Tourism is the breadbasket of our economy, until we find an alternative to keep our people employed. It’s the only game in town, so we must preserve those seven-plus million visitors who visit our shores every year.
In one of my previous articles, I argued that harvesting marijuana in the southern islands, for international export, might be an avenue to create new a vessel of employment. Marijuana could be sold and shipped to locations where it is legal for medicinal and recreational use.
We have also been toying for some time with oil exploration. Most recently, it’s gotten to the stage where some exploratory drilling is about to commence. I am not a big fan of drilling for oil in our waters, as the potential to destroy our fragile ecosystem with an oil spill is frightening.
Let’s not forget about the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill of 2010. For weeks, BP was unable to cap an oil well that was spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Drilling for oil by floating oil rigs has a well-established safety record, as the technology used is only second to technology used in space exploration. However, when an accident happens, it creates havoc for the environment. During the BP oil spill fallout, 11 workers were killed when the rig caught fire.
Recently, several U.S. lawmakers objected to the drilling of oil within our borders given our proximity to the U.S. mainland. They are concerned that should a spill occur, the U.S. would be severely impacted because of our tides and currents. The BP oil spill was the worst environmental disaster that the U.S. had ever experienced and it cost BP $30 billion.
This begs the question: what could The Bahamas do if faced with such a disaster? If oil drilling was allowed in The Bahamas, I am not sure the organization responsible would effectively protect against an oil spill. We cannot afford to take that chance.
Our ocean is a paradise teaming with fish. It is why some foreign governments can’t wait to get into our waters and exploit our the bountiful resources. They need to stay out. If our waters are going to be harvested on a commercial scale, let Bahamians spearhead the efforts. We should protect our waters with all the zeal we can muster. It’s time for us to consistently enforce size limits on how much fish, lobster and conch these foreign boaters take from our waters. We must throw the book at those cruise ships that dispose of their garbage in our waters.
My friends, we can’t just sit around and wait for the you-know-what to hit the proverbial fan. It’s never too late to do the right thing. Let’s protect our waters.
• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association and a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. He is also a former president of the Rotary Club of South East Nassau and is currently a member of the Rotary Club of West Nassau. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.