Written on September 18, 2005.
"Golf courses and coral reefs do not mix," writes Kristian Teleki, who directs the United Nations International Coral Reef Action Network. Director Teleki is referring to the audacious plan to build a giant golf course development on a tiny traditional cay, just seven miles long.
Teleki is not the only coral reef authority saying 'no' to the golf course on Guana Cay. In fact, the entire coral reef conservation world is shaking their heads at the strange events taking place on Guana Cay.
At center stage is a marine ecologist named
Kathleen Sullivan Sealey. She was hired by the Discovery Land Company to help write an Environmental Impact Assessment of, and then work for, the golf course development company. Guana Cay is home to one of the West Indies richest and most beautiful reefs. It hosts networks of labyrinthine caverns draped in silversides, walls of coral, elegant sting rays and foraging hawksbill turtles. I asked Sullivan Sealey about her understanding of the silt damage caused by Disney when they unsuccessfully dredged the water surrounding Guana Cay in order to dock their giant cruise ship there.
The net result of the Disney cruise-ship site was severe coral reef destruction caused by irresponsible development. Sullivan Sealey wrote me the basis of her conclusions about that disaster, "...This was reported to me by Ken Banks and Judy Lang after work they did on the cruise ship channel dredged through the banks to Guana Cay."
I was surprised by this answer, because from my perspective, no scientist had ever formally studied Guana Cay or the impact of Disney on the coral reef, which made it an ideal place for a deceitful developer to make up the island's ecological history.So I contacted Dr. Judith Lang, who responds, "there is no direct connection between the (AGGRA studies referred by Sullivan Sealey) and the Disney channel, since no surveys have been done there, at least none that I know of...Kathleen...probably has just mixed me up with someone else since it's common knowledge that...I was working in the Exumas in the early '90s."
Then I contacted Dr. Kenneth Banks, who lives part-time on mainland Abaco Islands, said, "I have done some reef work in Abaco, but not specifically at the Disney site." Was Sullivan Sealey telling the truth about her involvement with other coral reef researchers?.
I ask Kenneth Banks about the golf course that is replacing the abandoned Disney cruise-ship site. "Would this eco-development have any chance of harming the reef...after all the development team appears to be working closely with the Bahamian government to ensure that only the best possible pesticides, herbicides and flora will be used."