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A commercial fishery operation targeting the invasive Lionfish species could produce a "win-win” situation for the Bahamian economy, fishing industry and the environment, a leading environmental consultant told Tribune Business Wednesday, generating the perfect ‘triple bottom line’ impact.
Earl Deveaux is fascinated by agriculture.
As a former Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries who completed a Master's degree in Agricultural Economics, this isn't a new interest for the senior politician.
What's new for the current Minister of the Environment is the emergence of renewable energy technology that could help The Bahamas take control of its food supply - with the system already well on its way to becoming a reality.
"If we're thinking long- term, we need to look at where we can tie new technologies into other industries," he said. "Agriculture is one of them."
In August, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTEC), a renewable energy company in the U.S.
Two plants will be built in Nassau at no expense to BEC over the next few years.
In addition to becoming the first utility company to buy ocean thermal energy and sell it to the public for general use, Deveaux is looking closely at other applications for the Bahamian economy.
Jeremy Feakins, the Chairman of OTEC, told Guardian Business that apart from producing electricity, one of the further applications of the technology is it's ability to "harvest" cold, nutrient rich water from the bottom of the ocean for growing food.
"It's been sitting at the bottom of the sea for millions of years," he explained.
"That's the water we go after - it's very cold, nutrient rich and has no nasty chemicals."
He and Deveaux, along with other stakeholders, have had frequent discussions about creating sustainable agriculture through this method.
"Deveaux picked up on that during our last meeting and I know how interested he is in agriculture. This could be a huge opportunity to create employment and exciting export opportunities," Feakins said.
For Deveaux, he believes Nassau "is obvious" when it comes to its needs.
The Minister is looking further afield when it comes to agriculture, such as Andros, where there is plenty of land. The challenge will then be to effectively "ship that product to market".
As well as agriculture, fisheries is another important use of this frigid, nutrient-rich water.
"There is not enough seafood in the U.S.," Feakins added.
"Wouldn't it be nice to provide these employment opportunities and export opportunities. That is the mission we have in front of us right now."
The OTEC chief told Guardian Business that, similar to building the renewable energy plants and selling the electricity to BEC, the company has no interest in running or taking ownership of any agricultural or fishing industry.
Instead, it seeks to offer the training, equipment and skills needed to bring Bahamians up to speed.
Feakins felt the current cooperation and open-mindedness of Bahamian leaders to renewable energy solutions could have a far reaching impact on the future of the country.
"I told the Minister that this could be a shining example on how an island community can use alternative energy," he said.
"It's a powerful thing The Bahamas can show to the rest of the world."
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Twenty-two years ago when you first elected me at age 42 as your Party Leader, I could best have been described as an improbable choice having previously been Chairman of, Member of Parliament for, and Cabinet Minister in, the PLP Government.