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2014 Eco-fishing Camp set to begin six years of service

The West End Eco-Fishing Camp is pleased to announce their 6th year of environmental education programs designed for local children who are immersed in a number of activities to get them thinking about their role as “caretakers of the earth and living seas.”

The camp is held in partnership with the Royal Bahamas Police Force who saw the need to initiate signature community programs to encourage children to learn about basic first aid, water safety, and swimming, introduction to boating, ecology, kayaking, hand line fishing, and fly fishing. 

Led by a group of adult volunteers from the local community and officers from the West End police station the children are kept busy learning about “Esprit de Corps” or group spirit that encourages a team effort in each of the planned activities.

The first camp program began in the spring of 2009 with a goal to ensure that the children from West End would learn about entrepreneur and career opportunities as marine biologists, scientists, ecology tour guides, environmentalists, boat engine mechanics, oceanographers, solar and wind, agriculture, and aqua-culture farmers. 

Children are also included from throughout West Grand Bahama and Freeport who join together to accept their role as “future environmentalists and ecologists.” The eco-fishing camp is slated to open March 1 through May 31, 2014. The sessions are held on Saturday mornings from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

One of the most exciting events held during the 2013 camp was the West End Eco-Fishing Camp Association hosting the first junior sailing regatta and festival in partnership with the Grand Bahama Sailing Club. The regatta was held April 20, 2013 and well received by the community and sponsors. 

In 2014 WEEFCA will again host the Second Annual West End Jr. Regatta and Festival on April 26, 2014. More details about the junior event will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.

The WEEFCA curriculum is designed to focus on environmental issues that impact the quality of life in the community. A partnership with other international and community based organizations, foundations and stakeholders in West End have begun a major transformation along the shoreline with four Mini-Sea Parks that were built to showcase the natural environment of the community. 

The parks are outfitted with a concrete pad, handicapped ramp, picnic table, seat benches, envirobins, landscaping and signage to encourage proper care of the environment and surroundings. It is the children who are the next generation of caretakers of the earth and living seas. 

According to Captain Bryan Collins, WEEFCA Board Member, “This is such a great program for the youth and it is exciting to watch the children mature through various aspects of the training sessions. 

The instructors teach the children about respecting the environment and marine life and how important it is to protect our natural resources. During the weekend sessions children are taught new subjects that are fun, appealing and could have a positive impact on their lives.” 

The WEEFCA Board of Directors realizes that providing children with wholesome activities that will stimulate their imagination is a much better alternative to idleness and the temptation to turn to a life of crime, alcohol and drug abuse. 

This year the camp is offering two new programs to their curriculum – expanded fishing techniques for both hand line and trolling to showcase two ways to catch fish from stationary and moving positions.  The children will learn how to properly prepare their gear and supplies needed for fishing trips and to recognize sea conditions as it relates to wind, tide and various weather conditions.  

A field trip is planned to Sandy Cay which is one of three cays situated six miles offshore. At Sandy Cay children will engage the following areas – birdlife identification, nursery areas for conch, sharks and stingrays and improving their snorkeling skills.  

Another program that the children will participate in is the world of solar and wind power that will be taught by Leon Cooper, with Northern Bahamas Utilities. According to Cooper - “WEEFCA is providing a great opportunity for our youth to learn the growing trends of sustainable energy alternatives for their community and to be able to understand the basic concepts on how to become less dependent of fossil fuels.”

The Bahamas National Trust and Community Conch have been instrumental in providing education materials to showcase the man-made degrading effects of our environment and marine life. Community Conch has visited West End to share with our camper’s information about the declining conch populations and ideas on how to conserve this native delicacy and suggestions to fisherman about the proper size and age to harvest conch.

A second camp is organized in the summer/fall to teach the advanced students sailing, snorkeling skills and introduction to marine life identification along the shoreline. 

There are up to 20 children who are selected at the end of the first camp who demonstrate the leadership skills necessary to move onto more challenging programs. In future camps the children will be introduced to free diving and scuba diving programs. 

One of the highlights is the awards program at the closing ceremony of the spring camp that recognizes the accomplishments of the distinguished boy and girl campers. 

Awards are also presented to the top teams in swimming, fishing, and for exemplifying the best overall “esprit de corps” or group spirit. Linda Barry-Cooper, Chairman of the West End Eco-Fishing Camp Association states, “We are in our sixth year and the camp continues to grow and expand into new environmental subjects. The impact of this ecology program on the campers and residents is inspiring a new generation of environmental stewards.  

The future of West End’s waterfront is the responsibility of every resident, yet it is up to us to ensure that the children are reminded that they are being handed the responsibility to ensure a sustainable future for their children someday. We look forward to continue providing the inspiration to motivate the children with the vital lessons they learn and encourage them to strive to protect the natural resources of their community.” 

To learn more about how you can become a part of the West End Eco-Fishing Camp Association please visit their page on Facebook, website – www.weefca.com or contact Linda Barry-Cooper, Camp Director for more details.

Published Saturday, February 15, 2014

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