The Science of Coral Conservation

09.09.07 | Science

NOAA Case Study Attributes Nutrients

A NOAA Case Study attributes nutrients to the destruction of Looe Key. This is important, because if as the United States is officially recognizing the role of nutrients in coral reef destruction, the issue is making the rounds in the press around the world. Even as global warming remains an easy scapegoat for coral reef destruction, the word on development nutrients is gaining ground in the press and in broader scientific circles.

08.05.07 | Science

The Abaco Parrots and Endangered Species

Abaco parrots are a subspecies of the rose-throated parrot (Amazona leucocephala). The species exists only in Cuba, the Cayman Islands, in Abaco's southern pine forests, and on Great Inagua. The species is threatened, and the Abaco population is very small. It is a population that needs to be protected.

In Abaco, more and more attention is being paid to the parrot's protection, particularly through groups like Friends of the Environment, who encourage education about the parrot.

Abaco Parrots

Abaco Parrots (subspecies of Cuban Parrot)

During the hurricane in Spring 2005, the parrot population left the pine forests of the southern mainland and headed out to the cays of the Abaco Sound. About 20 were reported on Man-O-War Cay, presumably because hurricanes devastate the foragable fruits of the forest to such a degree, the parrots must take flight in pursuit of temporary nourishment. The cays have flora that doesn't exist on mainland Abaco, and it is possible the birds visit these islands because the fruits and their host plants are literally tougher and hardier than inland fruiting species. It is possible that the parrots have developed this survival trait over time. It is also likely that a large number of these parrots inhabit the Bakers Bay land - the largest previously undeveloped outer cay terrestrial space in the Abaco Sound. Overdeveloping Bakers Bay is not wise, and not just for the threatened Abaco Parrot. Several threatened and endangered species are at risk because of the Bakers Bay Club.

None of the following is exaggeration. Not every megadevelopment happens to threaten endangered species. But if you terraform land that is a critical area ripe with endangered species, you will threaten them. Such events are extremely rare - Discovery Land Company's audacious plan would never happen in almost any circumstance anywhere in the world.

The primary endangered species threatened by the Bakers Bay Club are the elkhorn and staghorn corals which form the barrier between Guana Cay's coral reef and the land slated for a golf course megadevelopment. Staghorns and Elkhorns are gravely endangered in the Caribbean. Elkhorn coral is considered one of the most important reef-builders in the region, but in the 1980's and 1990's, almost 95% of all elkhorn corals were lost throughout the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. White-band disease and human development and activity were dually to blame. Now, any healthy elkhorn reef should be viewed as criticial habitat. But Bakers Bay Club is ignoring the requests of hundreds of scientists, who are predicting the collapse of Guana's Elkhorn and Staghorn structures, due to the size and scope of the development. The primary cause of coral destruction is likely nutrient and pollutant changes in the water.

Abaco Parrots

Critical Elkhorn Coral habitat is threated by the Bakers Bay Golf & Ocean Club. Stock Photo.

Perhaps most terrifying is the Bakers Bay Golf & Ocean Club's attitude towards the nesting and breeding sea turtles which use the Atlantic side beaches year round, and particularly in the summer months.

Abaco Parrots

Although Bakers Bay Club claims to have a monitoring program for the sea turtles, there is little evidence of any real conservation. The huge increase in population, the degradation of the coral reef, the six lots being sold at Gumelemi Cay - a critical nesting location - will all severely reduce the populations of the endangered species.

There are so many intertwined issues with the Bakers Bay Club - human rights issues, environmental issues, legal issues, economic issues - that it is easy to forget that the Bakers Bay dilemma is also one about saving species from uncontrolled development.

05.21.07 | Science

The Birds of Great Guana Cay in Danger

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Glossy Ibis

The beautiful Glossy Ibis forages in Guana Cay's mangrove systems. But those mangroves are almost gutted by Discovery Land Company.
Stock photo

We have discussed some of the obvious threats that Discovery Land Company poses to specific species. The 3 species of sea turtle that nests on the beaches of Bakers Bay are an obvious example. But we have avoided discussion of the birds. This has not been intentional; because Great Guana Cay is also an important bird-nesting site.

Remember that Great Guana Cay sits on the northern edge of the Bahamas and Atlantic; many of the other barrier islands in the area are already developed, or never had the same forested area as Bakers Bay.

Short Tailed Hawk

The short tailed hawk is one of many species under threat from the Discovery Land Company. Stock photo

Several key species nest in the Bakers Bay area; when construction is complete, this habitat will be gone forever. The Bakers Bay Club EIA mentions some of the threats to these birds, but there are no solutions. The birds are conveniently forgotten.

White-tailed tropicbirds and Audubon's Shearwater both nest on Great Guana Cay. The following list is an amalgamation of two birder families' lists. It is an impressive list for such a small area.

The threats to the birds of Great Guana Cay are immense. Discovery Land Company simply plans to terraform almost all of the native habitat on the forested northern 2/5ths of the island. This insane project is destroying very unique and crucial bird habitat. If you have ever viewed a North American birding book, and examined a good West Indian birding book, you'll know that the migratory patterns of many species specifically involve the Bahamas, or even more specifically, the out-islands of Abaco.

Thank you to the familes who provided the lists for this Guana Cay Bird List:

American Oystercatcher

White-Cheeked Pintail (Bahama Duck or Bahama Pintail) * Discovery Land Company actually advertises that they will provide hunting grounds to hunt this species. It is illegal to hunt this species in the Bahamas.

Bahama Woodstar
Bananaquit (Bahamas subspecies)
Barn Swallow
Belted Kingfisher
Black and White Warbler
Black-bellied Plover
Black-faced Grassquit
Black-throated White Warbler
Bobolink
Brown Pelican
Cape May Warbler
Common Yellow-throated Warbler
Cuban Emerald Hummingbird
Double Crested Cormorant
Eastern Kingbird
Glossy Ibis
Great Blue Heron
Great White Egret
Great White Heron
Green Heron
Ground Dove
House Sparrow
Key West Quail Dove
Killdeer
Laughing Gull
Little Blue Heron
Magnificent Frigatebird
Mallard
Mangrove Cuckoo
Bahama Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Parula Warbler
Ovenbird
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Red-legged thrasher
Red-winged Blackbird
Ring-billed Gull
American Robin
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruddy Turnstone
Sanderling
Short-tailed Hawk
Smooth-billed Ani
Snowy Egret
Starling
Turkey Vulture
West Indian Red-bellied Woodpecker
White-crowned Pigeon (formerly nesting on Bakers Bay property)
White-tailed Tropicbird* (formerly nesting on Bakers Bay property)
Willet
Wilson’s Plover
Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Jult 6, 2006 | Science and Conservation

Jean-Michel Cousteau comes to the assistance of the Great Guana Cay Residents

Jean-Michel Cousteau offers his support to the plight of Great Guana Cay localsJean-Michel Cousteau, who recently helped convince President Bush to protect 1200 miles of Hawaii's coral reefs in one of the boldest environmental moves of history, has just come to the aid of the Great Guana Cay native residents. Cousteau urges the island nation of the Bahamas to reconsider the Bakers Bay Golf and Ocean Club.

He writes, "...the Discovery Land Company Bakers Bay Golf and Ocean Club development may undermine the environmental health of the region; specifically affecting the nesting sea turtles of Gumelemi Cay and to the north, and impacting the neighboring reefs adjacent to the proposed golf course. Knowing from experience that ecological consequences of very large developments that do not have strict environmental safe guards can have far reaching consequences, I urge you to review the environmental impact of this development and consider the consequences for future generations of your citizens." Read more.