Guana Cay Blog
Reporting on the battle between locals on Great Guana Cay, Abaco, Bahamas to save their island's coral reef, and the Baker's Bay Club, a U.S. golf and marina megadevelopment catering to ultrawealthy celebrities. Through the lens of the Guana Cay example, this blog reports on the science of coral reef conservation, and in particular the effects of golf courses, marinas and large developments adjacent to pristine marine habitats.
October 23, 2015 | Guana Cay
Corals Off North end of Guana Cay are Showing Unique Diseases consistent with golf course run-off
New photos from the north end of Great Guana Cay and adjacent to the Bakers Bay golf course is evidence of a marked increase in coral diseases. I caught up with the team that has been monitoring and studying this reef before and after construction at Bakers Bay began.
I asked SGCR President Troy Albury about the photos. He replied, "What we have seen, and as evidenced by these photos, is an increase in black band disease, white plague and brown spot disease at the north end of Guana Cay, at the Cathedral dive site, which was studied and catalogued well before construction on the golf course had begun. Dr. Risk, Dr. Cervino and Dr. Goreau all dove the reef in 2005 and 2006 and found not a single case of disease. Now, the disease is rampant and the corals are being killed. Also, there is an alarming amount of algae present which is slowly smothering the reef.”
Erik: But there are news reports about global coral bleaching?
Albury: “There has been no bleaching in Abaco this year that I am aware of and I think its has been backed up by what Tom Goreau has said with his reference to the sea temperatures. The water simply never got that warm here, so it is not a factor in the diseases we are seeing.”
Erik: So, can we conclude that excess nutrients and pollutants from the golf course and Bakers Bay property are stressing the corals to the point of disease?
Albury: “ “There is only one case of black band disease in the whole of the Fowl Cay National Park that I have observed. That is one case...in the entire 3 mile-by-1-mile park. But within a quarter mile square adjacent to the golf course, there are over 25 cases of disease. Is this a coincidence?”
I caught up with Dr. James Cervino, a coral pathologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, who has lent his expertise to the Guana Cay issue since 2005.
Erik: Dr. Cervino, can you explain the presence of these diseases that are showing up off the golf course at Bakers Bay?
Cervino: “These coral pathologies are part of a situation that encompasses the decline in the local ecosystem first, before diseases became abundant, as a result of fertilizer and sewage waste, which is what we call nutrient pollution, and bleaching events. Coral reef organisms need an oligotrophic, or nutrient low, balanced system to proliferate in a way that is not overpopulated, producing waste. Overpopulation without proper biological and chemical controls, and deforestation, leads to a decline in what were once healthy conditions. So now, what if on top of this, you begin to add chemicals into the system that causes a growth of an invasive species which causes a smothering effect? Fertilizers!
The fertilizers and lack of sewage treatment from on-site sources and off-site sources is causing a change in biological and chemical functionality, leading to newer species proliferating and take advantage of a weak and stressed ecosystem.
In overpopulated towns and countries, diseases are higher where there is no sewage treatment and a lack of pollution control. Did this development and its subsequent deforestation of the Island’s natural biological and chemical recycling machine ‘un-sanitize' the reef ecosystem? The signs are certainly there."
Photo 1. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 4. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 5. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 6. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 7. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 8. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 9. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 10. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 11. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 12. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 13. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 14. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 15. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 16. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 17. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 18. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 19. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 20. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 21. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 22. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 23. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 24. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 25. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 26. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 27. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 28. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 29. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 30. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 31. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 32. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 33. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 34. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
Photo 35. Photos of coral diseases and macroalgaes at the north end of the Great Guana Cay reef.
June 5, 2015 | Guana Cay
Guana Cay Locals on New Bakers Bay Dredging
Locals on Guana Cay are watching with horror as new dredging operations appear to be leading to the destruction of protected wetlands.
Read the news at The Bahamas Weekly.
April 3, 2015 | Bakers Bay
Bakers Bay Employee Crashes into Sailboat
At approximately 8:15 PM, March 15, 2015, a boat captained by a Baker's Bay employee was driving the boat pictured in the photo above and slammed violently into the SV Kokopelli, a sailboat which was anchored in the Bakers Bay area of Great Guana Cay.
It was completely dark, with little moonlight. But the SV Kokopelli was well lit with deck lights and interior lights, according to another sailboat anchored nearby.
One passenger aboard the powerboat was ejected during the crash. The boat circled around the accident scene, picked up the passenger and sped off.
Injuries aboard the SV Kokopelli were serious. The SV Kokopelli explained on their Facebook page: "Tom has a huge knot on his head, black eye and moving to his nose and face, a broken rib and a piece of his heel missing. Couldn't stitch up, so doctor cartelized his heel to stop his bleeding. Tom was in the cockpit. He was knocked out. I had just left the cockpit and was in galley starting to wash dishes. I have a huge booty bruise...which fans up my back. The only area of the boat that did not sustain damage was in the galley in the exact spot I was standing. I thank God and my guardian angel everyday from moving me from the cockpit."
Both vessels were totaled. The couple aboard the SV. Kokopelli lived full time on their vessel. This careless accident, which allegedly included consumption of alcohol, is unfortunately emblematic of the type of behavior Guana Cay residents have come to expect from Bakers Bay guests and employees.
A deadly helicopter crash, multiple boat crashes and golf cart crashes. Bakers Bay is showing no signs of attempting to curtail the type of behavior that leads to injuries and destruction of property. All of this behavior exemplifies how Guana Cay residents have worried that Bakers Bay would deteriorate the quality of their island. It's happening now, and Guana residents need to be aggressive and vigilant in defending themselves from a type of people who have little regard for life, tradition and the beautiful environment of Great Guana Cay.
March 5, 2015 | Great Guana Cay
News Of Guana Cay Reef Decline
Incites Rare Response from Bakers Bay
The Bahamas Weekly published a piece linking extensive coral reef damage to the Bakers Bay golf course as Save the Bays publishes a video on the subject.
"The Save Guana Cay Reef Association (SGCRA), which mounted a groundbreaking five-year legal campaign in opposition to the project, warned of serious implications for the reef – recognized as one of the best dive sites in the world – as well as for the rest of the previously unspoiled island. It is now clear that their predictions have come true."
The article continues...
"(Save Guana Cay Reef president) Albury explained that nutrients applied to maintain the health of the golf course drain into the surrounding water and lead to accelerated algae growth."
"We know the nitrogen is running off the course," he said. "We know that from algae samples we've taken right close into the shore and algae samples we've taken at the reef. We have lost 40 percent of the coral cover in the last two years.
"Algae is always in competition for turf area on the reef. When you have algae growing, coral cannot grow and even when there is coral growing and existing, the algae gets close to it and starts to destroy it."
The situation is dire, Smith said, but not yet past the point of no return.
"This used to be one of the most beautiful dive spots in the world, and it still has the potential to be if they would stop destroying it with all the chemicals," he said.
A Baker's Bay supervisor has responded to the piece in a comment on the official Great Guana Cay Facebook page, which serves as a public forum for guests and residents of the small island.
The Guana Blog will provide a rebuttal to the Bakers Bay response here. Excuse the foul language and many sics in their response.
Bakers Bay Positions Reef Decline
as the Price to Pay for Jobs
Bakers Bay Supervisor: "You know what I work at Bakers ...Bakers Bay provides well paying jobs for hundreds of Bahamian families ...pays mortgages, school fees, car notes, puts food on people's tables and sends kids to college. How many other companies in the Bahamas are paying college educated Bahamians upwards of $50,000 a year and providing medical and dental insurance?"
Notes from the Road: Citing jobs as a reason to avoid environmental safeguards is a poor excuse for ignoring a local community and the advice of professionals. The Sierra Club amicus curiea from the legal case supports this position:
"The Development at Guana Cay incorporates all the aforementioned types of local, pollution-related stressors that can deteriorate coastal water quality and degrade mangrove forests and seagrass meadows as well as coral reefs. The integrity of these ecosystems is important to the local residents who rely on their continued presence and health for storm protection, diving tourism revenues and seafood. Tropical marine ecosystems are part of a global natural heritage that is under severe siege. When even Belize’s Great Barrier Reef is added to the List of World Heritage for being in danger from the cutting of its mangroves and sale of mangrove islands, the natural resources at Guana Cay increase in importance, as does the need to assure that future developments in coastal areas avoid or minimize local sources of damage to these highly productive and biodiverse ecosystems."
The Bakers Bay employee should consider how he applies his own logic to his family home. If a foreign entity paved your home without your authorization or involvement, but cited jobs as a reason for doing so, would they be justified?
The amicus curiae continues on this subject:
"When communities are fully informed of potential social and environmental impacts from proposed large-scale developments, and have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the review and approval processes required for those developments, they reject the proposed development or choose lower scale alternatives."
Bakers Bay Supervisor falsely blames
Guana locals for Increases in Crime
Bakers Bay Supervisor: "I live in Guana and the incidents of crime has been from locals Haitians/Bahamians breaking into homes on Bakers Bay property, not Guana...the police officer is here mostly to protect the tourists/members of Bakers that leave the property to patronize establishments on Guana!"
Notes from the Road: Guana locals understand all too well that Bakers Bay employees see the Bahamian residents as second-class citizens who are forever a threat to their gated community, and that the police officer that has been posted at Great Guana Cay is there exclusively for the protection of Bakers Bay residents. However, all of these claims are false. Before Bakers Bay, there was no need for a policeman, and virtually no crime. Great Guana Cay was a peaceful island. Bakers Bay employees and guests have brought unwelcome crime to the island - one of many pre-development fear of many residents that has actually materialized. I have documented some of these incidents on the Great Guana Cay blog, including incidents of golf cart crashes, a Bakers Bay boat hitting a local fishing boat, and incidents of fast driving, including a helicopter crash which resulted in a death and ultimately came close to potentially causing mass carnage.
Bakers Bay Supervisor Misspeaks
on Golf Course System
Bakers Bay Supervisor: "The golf course is an internal system with run off that collects in man-made ponds on the course itself...the Bahamian government placed an environmental specialist here to oversee work done on the cay and within the property...years ago before Bakers...Disney actually dredged and covered reefs...so much so that they created an island...however all dredging done by bakers deposits the dirt inland to help build up the land!"
Notes from the Road: The environmental monitoring team from the University of Miami, under Dr. Kathleen Sealey, reported on the general recklessness of the Bakers Bay environmental practices, and the recommendations of this team were abandoned by Bakers Bay. In the Golf Course Considerations document, the environmental management team wrote,
"The construction of the golf course will undoubtedly alter the ecology of the property. However, by following proper BMP's for construction and design impacts can be minimized. The most important ecological impacts to manage and mitigate for include: Loss or degradation of habitat for terrestrial and marine species, Introduction of fresh water and nutrients to island hydrology, and Introduction of land-based sources of pollutants and contaminants."
Later, the document goes on:
"The location of golf courses near the coastline causes concern about NPS pollution effects on the water quality of surrounding marine and wetland environments. Of particular interest is the impact of herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers on groundwater quality. Golf courses are intensive production systems, and the frequent mowing and application of fertilizers or pesticides requires careful management to avoid damage to the surrounding environment. Nitrogen, phosphorus and many pesticides are potential pollutants of groundwater, and monitoring of their movement from turf grass areas to receiving waters is needed. In coordination with the drainage plan, several areas have been deemed environmentally sensitive, thus requiring lining (Appendix 1) to alleviate these potential impacts."
But, as reported by the Environmental Monitoring team, all practices for protecting the reef from the golf course were abandoned.
- Bakers Bay uses heavy pesticides on the golf course.
- Scientists discovered the 'lining' of the golf course was of low-quality, porous material.
- Scientists reported that the limestone rock of Great Guana Cay will mean that the nutrients, pollutants and fertilizers that do make it to the ponds will leach right through the pond into the coral reef. However, there are only three ponds, and they are all nearer to the Sea of Abaco side of the island, rather than the reef side. There are many documented examples of fertilized golf grass leaning directly into the ocean. It is unclear whether the ponds themselves serve any functional purpose in protecting the reef. Here are the locations of the ponds.
- Scientists have found evidence of fertilizers leaching into the reef, and evidence of reef decline as a result.
Bakers Bay Supervisor Misunderstands Value
and Significance of Great Guana Cay Reef
Bakers Bay Supervisor: "We all talk about jobs and unemployment,..Bakers Bay provides. We have 700 fuckin islands. If Bakers Bay wants to use one...I'm sorry, a part of one to provide once again...hundreds of well paying jobs...and send millions of dollars to the Bahamian government/national insurance/ batelco/road traffic/ immigration...and others I don't know about...then, so be it..."
Notes from the Road: The Bahamas may have 700 islands, but it is a huge mistake to think that the Great Guana Cay reef can be sacrificed for jobs. Here are a few reasons why the Guana Cay reef must be preserved.
- The Great Guana Cay reef was one of the best and most vibrant reefs in the Caribbean Basin. While elkhorn-staghorn coral reefs have declined across the Caribbean, the Great Guana Cay is one of the most impressive remaining versions of this type of reef. Although there may be 700 islands in the Bahamas, coral reef cover is limited, and it is a mistake to think there are 700, or 70 or even 7 reefs in the entire Bahamas like the Great Guana Cay reef. Preserving all of it is essential in an age when the Caribbean is seeing massive reef die-off.
- There are coral structures on the Atlantic side of the entire Bahamas, and so, its easy to presume that there are 700 other reefs of the quality of Great Guana Cay. Here is a typical Atlantic coastline view in the Bahamas. Note that coral cover is sparse:
- While there are other reefs in the Bahamas, the Great Guana Cay reef is especially important to the identity, culture and economy of the island. Remember that before Bakers Bay, Great Guana Cay had 100% employment, and tourists to the island came primarily for the aquatic sports and laid-back lifestyle. The Bakers Bay employee is using jobs of people from other parts of the Bahamas as an excuse for destroying the reason people come to the island in the first place.
- Bakers Bay may be creating some jobs, but it is also threatening jobs in the Abacos, as much of Abaco tourism is dependent on the Guana reef. Also, Bakers Bay has created a lot of bad press for the Bahamas, and directly contributed to the Bahamas losing its Ethical Traveler credentials.
Bakers Bay Supervisor Shows Anger
at Value of Conservation, Biodiversity
Bakers Bay Supervisor: "we are a third world country struggling to survive and feed our kids and make better lives for out families...changing family trees...people talk about the environment and this endangered insect or whatever, and if I found it in my house I would kill it anyway...I've seen Bahamian environmentalist here ...the Priminister, the past and present...local politicians ...people in charge of this country making sure that foreigners aren't raping us or our natural resources...its progress people..."
Notes from the Road: The Bakers Bay employee is absolutely false in stating that the Bahamas is a third-world country. The Bahamas is the third-richest country per capita in the western hemisphere, behind the United States and Canada. Its citizens enjoy nearly unparalleled wealth in the world.
It is dangerous to see decisions about the environment as a choice between jobs, and bugs, because locals on the island, coral reef scientists and Bakers Bay's own environmental monitoring team identified changes Bakers Bay could have made to avoid environmental degradation. But Bakers Bay refused to work with experts and the local community to preserve the only environment they have.
Biodiversity is essential to our race; biodiversity literally creates the atmosphere we breathe. It is the baseline issue upon which everything else, including jobs and economies, depend. Those endangered insects that this Bakers Bay employee would so quickly step on, like the many threatened species of the Great Guana Cay reef, may have evolved on a ten million year trajectory. Even small evolutionary lineages, like small insects, may have some compound in their biology that is the next cure for cancer, or the next polymer. But loss of biodiversity in the Northern Bahamas has other consequences too, including fragmentation and loss of the ecosystems which both fishermen and the tourism industries rely on.
There is no need to see jobs and the environment as a choice. Rather, we should see them as complimentary. Bakers Bay has failed to respect the environment or the concerns of the community, and its employees, like the one quoted here, are evidence of the culture of intolerance and complete disregard for the Great Guana Cay environment dangerously prevalent within the Bakers Bay workforce.
September 23, 2014 | North Bimini
No Golf Courses on Bimini
Perhaps partially in response to the environmental threats posed by the Bakers Bay Golf & Ocean Club on Guana Cay, and the work of scientists and advocates opposed to the Bakers Bay golf course, residents of the Bahamian Islands of Bimini are hoping to ban any golf course construction on their islands. Their reasons are spot-on and should be commended.
According to an article in The Tribune, the District Council for Bimini and Cat Cay have requested the following.
No golf course be permitted on the island of Bimini. Bimini's worldwide fame springs from its pristine marine environment, not the game of golf. Fishing, diving, recreational boating and crystal clear blue water have brought and continue to bring great economic benefits to the island. All scientific experts agree – golf courses are dangerous to the environment – in particular to wetland and marine environments. The risk of a golf course is simply too great.
No further development take place at the northern tip of North Bimini where no hard land currently exists. It is a matter of fact that the northern tip of Bimini is by and large mangrove wetlands. In a town meeting held in January 2009, it was promised that development in this area would only be allowed on hard land, of which there is very little. Please see to it that this promise is kept. Do not allow this wetland area to be filled in for development.
The North Bimini Marine Reserve be fully established and implemented immediately. This too was promised to the residents of Bimini in January, 2009. Similar reserves have been established at other islands, though ours was mentioned long before. A legally-enacted Marine Reserve in Bimini will enhance our tourism product and protect our fisheries for generations to come. We have been waiting long enough. Complete the remaining tasks. Establish the boundaries. Make the North Bimini Marine Reserve a reality."
September 19, 2014 | Bakers Bay Club, Guana Cay
Strange Dredging Project at Bakers Bay Foreshadows New York Times article on Coral Decline in Caribbean
In an article in the New Yor Times yesterday, authors Jeremy Jackson and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson write, "Up to now, the impacts of climate change on reefs have been much less destructive than the localized effects of overfishing, runoff pollution from the land and the destruction of habitats from coastal development." The authors continue, " Stories about coral reefs commonly focus on doom and gloom. But these new findings indicate that there is actually something we can do right now to help reefs recover: prevent overfishing, overdevelopment and pollution from the land.
The Bakers Bay Club is the perfect case study of everything that is wrong in the Caribbean about coastal development and runoff. A crystal-clear example of that appeared only days ago, as photographers captured a remarkably insane act of dredging at Bakers Bay. The photographs appear to show a dredging project designed to pull sand from the ocean in order to build beaches in front of a new under-construction mansion.
Bakers Bay Club purchased the dredging company pictured in the images. This move allows them to dredge without consequence and is an indicator of the amount of dredging they intend to do.
Dredging has a dark history at Bakers Bay. Before the Bakers Bay Golf and Ocean Club inhabited this property, Disney's 1980's dredging project is attributed to massive coral decline in Bakers Bay itself.
But the act of dredging sand adjacent to a coral reef - the process of land-building and land-shifting is the precise type of coastal development that leads to coral reef decline. Land-shifting creates long-term silting and destabilization of the nearshore waters, leading to the same stressors that destroy reefs across the Caribbean.
I spoke with the former monitoring team for Bakers Bay. They reported back that this type of project was abandoned because it was rejected for environmental reasons. I then spoke with the current and sole environmental monitoring consultant for Baker's Bay, who explained that she was not familiar with this dredging project, and that she 'gets only small projects' from Bakers Bay.
In other words, Baker's Bay went ahead with a project that was rejected by their own monitoring team as a danger to the nearshore environment.
The Bahamas turns a blind eye to out-of-control development at Bakers Bay, and the end result will not be good for Guana Cay.
August 25, 2014 | Guana Cay
Bakers Bay Boat Hits
Local Fishing Boat
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.
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.""
January 17, 2014 | Bimini Bay
From Save the Bays:
"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.
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.
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.
May 31, 2013 | Save the Bays
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 Judah here. 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."
May 14, 2013 | Bakers Bay
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."
May 10, 2013 | Abaco Islands
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.
May 3, 2013 | Bimini Bay
Proposed Bimini Cruise Ship Terminal at Bimini Bay Resort
The image above show the location for the proposed Bimini Bay Resort Cruise Ship Terminal, right in the middle of major dive spots.
Read more in this article about the newly formed Bimini Bay Coalition.
April 30, 2013 | Clifton Bay
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."
April 29, 2013 | Clifton Bay
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."
Read the rest at Bahamas B2B.
April 26, 2013 | Clifton Bay
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
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
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
"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
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
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.
Read the article: Increased nutrient levels propagate bleaching.
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."
Relationship between nutrients and coral reefs
December 2, 2012 | Bahamas
Paradise Island Golf Course Caught on Video
A video posted by the Bahamas Press shows water being pumped from a golf course pond, where nutrients, fertilizers and pesticides are supposed to slide into.
Where is this water - a notorious noxious mix perfect for destroying coral reefs - being pumped out to? The coral reef!
Post from Bahamas Press.
December 1, 2012 | Island Conflicts
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
January 24, 2012 | Golf Courses and Coral Reefs
Bakers Bay Golf Course creating Sewer Pipe, Coral Reef Smothering Algae, according to Scientists
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.
“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:
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.
Baker's Bay Response
Today, the Baker's Bay response is visible at the Nassau Guardian piece on the recent findings.
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.