Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT),alongside flats fishing guides, school children, and several local and international partners,undertook the next step last weekend in a major mangrove restoration project in East GrandBahama. The community planting day was part of BTT’s multi-year effort focused on GrandBahama and Abaco to help mangrove forests recover from the devastating effects of HurricaneDorian. Mangroves are a vital natural resource which build island resilience in the face of futureclimate-driven storms, coastal flooding, and sea level rise.
Post-Dorian observations conducted by BTT and other local science partners, such as the PerryInstitute for Marine Science (PIMS) and Bahamas National Trust (BNT), showed that huge areasof native mangrove forests in Grand Bahama and Abaco were decimated by the storm and arenow in dire need of restoration. In response, BTT launched the Northern Bahamas MangroveRestoration Project, a growing collaborative effort between non-profits, government agenciesand the community with the objective of planting 100,000 – if not far more – new mangroves bythe end of 2024.
About Saturday’s planting event in the East End,Grand Bahama native and BTT BahamasCoordinator Nina Sanchez said, “This mangroverestoration project has been an incredibleopportunity to get local Bahamians, communitygroups, and students out onto the flats and intothe mangroves to learn about the importance ofthis environment. This project is in the wake ofHurricane Dorian, but a lot of positive moments foroutreach and education have come out of it. Oneof the things that we try to drive home, thatrestoration is kind of a last resort. We really wantto preserve, protect, and conserve theenvironments that we have by getting students out onto these flats, getting their hands dirty andrealizing that these are incredibly productive habitats. In addition to the flats fishing industry,they support a lot of commercially important fish species - conch, grouper, snapper. All of themare important to Bahamian culture and economy and being out here and seeing it with your owneyes is an important part.”
BTT’s current Grand Bahama and Abaco restoration project includes partners such as BNT,Friends of the Environment in Abaco, international businesses, such as the apparel brand MANG,and fly fishing guides, and will involve many schoolchildren over the next two years. The projectbegan by growing mangroves in nurseries in Grand Bahama and Abaco for the purpose of plantingseedlings in the most impacted areas around these two islands. Key partners from the publicsector, without whose efforts the event could not have taken place, include the Department ofMarine Resources, the Forestry Unit and the Department of Environmental Planning andProtection (DEPP), as well as invaluable contributions at the local government level.
“Mangrove forests serve as vital nursery habitat for flats fishing species such as bonefish andpermit, and as such, for the wider flats industry that relies on this invaluable resource. This is truein The Bahamas, in Florida, and throughout the Caribbean basin,” said BTT President and CEO JimMcDuffie. “Given that mangroves are so key to protecting the coastal environment and humanpopulations from the worst effects of climate disasters, it is important that conservationists andcommunities everywhere take bold action to kickstart the recovery of this environmentally,economically, and socially significant resource.”
Bahamas Initiative Coordinator Nina Sanchez (center)distributing new mangroves to volunteers. She called theproject a positive moment of community resilience in the wakeof Hurricane Dorian.
Partnerships are now in development to scale mangrove restoration and protection throughoutThe Bahamas. BTT is collaborating with other groups similarly committed to mangroverestoration, science, and conservation education, such as Waterkeepers Bahamas, PIMS, TheNature Conservancy, the BNT, and many others. It is hoped that joint public-private mangroverestoration efforts, along with other related climate resilient initiatives, can grow to include otherislands. The current project will also actively work to engage fishing associations, local chambersof commerce, government agencies, bonefishing guides and lodges, and myriad schools,community leaders and businesses.
In addition to replanting, BTT and partners aims to raise communityawareness and engagement about the importance of mangrove forestsand the serious threats they face today. So far, BTT and its partners haveworked with the fishing community, schools, local stakeholders andgovernment agencies to plant 20,000 mangroves, marking a milestonein the project.
The planting event this weekend took place in the Maclean’s Town areaof East End Grand Bahama, where mangroves and coastal communitieswere severely impacted by Hurricane Dorian. Students, scientists,government officials, bonefishing guides and community members alltook part.
Leroy Glinton, a bonefishing guide from McClean’s Town said the eventwas impactful on both a professional and personal level. Glintonexplained, “Mangroves are so important to the bonefishing industry andeveryone to whom it provides a livelihood – from independent fishingguides to the staff at all the various lodges throughout the The Bahamas,” he said. “But healthymangroves are also vital for our coastal communities. So many people lost their homes and all oftheir possessions in Dorian. Mangroves buffer communities from the worst effects of seriousstorms, and it is most gratifying to witness so many organizations, government entities andindividual coming together to take part in a meaningful solution.”
James, a student volunteer from Bishop Michael Eldon School, said, “I am a Hurricane Doriansurvivor. I went through the painful time but being here and being about the mangroves hasinspired me to plant more and protect others from future natural disasters. Another student Troy,while joyfully covered in mud added, “It really gave me a lot of insight into the importance ofmangroves, their life cycles, and how they shield us from the storms. I liked being able to helpplant more of them so they can protect us in the future and future generations as well.”Future mangrove planting days will be announced by BTT and other conservation partnersthroughout 2023. Persons wishing to get involved should email BTT firstname.lastname@example.org.