Marine protected area needed at Lighthouse Point
Several years ago, the people of Eleuthera designed a vision for the future of the island. That vision, entitled A Shared Vision for South Eleuthera, did not include a cruise port at Lighthouse Point (LHP).
Lighthouse Point, at the southern most tip of Eleuthera, is a site of incredible national value. The 1903 Eleuthera Island South East Point Light stands on a bluff overlooking dramatic limestone bluffs and more than one mile of pristine beach. The publication reveals the discovery of prehistoric tools and Palmetto ware, which suggests a Lucayan presence existed at Lighthouse. LHP is revered by Eleutherans as a sacred site and recognized by experts to have significant environmental, cultural and historic value.
According to the Shared Vision, Lighthouse Point has broadleaf coppice forests, coastal dunes, coral reefs, hyper saline ponds (extremely rare and of international importance), salt meadows, white sand beaches, rocky shores, limestone cliffs, brackish wetlands and a grove of Lignum Vitae (the national tree of The Bahamas). Over 50 species of avian wildlife have been identified in the area and the habitat zones support the endangered Kirkland’s Warbler. This convergence of diverse ecosystems, along with the cultural heritage and ecological importance of LHP, create a critically important zone.
So why are we talking about a cruise line making a bid for this national treasure? Because the land is privately owned and on the market for sale. Recent articles in the press name Disney Cruise Line as the interested party. Notably, in 2016, Disney pursued, and then gave up on a proposed cruise port on Egg Island in Eleuthera.
There is incredible local and international interest in Lighthouse Point, and many groups are committed to preserving this special place. The savelighthousepoint.com petition stands at 11,426 at the time of writing. A strong coalition of local and national organizations are leading the charge, including the Bahamas National Trust, One Eleuthera Foundation, The Island School, Cape Eleuthera Institute and the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation. Local communities in Eleuthera are passionate about this special place.
What is needed is a broader vision of preservation. The ‘Disneys’ of the world will keep coming, if we do not embrace preservation of our national treasures. How is it that we have two cruise ports (Princess Cay and Half Moon Cay (Little San Salvador) to the southeast of Eleuthera) and no marine protected area in Eleuthera?
Yes we need development and jobs. There are numerous examples of sustainable development approaches that create jobs in preservation, conservation, ecotourism, heritage tourism and rural tourism; these are all viable options for South Eleuthera.
In 2013, The Bahamas joined eight other Caribbean governments on the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) Leaders Declaration. This initiative commits the government to accelerating and expanding efforts to safeguard 20 percent of Bahamian waters by the year 2020. There are now 11 signatories to CCI.
Key partners working toward increasing the number of marine protected areas locally include The Nature Conservancy, Bahamas National Trust, Oceans 5 and the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation. These organizations are working in collaboration with local communities to identify priority areas for protection.
It seems the clear answer is to declare the near shore around Lighthouse Point a marine protected area (MPA). It would be the first MPA for Eleuthera and a significant step toward protecting the marine environment and, by extension, restricting potentially destructive developments on the land.
We must do a better job when it comes to our land and resources. In 2016 there were eight private cruise ports in the region, six of which are in The Bahamas. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) owns Ocean Cay (the largest of the private island resorts), Disney has Castaway Cay, Princess Cruises has Princess Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line has Great Stirrup Cay, Royal Caribbean owns Coco Cay and Carnival owns Half Moon Cay.
We do not need another cruise port in South Eleuthera. What we need is a marine protected area at Lighthouse Point to establish a protective zone around this valuable terrestrial area and to implement a protective structure for the marine environment.
- William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation and two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association. William Wong is a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. E-mail: [email protected].