The government hopes to implement a new environmental protection legislation by the end of the summer, Attorney General Carl Bethel confirmed yesterday.
His comments came amid public outrage after a report revealed that Carnival Corporation cruise ships dumped nearly half a million gallons of sewage in Bahamian waters.
Bethel said Bahamians can “absolutely” expect new legislation.
“In fact, to his credit, the Minister of Environment Romauld Ferreira has been aggressively pressuring my drafting officers to work on an environmental protection act for several months, and we are engaged in that process with his ministry, and the Bahamian people can rest assured,” he said.
“We hope that before the end of this year, and hopefully before the end of the summer, we will have a comprehensive series of environmental protection laws to further enhance the ability of this country, not only to in a sense manage its environment in an environmentally friendly way, but also properly sanction those who would abuse the privileges that they enjoy to come, for example, and sail in our waters.”
In 2016, Carnival Corporation pleaded guilty to numerous charges stemming from illegally dumping oily bilge water into the ocean between 2005 and 2013, and its systematic coverup of the illegal actions.
The company was fined $40 million by a U.S. court and put on a five-year probation, the conditions of which included the development and implementation of an environmental compliance plan (ECP).
U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz appointed Steven Solow to monitor Carnival Corporation during its probation.
Solow’s first annual report, covering the findings from the first year of the ECP’s implementation, was made public by Seitz last week, and revealed numerous instances of ships improperly discharging sewage and food waste.
Bethel continued, “There are also instances of dumping habits that contribute to the pollution and plastic pollution in our oceans, and these practices by guests in our country must be eradicated forthwith.
“And so yes, the Bahamian people can rest assured that we will have very aggressive suite of environmental protection laws that will give the minister all necessary powers to sanction and to prevent, and where he can’t prevent, to obtain recompense from those who violate and destroy or damage our environment.”
However, he admitted that policing ships’ disposal of waste in Bahamian waters would be difficult.
“Well you know we have over 8,000 nautical miles from the most northern point in The Bahamas to the southernmost point, over 100,000 square nautical miles of water to police,” Bethel said.
“It is extremely difficult for our country, with a population our size and limitations of geography, to police every square inch of our waters.
“And also, remember that there are several major international shipping routes through The Bahamas, and so it is a difficult job, but all I can say is we would do what we have to do to arm the necessary government agencies with the lawful authority to deal with any breaches either before the damage is inflicted or after they occur.”
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish
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