the developer's own environmental monitoring team. By failing to heed the warnings of their own environmental monitoring team, the case that Baker's Bay is killing one of the world's most precious coral reefs is growing stronger by the month.
In this image, we see the after-effects of White Plague. Once a coral is dead, and aided by nutrients and fertilizers from the newly completed golf course, macro-algaes quickly take over. Such macro-algaes can spell the beginning of the end for a reef. Throughout the Caribbean, large developments and run-off have been responsible for a slow death that has left fishermen without work, established diving tourism centers without tourism, and unique ecological zones completely crushed.
Here we see weedy algaes infesting the reef areas.
October 8, 2013 | whereabouts
Bakers Bay Aerial Photography Shows Reef Decline Culprit
New aerials from September 2013 explain the likely source of White Plague and weedy sewerpipe algaes adjacent to the Bakers Bay golf course development. In the first photo, note how close construction and sewage facilities are to the coral reef.
In the second image, note how the golf course literally runs off into the coral reef.
June 3, 2013 | Save the Bays
Sir Sean Connery Joins Save the Bays
Today, Sir Sean Connery added his voice, along with the Bahamas' most popular recording artist - K.B.; Kirkland Bodie, and American environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to Save the Bays - a triumph for the fast-growing Save the Bays Coalition.
“As a longtime resident of the Bahamas, a country whose beautiful waters and beaches have been featured in a number of my films, I am proud to be a supporting member of Save The Bays, and to urge all Bahamians, citizens and residents, to support our effort to defend Clifton Bay along with all the natural resources of this country,” said Connery.
Let's Save the Bays Song Released
by Bahamas' Most Popular Recording Artist
Kirkland Bodie - known as KB in the Bahamas, has released a song today urging Bahamians to support the Save the Bays Coalition. Several references to Guana Cay and the efforts to save the Bakers Bay area are included.
May 30, 2013 | Save the Bays
Save the Bays Popularity Skyrockets in the Bahamas. Joseph Darville Speaks and Recording Artist KB Offers Support and new song.
Reciting a common theme from the arguments against Bakers Bay, Save the Bays activist Joseph Darville says to the Tribune:
“This reprehensible... and secretive divestment of our commonwealth, without any input from us must cease and desist immediately. Whether it be an acre of Crown land given to someone, or hundreds of thousands of acres of land, on any particular island being given away to a foreign entity, for whatever purpose, must not and should not be done without my approval, your approval and the approval particularly of the inhabitants of said island or cay...”
Meanwhile, Bahamian recording artist KB, known for his support for environmental causes in the Bahamas, has thrown his support behind the Save the Bays umbrella group. Tomorrow, at 9 AM, KB will perform the debute of "Let's Save The Bays" on the Wake Up and Go Morning Show on 100JAMZ.
May 28, 2013 | Coral Reefs
Monitoring Reports Reveal Vermin, Human Feces, Garbage, Litter, Sewage Problems During Construction Phase at Bakers Bay
Above is a sketch of a Spotted Eagle Ray, a large fish which formerly used the Bakers Bay area as a nursery. Think about this creature as you read the following.
The Bakers Bay Monitoring Reports offer troubling revelations about the cleanliness of the construction workers and construction sites. Look at the following examples, all of which are unfathomable in the context of this issue - human waste is incredibly dangerous to coral reef ecosystems.
May 28, 2013 | Save the Bays
Fred Smith Speaks at Save the Bays Conference
Attorney Fred Smith, of Save the Bays and Save Guana Cay Reef, speaks about Bakers Bay and other environmental issues in the Bahamas, as well as the Save the Bays Coalition.
May 25, 2013 | Bakers Bay PRess
Financial Times Features Bakers Bay as Example of Unsustainable Greenwashing
Read the full article by Sam Judahhere. The Financial Times requires registration and offers a free option. From the article:
"However, in some parts of the world there is little environmental legislation and the fate of the land lies in the hands of the developers.
On Great Guana Cay, a tiny island in the northeast Bahamas, a community group has been in disagreement with the Discovery Land Company, a developer that has built a string of luxury homes around the Baker’s Bay golf course and marina.
The Save Guana Cay Reef group believes fertiliser from the development has leaked into the ocean, damaging the sensitive coral reef that lies 30m offshore. “It’s the most beautiful and most intact reef in the Bahamas,” says Thomas Goreau, president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, an environmental organisation.
He has led a team of unpaid scientists to investigate any impact of the course on the reef. They are concerned that fertiliser may be escaping and causing rapid growth of algae that smothers the delicate coral.
“It’s like adding Miracle-Gro to the reef,” says James M. Cervino, a scientist who usually carries out environmental assessments in New York."
May 24, 2013 | Save the Bays
Save the Bays is Bahamas' Best Chance for Comprehensive Environmental Legislation Yet
A mega-group has formed in the Bahamas. With the support of Robert F. Kennedy Jr's Waterkeeper Organization, all of Bahamas' major environmental groups have joined forces under one umbrella group, with the goal of forcing the federal government to create real environmental laws in the country.
Speaking on behalf of the group, John Darville writes:
"This archaeological jewel on the face of Mother Earth is entrusted to us by and for future generations, and as stewards thereof, they would expect us to diligently care for it. They would wish not that we sell it willy-nilly to the highest bidder, or to the individual or entity with the deepest pockets, who may come and persuade someone in the nation, who may have occasional responsibility for safeguarding our heritage. These lands, seas, sea-beds, seacoast, sands, blue holes, caves, cliffs, bays, lagoons, sounds and, yes, whatever is in, on or beneath them, including oil or natural gas, belongs temporarily to us, simply as stewards thereof, and held in trust by whatever government is in power."
The group has announced that it is seeking action against dredging on Crown Land at Clifton Bay:
"The debate over what has been called "unauthorised dredging of the seabed" at Simms Point, the residence of fashion mogul Peter Nygard, has brewed for some time and in 2010, the celebrity designer was ordered by the government to return the land to its original state. Tensions in the Lyford Cay community built as the Nygard property did, but this is the first time a legal action related to construction activities affecting the seabed has been filed against Nygard."
Evidence of Disregard for Mangroves Surfaces as Bakers Bay Report Card Laments Lack of Commitment
This example from the Bakers Bay Monitoring Report Cards from August 2008 is an example of how the monitoring team was growing increasingly frustrated by the total disregard for following any of their recommendations. Note the language, in all caps.
What species was lost?
May 14, 2013 | Bakers Bay
Bakers Bay Monitoring Team Increasingly Frustrated by Owners
Site reports from the Bakers Bay monitoring team show increasing frustration as property owners begin to show no regard for the stipulations of the team's environmental requirements. Here is an example of a typical 2008 lament from the monitoring team, citing property owners for failing to follow just about every stipulation from the environmental management plan.
May 14, 2013 | Bakers Bay
Potassium Phosphite Photographed En Route to Bakers Bay
Potassium Phosphite Solution is seen at the Settlement Docks on Great Guana Cay. The solution is being transferred to Bakers Bay Golf & Ocean Club.
Potassium Phosphite is used as a fertilizer and fungicide for turf grass on golf courses.
Potassium Phosphite is made by mixing a solution of potassium hydroxide and phosphoric acid.
This potent fungicide/fertilizer mix would be deadly to the Guana Cay coral reef if Bakers Bay followed the golf course monitoring plan laid out by their own monitoring team. Now that we understand that this plan was not followed, it is likely that if these chemicals are being used on the turf grass, they are leaching directly into the coral reef right now as you read this.
May 13, 2013 | Coral Reef
Bakers Bay Monitoring Reports Reveal Need to Keep Data on Environmental Management Secret
The following paragraph is from the December 2008 Environmental Report Card from the Bakers Bay Monitoring Team. From this report, we can see what we already knew: that Bakers Bay and the monitoring team were deliberately hiding data from the public.
This is a question that everybody should be asking Bakers Bay now: why continue to hide data from the public? Now that there is evidence of coral damage, shouldn't concerned citizens of Guana Cay be allowed access to Bakers Bay data because it affects the future of the health of their island?
May 10, 2013 | Clifton Bay
Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay Argues Passage of Environmental Protection Act for Bahamas
From Bahamas Islands Info:
"Crown land is the heritage of every Bahamian person. It is the land in The Bahamas that is not owned by any private person and is held in trust by the Bahamian government, the person of the crown - the queen - for the benefit of the Bahamian people," said Smith. "The three branches of government constitute government in The Bahamas. But the entity that is actually the government at the end of the day is the crown. It is the crown that holds 70 percent, I think, of land in The Bahamas for the benefit of the Bahamian people. So crown land belongs to us all and it should not be given away without consulting us."
Developments in Guana Cay, Bimini Bay and Grand Bahama were all mentioned as locations in which crown land was afforded to developers at little or no cost. According to Smith, Baker's Bay property was purchased at $1 per acre.
"This is your land, this is my land from one end of The Bahamas to the other. Safeguard it; it belongs to us," said Darville. "Open your eyes and see its beauty, its grace and its magnificence. God has given it to us and it is our heritage patrimony and we are the stewards of it for future generations."
Significant Win in Bahamian Environmental Laws and Local Rights Case
Fred Smith, Attorney for Save Guana Cay Reef and Protect Clifton Bay, has earned a major win as the Privy Council refused to hear the Government's appeal in the Wilson City power plant case, representing Responsible Development for Abaco.
This case, and the attorney's wins, represent the shifting tide of power towards local rights and those who seek to keep development responsible.
Protect Clifton Bay Storms Bahamian Press as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Re-Enters Game
From the Tribune. Sue those who leak Oil into Clifton Bay:
"CASES might be brought against companies responsible for leaking oil into waters around the Clifton Pier area, lawyer and environmental activist Fred Smith said yesterday.
Mr Smith, who represents the Coalition to save Clifton along with environmental activist Robert F Kennedy Jr and Troy Albury of the Save Guana Cay movement, visited the reefs around the Clifton area yesterday and held a press conference on the state of the reefs."
Do Developers have the Right to Develop this Land?
The Coalition to Preserve Clifton Bay photographed several tractors shifting and piling sand on Jaws Beach as the old public dock was torn down and construction of a new one progressed.
Pointing out that the vehicles and workers belonged to no government agency, the coalition asked if the Clifton Heritage Authority is prepared to let private citizens do whatever they please on public land.
The group also asked what the Ministry of the Environment is doing, claiming several ecologically important areas were damaged during the work.
“Who is in lawful control of Jaws Beach?” the coalition asked. “Someone has bulldozed the pond and wetlands behind the beach.
“Who, if anyone, gave permission to build a new dock, take down the old one, move sand, and bulldoze the wetlands?
“This entire episode highlights one of the pivotal issues for the CPCB – unregulated development – It’s not just at Nygard Cay, it’s anywhere at Clifton Bay."
Fred Smith: Pro-Environment Figures' Safety Feared on New Providence
“I must also say that I consider Louis Bacon is not safe in Nassau as he [Keod Smith] repeatedly said he was going to take care of Mr Bacon and me.
“He said that before Keod Smith was finished he would make sure that Louis Bacon was jailed in Fox Hill Prison and said ‘I have a big six-foot black man that is going to take care of Bacon when we get him into Fox Hill.’”
Fred Smith told police he arrived around 1:15pm, spoke to several men and took pictures and video of the scene and says there was a banter between him and the men before he decided to leave shortly afterwards."
Robert F. Kennedy and Waterkeeper Alliance partners with Bahamian Groups.
Save the Bays Coalition vows to protect Clifton Bay, Bimini Bay, Bakers Bay and Others.
From Bahamas B2B: "Waterkeeper Alliance, known as the voice of the world’s waters with organisations and volunteers in 37 countries, announced its first partnership with The Bahamas today — minutes after divers emerged from inspecting reefs off the southwest coast with news that the partnership was needed even more than anticipated."
Fred Smith, Save Guana Cay Reef Attorney, Alleges Attack on Jaws Beach
The top news story in the Bahamas today
Attorney Fred Smith, lawyer for the Coaltion to Protect Clifton Cay, and member of the Queen's Counsel, alleges that he was attacked by workers as he took photos of ongoing construction at Jaws Beach.
Fred Smith is also known to readers of this blog as the attorney for Save Guana Cay Reef.
Jaws Beach is part of the Clifton Bay area of New Providence Island, the most populated island in the Bahamas and home of its capital, Nassau. Fred Smith is the attorney for the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay.
According to The Tribune, Smith was assaulted, and as he attempted to flee, a large piece of metal hit his back windshield. The attorney for the developer is seen picking up the metal out of the car in a stunning video of the scene in which the attorney who represents the pro-development angle of this conflict removes evidence from a crime scene.
The attack is a reminder of the dangers associated with environmental protection in the Bahamas and the need for clear, strong environmental regulations.
According to its website, the goals of the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay are as follows:
1. Pass an Environmental Protection Act.
2. Create a Marine Park at Clifton Bay so that Clifton Heritage Land site and the Bay can be one unique protected Land and Sea Park for future generations of Bahamians and our guests to celebrate and enjoy, as the start of West New Providence Marine Management Area to save our unique and vital Seven Mile Barrier Reef.
3. Protect our Crown Land and Sea Beds at Nygard Cay and enforce the Rule of Law. Please do not give away our land and sea and instead stop unregulated and harmful development impacts at the Cay.
4. Stop Oil Spills and pass laws to make those who ruin our waters financially and criminally responsible.
5. Pass Conchservation Laws to save our depleting national treasure from Extinction!
6. Pass a Freedom of Information Act so that you put the Bahamian People In The Know; all true democracies throughout the world enjoy and prosper from this fundamental right.
April 2, 2013 | Coral reef
Tom Goreau Presentation on Video
The full video from the Tom Goreau presentation at the Bahamas National Natural History Conference is now available:
Meanwhile, in a hint that the data is starting to watched around the Bahamas, The Freeport News mentions Baker's Bay in an article about coastal awareness:
HABITAT DESTRUCTION is a coastal threat. Unfortunately, The Bahamas has not done a great job of preventing habitat destruction.
We have a history of allowing projects on islands that are too small for the size of megaprojects. A good example of this is the Baker's Bay development which Guana Cay residents protested against from the moment it was announced. They took their battle to the courts however, the project continued. Now, the reefs are dying where the golf course was allowed to be built literally all the way up to the beach itself. Reef biologists predicted the demise of the reefs that is becoming a reality now due to the runoff from the golf course fertilizers. This is a good example of Unsustainable Development.
Scientific Case against Bakers Bay Strengthens as New Data Emerges
Tom Goreau Explains Data on Bakers Bay Coral Decline at Bahamas National Natural History Conference
Acclaimed coral scientist Tom Goreau spoke in Nassau about coral reef decline at Baker's Bay Club as a result of excessive fertilizer run-off. The speech, given at the Bahamas National Natural History Conference on March 7, was well received by the audience and by the Bahamas National Trust, which hosted the event.
The speeach, billed as "Golf Course Fertilizer Runoff Causes Nutrient Enrichment Leading to Harmful Algae Blooms on a Bahamian Coral Reef", was co-written by Tom Goreau of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, James Cervino of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Troy Albury, President of Save Guana Cay Reef, and presented by Goreau.
Goreau begins by describing Bahamian coral reefs of 50 years ago.
He describes how they were famous for huge corals and incredible coverage of living corals. Bahamian reefs were also known for large schools of fish. Today, Bahamian reefs are not nearly what they were fifty years ago, and the only way we can glimpse into the state of the reefs from that time is to view the historical photographs of the time.
Goreau explains the dilemma of shifting baselines; that each generation of diver can only compare the state of the reef to what he knows. But no divers from today have the same baseline as divers of fifty or sixty years ago. The relatively slow rate that the reefs have declined have made it difficult for anyone to accurately measure the decline.
Following is an annotated view of Goreau's presentation:
Goreau next asked the question, "Does development hurt coral reefs?"
• Dead reefs next to tourism developments all around the world
• Impacts of sewage and fertilizer nutrients cause massive growth of weedy algae
• Algae then smother and kill coral
• Higher incidence of coral diseases associated with sewage wastes
• NO before and after studies on either hotels or Golf Courses
Golf and Tourism: How Green Is It?
• Every major tropical tourist destination has golf courses. Most are near to the ocean.
• Huge amounts of fertilizers are used.
• Tiny amounts of fertilizer cause algae to overgrow and kill coral.
• Every golf course environmental impact assessment says no damage will result.
• No before and after studies have ever been completed.
Existing Bahamian Golf Courses:
• Baker's Bay Golf & Ocean Club, Great Guana Cay, Abaco
• Blue Shark Golf Club, Nassau, New Providence
• Fortune Hills Golf & Country Club, Freeport, Grand Bahama
• Lyford Cay Club, Nassau, New Providence
• Our Lucaya Resort - Lucayan Course, Freeport, Grand Bahama
• Our Lucaya Resort - Reef Course, Freeport, Grand Bahama
• Radisson Cable Beach & Golf Resort, Nassau, New Providence
• Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club, Great Exuma
• South Ocean Golf & Beach Resort, Nassau, New Providence
• The Abaco Club on Winding Bay, Marsh Harbour, Abaco
• The Ocean Club, Paradise Island, New Providence
• Treasure Cay Golf Club, Treasure Cay, Abaco
Many more are planned.
• Guana Cay, Abaco, is a native Bahamian fishing community
• Outside developers given Crown Lands to build golf course, mega- yacht marina, hotel, mansions
• Locals opposed this because it would kill their coral reefs and fisheries, to no avail
Bakers Bay was pristine in 2003 before development, with lush mangroves and some of the finest coral reef in the Bahamas.
Prior to any development at Bakers Bay Bakers Bay
• Three groups of scientists independently studied health of reefs at North Guana Cay and other sites in the region.
• Dr. Michael Risk 2004
• Dr. James Cervino 2006 -2007-2012
• Dr. Thomas Goreau 2007 & 2012
• Found almost no coral diseases, low levels
of nuisance algae
Coral reef health monitoring sites marked with green X
2004 Bakers Bay Environmental Assessment and Management Plan Assessment and Management Plan
• Claimed that there would be NO adverse effects of Golf Course, sewage, construction, or erosion on water quality due to “advanced” waste water treatment, lining of golf courses to prevent leaching, and construction of buffer zones to prevent chemicals washing into sea. Promised “To maintain water quality parameters in coastal groundwater and near shore marine waters at pre-construction levels”.
Environmental Impacts of Bakers Bay
• Dredging and sedimentation
• Deforestation, landfilling, bulldozing, construction of greens, mega-yacht marina, houses, restaurants, hotels, services
• Few homes occupied, so little or no sewage input
• Golf course built, fertilized, & maintained
Before and After Photos
Silt curtains (yellow) failed to contain sediments that passed right under them. right under them.
After the Golf Course
• Large increase in all coral diseases at the North End especially White Plague. This
disease is the fastest spreading and kills most coral species
• Increase in this disease much less at other sites
• Increase in weedy algae overgrowth around coral bases
• Big increase in cyanobacteria
White Band Disease, the most dangerous of coral diseases, suddenly became common at Guana Cay Reef after the golf course was established, along with algae overgrowth.
Black Band Disease and many other coral diseases were very rare at Guana Cay before the golf course was established, but became commn right after the golf course was established.
Image of soft coral being overgrown and killed by toxic cyanobacteria on reef near golf course. The problem began only after the golf course was established.
Next to Golf Course
• Big increase in high-nutrient “end of sewer pipe” algae species
• Weedy algae cover beach rock areas near golf course, but not away from it
• Algae are bright green and red from high nutrient levels from golf course fertilizers
• Reef is in early stages of very rapid eutrophication: overgrowth by harmful algae blooms
The morning sun shines right through the “impermeable barrier” at the seaward edge
of the Bakers Bay golf course green. It retains soil but water and dissolved nutrients flow
right through it.
Water nutrient analysis problems
• measuring dissolved nutrients Is extremely expensive, prone
To sampling, storage, and analytical errors
• due to rapidly varying concentrations in time and space one needs a vast data base to be meaningful, which is almost never measured
• measuring dissolved nutrients is extremely expensive, prone to sampling, storage, and
Algae nutrient monitoring
• algae continually take up nutrients and integrate the variations over their lifetime
• one can map nutrient distributions more accurately and cheaply from analyzing
algae carbon, nitrogen, & phosphorus contents, & their c- 13/c-12 and n-15/n-14 ratios
Algae sampling locations around Guana Cay. Aerial image taken before golf course and marina construction.
Northwest Guana Cay from the air. The algae bloom off the golf course closest to the shore is the brown fringe right along the shore at A. The dark patch in the algae bloom area is due to algae growing directly on the sand in front of the beach where fertilizer runoff leaches into the water, with no beachrock present. Dark areas at bottom left are eroded limestone rock with relatively little algae, dark areas along the upper left beach (G) are beachrock, with some algae but much less than the bloom area, dark patches offshore at upper left are coral reefs undergoing coral disease outbreaks, and dark patches at lower right and right are seagrass beds. The letters show near shore algae sampling sites.
The golf course greens come right next to the sea, with little or no vegetated buffer zone. The algae are right in front of them.
In front of the golf course, the bottom is covered with brightly colored algae that had not been there before.
In contrast to algae at Bakers Bay, algae in Guana Cay Harbour, next to the main settlement, are pale, indicating lower nutrients.
Green algae have more pigment near the golf course (left) than away from it (right), indicating higher nutrients.
Red algae have more pigment near the golf course (left) than away from it (right), indicating high nitrogen.
Dry season nitrogen isotope data (shown) indicates highest sewage type nitrogen near the golf course, least is furthest away. In the rainy season, the ratios are lower. That is to say the natural nitrogen sources predominate.
Bakers Bay Claims
• No algae blooms
• algae blooms are
• algae blooms all
Over guana cay
Bakers Bay Reality
• algae blooms
• algae blooms caused by nutrients
• algae blooms near nutrient sources
• does not fit pattern
• biggest blooms, highest nitrogen by
Golf course greens, not near populated areas
• caused by hurricanes
• caused by sewage
• no fertilizer leaks Into groundwater
• golf course fertilizers cause harmful algae blooms
• appear to be related to coral disease
• densely populated areas are already eutrophic
• many others are on the verge of eutrophication
• golf courses should not be located near coastal coral reefs
• much better management of fertilizer and sewage nutrients is needed to prevent large scale eutrophication
• ecologically sound water quality standards are needed
• they must be rigorously enforced
February 3, 2013 | Guana Cay Coral Reef
Bakers Bay Monitoring Reports Cite Sediment and Algae Blooms in 2007
The saddest pleasure of following the Bakers Bay coral reef destruction story has been finding that the developer's own monitoring team was reporting the exact same concerns as the concerned locals in the Guana Cay community.
In boat runs and airplane flyovers, locals in the Guana community kept noticing that the sediment curtains were being improperly used. The effect was devastating, as the same silting of the Bakers Bay evident was obvious on a daily basis.
It turns out the monitoring team had been reporting the same to Bakers Bay, even as early as May 2007. "Dredging channels need to be stabilized to alleviate sediment and algal blooms..." the May 2007 report stated, noting substantial increases of each.
But I captured this image in 2008, a year later, showing that Bakers Bay was not listening to its monitoring team.
January 13, 2013 | Bakers Bay
Bakers Bay Violated EIA as Construction Began, according to Monitoring Reports
Hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus), a common species in the deeper waters of the Guana Cay coral reef.
"There is a need to be more vigilant and rignorous in environmental management. These issues pose serious threats to the long-term ecology of the island, and violate the intent of the EIA"
- Bakers Bay Monitoring Report, March 7, 2007
As early as March, 2007, the reality that Bakers Bay never intended to go through with the EIA starts to become clear in the monitoring reports. The reports indicate that, even this early in construction, there is evidence of algal blooms near construction areas - the sign of trouble for the coral reef.
The report continues to hound the developer:
"...There seems to be excessive, unmanaged clearing for construction. There is a great concern over the effects of the large-scale clearing on ground and nearshore waters. The island's hydrology is being altered very rapidly. Additionally, these clearings exasperate dust and potential run-off. Areas which cannot be mitigated or replanted within 30 days should not be cleared. The intention to replant vegetation does not alleviate the need for slow, managed clearing...open fires and burning persists. The environmental and public health issues with this are obvious....Dredging channels need to be stabilized to ealleviate sediment and algal blooms..."
Meanwhile, the monitoring report repeatedly mentions how Bakers Bay is failing to follow their own recommendations on coastal buffer zones and which areas can be cleared. "We have already lost four of our 10 monitoring plots that were set up in January 2006 due to changes in the development plans," the report laments; meaning, the environmental monitoring team had set up locations to monitor for environmental health, but the developer simply mowed over them.
January 04, 2013 | Coral Reefs
Bakers Bay Monitoring Reports Bolster Position of Save Guana Cay Reef
A Stoplight Parrotfish from the Guana Cay Reef, sketched by the author for the Guana Cay blog.
In January 2012, a team of scientists made observations about the possible beginnings of coral reef decline at Bakers Bay. These findings ultimately led to the discovery of reports about construction mitigation efforts at Bakers Bay during the crucial pre-golf course construction phase. What the reports detail will be an important lesson for island communities who are asked to trust a large developer to handle their own environmental mitigation efforts without consultation with the local community. Over the coming months, the Guana Cay blog will explore these reports in-depth.
Here is a quote from the first report.
From The March 7, 2007 Report:
"Overall, a summary of the last trip is that expediency is supplanting innovation. In trying to make up for lost time during the injunction clearing and construction has accelerated to a pace not compatible with the environmental goals of the EIA."
In early 2007, Bakers Bay had just been released from a six month injunction to halt construction activities after Save Guana Cay Reef raised concerns about the development. The first monitoring report opens with this chilling warning to Bakers Bay:Almost from day one, the monitoring team appears shell-shocked by how little of their environmental plan is being followed.
In late January 2012, a video went public detailing sewer-pipe algaes growing in the water directly off the golf course. In a Nassau Guardian article, Bakers Bay public relations director Livingston Marshall refers to a University of Miami environmental monitoring team in the present tense, suggesting that the monitoring team had been monitoring throughout the construction process, which is exactly what stakeholders had been led to believe:
But soon, new reports showed that Bakers Bay had indeed ended their relationship with the University of Miami by the end of the year 2008, before golf course construction - the most vital factor in coral reef preservation, even began. While locals had been led to believe that Bakers Bay was monitoring their construction activities as laid out to the BEST Commission, no such monitoring had been taking place for over three years. Even though the public openly asked about monitoring efforts (such as in an open letter that appeared in the Abaconian in 2011), complete secrecy about the lack of monitoring was maintained.
In a Freeport Tribune article about the release of the algae video, Livingston Marshall admits for the first time that monitoring had been ceased: "Environmental monitoring is expensive...We are running a business, and looking for the proper balance, so we will go back in and do some additional monitoring this year...With the measures we had in place and the economic downturn, we felt we would hold off on the monitoring for a couple of years, and then go back and make comparisons between when we started the monitoring and where we are now. We will resume it this year."
After the video came out in January 2012, Livingston Marshall immediately began making calls to coral reef scientists, asking them if they would look into the observations filmed in the video. This shows Marshall may not have been intending to restart monitoring at all, but that the video forced his hand into admitting that monitoring had been ceased. But the release of the video and subsequent admissions to the press, Marshall was forced to begin monitoring again.
While Marshall was incredulous in his conversations with the coral scientists, displaying a sense of, 'how can this be!', in public, he lambasted those who made the observations. In a Freeport Tribune article, Livingston is quoted:
"I thought that (making the observations about algae growing in the water next to the golf course holes that sloped into the water) was irresponsible of them. It was bogus, and they did not utilise basic scientific processes and scientific methods. That's not the way to come to a country like the Bahamas, and convince individuals something is happening that needs to be addressed."
The Bakers Bay monitoring scientists disagreed: "There are two parts to this story. One, a Bahamian, Dr. Marshall, failing to follow through on commitments, or do the right thing, and two, a failure of the government to demand compliance."
If Marshall sought to reassure the Bahamian press that a monitoring team had everything under control when he stated, in January 2012, "We have a team of environmentalists who go out into the field from time to time to ensure all is well," shouldn't locals whose livelihoods might be affected by coral reef decline have an opportunity to know what was being reported by the monitoring team?
For the first time in the history of this conflict, locals will be able to see that the short-lived relationship between the monitoring team and Bakers Bay was not the under-control, we-ve got it covered picture that Bakers Bay had sought to paint. In fact, by all accounts it appears that the monitoring team was reporting the exact same issues that Save Guana Cay Reef had been concerned about. The monitoring team, in fact, was even referencing the science of Save Guana Cay Reef in their report.
December 26, 2012 | Coral Reefs
Relationship between Nutrients and Coral Reef decline strengthens
A French Angelfish plys the reefs of Great Guana Cay, sketched by the author for the Guana Cay blog.
The case made by Bakers Bay foes has strengthened this year as much of the science cited by concerned locals on Great Guana Cay has been further studied.
According to the Daily Echo: "SOUTHAMPTON scientists have discovered the key reason coral reefs can be devastated by bleaching, in findings that could have major implications for marine conservation. An imbalance of nutrients in reef waters can stop vital algae from surviving on coral, leaving them appearing white and at risk of dying, with major effects on ecosystems."
Is Agricultural Run-off Really to Blame for Reef Die-off in Kauai?
What about the Golf Course Development?
An article in the Los Angeles Times three days ago reported on a mysterious growth appearing on corals on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii. According to the article, the disease is "...spreading under the waters of Hanalei Bay and elsewhere on Kauai's north shore. It's killing all the coral it strikes, and scientists can't stop it."
I just returned from Hanalei, and spent time in every area described in this, and other articles on the subject.
While I was in Hanalei last week, I kept asking myself what effect the Princeville Mega-golf development (where we were staying) could not be affecting the local reefs. The Princeville Megadevelopment is in many ways very similar to the Bakers Bay development - densely packed housing with lots of grass.
The Los Angeles Times article says, "Lilley said the rapid growth of the coral disease this year followed two years of heavy sedimentation traveling down the Hanalei River, which he believes could be traced to development upstream and heavy rains."
Some articles on the subject have wondered whether the source of this disease is agricultural runoff. Perhaps, but look at this satellite map of the area:
Look at the area in yellow, which is the agricultural region of Hanalei Bay. These are traditional taro fields, which have existed in the area for hundreds of years.
Now look at the area in purple - the Princeville megadevelopment and golf course. This area sits up on a bluff, and drains largely directly into Anini Beach. Anini Beach is the area of most damage. Is agricultural run-off really responsible? Or is this another case of golf megadevelopment causes coral reef die-off?
Notice how little development exists behind Hanalei and the taro fields, versus the large megadevelopment which drains directly into the river and Anini Beach.
November 5, 2012 | Bakers Bay Golf & Ocean Club
Hurricane Sandy Damages Bakers Bay
A heavily damaged tent structure at the Bakers Bay tent community, where potential property buyers are housed during construction phase.
The Bakers Bay golf course sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Sandy, as seen in this photo. The damage to the golf course itself is not as important as how the waste bunker literally collapsed into the ocean; showing the true lack of nutrient protection from course to ocean. Corals sit literally just off this broken hazard.
Eroded cliffs of this size have never been seen at Bakers Bay. Although Hurricane Sandy was not a major hurricane in the Abacos, its effect on the Baker's Bay property was outsized.
The amount of erosion from Hurricane Sandy on the Baker's Bay property is very clear from this photo, which shows the ocean having taken a bite of about a dozen feet off the coastal dunes.
Another photo illustrating unusual erosion at Baker's Bay.
A laborer tends to a well-eroded cliff a few days after Hurricane Sandy. The intense erosion appears to have been aggravated by unnatural and amateur attempts to control dune erosion.
January 24, 2012 | Golf Courses and Coral Reefs
Bakers Bay Golf Course creating Sewer Pipe, Coral Reef Smothering Algae, according to Scientists
The sun shines right through the “impermeable barrier” lining right above the beach. It holds sand (dark area above the rocks) but it is clear that water and nutrients can pass right through it.
Reef-killing fertilizers are seeping from Bakers Bay Golf & Ocean Club's golf course, causing reef-smothering algae blooms and coral disease on one of the Bahamas’ most pristine coral reefs, marine biologists reported at the Abaco Science Alliance conference this month.
Scientists just completed a survey on Great Guana Cay, and confirmed residents’ worst nightmare: coral diseases and algae had risen dramatically on the reefs nearest the sprawling Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club since its 2010 construction.
Golf courses require heavy doses of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides to remain green and attractive. Scientists say this toxic dose of chemicals is seeping through the island’s porous limestone foundation, speeding growth of algae on the fragile reef, and weakening corals, making them much more susceptible to disease.
Baker's Bay golf course fertilizer damages reefs at Great Guana Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
“These observations provide unambiguous evidence of high nutrient inputs from the golf course to the near-shore waters, with strong negative impacts on water quality and environmental health, along with strong indications that the effects are spreading to the coral reefs offshore,” explained Dr. Tom Goreau, who co-presented the findings at a science conference this month in Abaco.
Residents on Great Guana Cay are locked in an ongoing seven-year court battle against the Bahamas government and Discovery Land Company of Scottsdale, Arizona, developers of the Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club. The government leased the land to developers of the 400-home gated golf community, who promised but failed to deliver on protections for the reef. The Save Guana Cay Reef Association is demanding that developers immediately stop fertilizer leaching into the ocean, and honor their initial promises to mitigate damage and to monitor conditions.
The developers initially promised that they would:
Slope the course toward drainage canals that would catch the water, and be recycled
Lay impermeable liners beneath the golf course greens to prevent runoff and contamination of groundwater
Plant 300-foot-wide buffer zones of special vegetation along the coast to absorb tainted waters that escape the other measures
Use a special grass that would not require much fertilizer and very little chemicals.
Have continuous monitoring by a special environmental team from University of Miami and public data access.
Dr. Thomas Goreau and Dr. James Cervino are coral reef scientists who have been voluntarily monitoring the reef in relation since 2005, prior to Baker’s Bay construction activities. In early January 2012 they found clear proof that the golf course on northwestern Baker’s Bay is leaching into the water. Where the golf course comes closest to the water there are almost no buffers exist between the water and the golf course. Red and green algae smothering the shoreline indicate high nutrients leaching from the porous limestone into the water. This is the only place on the seven-mile island where the algae are present in such concentrations. They had not been there before the golf course.
The scientists also visited reefs off of the north end of Guana cay and other sites both up-current and down-current of it, which they had visited 6 years ago. Algae abundance and overgrowth of corals were higher, along with increased levels of cyanobacteria – indicators of high nutrients. In 2005 and 2006 these sites were described as nearly pristine with very little evidence of coral disease, and only one case of coral disease was noted. In 2012, 17 cases of coral disease were noted at the north end of Guana, 3 cases at Fowl Cay, and one at the north control site.
Baker’s Bay dismissed Guana Cay residents’ concerns and built the golf course, completed around 2010. Save Guana Cay Reef has not received any of their promised scientific monitoring reports, and the University of Miami team says they have not been affiliated with the project since 2008 – before the golf course was even completed.
A clip from the story reveals a defensive, reactionary Senior Vice President Livingston Marshall. In his rebuttal to the findings, Marshall claims that Baker's Bay has a team of environmentalists who have found no adverse impacts on the reefs from the golf course. His carefully worded response seems to indicate that a scientific team continues to monitor at the nearshore environment at Bakers Bay.
Notes from the Road verified with the University of Miami team that Bakers Bay has had no relationship with their environmental monitoring team since 2008. Earthwatch, the volunteer youth group which assisted the University of Miami program left the project even earlier than that. So if the golf course wasn't built until 2010, and Marshall is claiming that he has a team which has reported to him that the golf course has not hindered the reef since 2010, which team is he referring to?
It is my belief that Livingston Marshall has just been caught red-handed. If otherwise, he would come forward with findings that counter those made by established coral scientists who are respected globally.
In fact, Marshall's comments to the Nassau Guardian fall into the same pattern as those he made when Dr. Cervino and Dr. Goreau presented their findings at the Abaco Science Alliance Conference on Abaco earlier this month. There, Marshall countered that the footage proving the existence of sewer-pipe algae was not from Baker's Bay, and 'could have been filmed anywhere.' As the video above conclusively proves, Marshall was loose with facts, and quite simply dead wrong.