The Bahamas National Park System expands
"In October 2009, on the occasion of The 50th Anniversary of The Bahamas National Trust, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham announced his intention to expand the national parks system of The Bahamas.
"Today, I am honoured to announce the establishment of the Fowl Cays National Park, a new national park for Abaco between Scotland Cay and Man o' War Cay; the expansion of the Conception Island National Park and the expansion of the West Side National Park on the island of Andros," said Minister of the Environment, MP Earl Deveaux,
He went on to note, "The Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas boast six national parks.
"Fowl Cays has long been identified on marine charts as a protected area. Local people recognized that the area was special and it has long been a popular recreational site."
The new Fowl Cays National Park is a 1,920-acre reserve that is conveniently reached from most central Abaco Cays and settlements. The park has steadily become attractive to scuba divers and is an extremely popular area for local boating and snorkeling.
The reefs and three 25' to 40' dive spots in untouched water are renowned.
The second expansion will be at Conception Island.
This island was placed in the national park system in 1964.
The park (island) has historical significance as one of three islands visited by Columbus in 1492.
"The 2,100-acre island is important for nesting sea turtles and as a seabird nesting area," noted the Minister.
"It is important as a nesting site for Tropicbirds, Noddy Terns and Sooty Terns.
"It was designated an Important Bird Area in 2002."
Lastly Minister Deveaux discussed the expansion of the Andros Westside National Park.
"Andros Island currently has five national parks which were declared by The Bahamas Government in 2002.
"This system of five national parks is the country's largest protected area," he noted.
The protected areas in Central Andros encompass the highest concentration of blue holes, land crab habitats, two portions of the Andros Barrier Reef, pine forest, a portion of the extensive Andros freshwater lens, and large areas of the North Bight mangrove/inertial wetlands that are important fish nurseries.
The Parks are habitats for the rare Bahamian Boa, Andros Rock Iguana, Andros land crabs and Atala hairstreak butterfly, and are also used by many migratory songbirds which winter in Andros.
Of all the protected habitats, the coral reef areas are probably the most diverse and species rich.
The Andros Barrier Reef is unique in the region because of its large area, luxuriant coral growth, low levels of recent coral mortality and low incidence of coral disease.
The West Side National Park is also an important feeding area for the endangered West Indian Flamingo.
In this park, marine resources will be protected from destructive fishing practices, ensuring that the West Side remains a natural wilderness for the people of Andros forever.
"These parks are created to enhance and expand the way of life for all Bahamians. We invite you to use, see and enjoy them wisely," said Deveaux.
Eric Carey, Executive Director of the Bahamas National Trust commented to the media that "The Government of The Bahamas again showed globally significant environmental leadership today.
"The creation of these parks demonstrates the value of partnerships to conservation."
"The BNT acknowledges the support of other environmental NGO's including The Nature Conservancy, Nature's Hope in South Andros, Andros Conservancy and Trust (ANCAT) and the Abaco FRIENDS of the Environment.
We are also indebted to the Kerzner Marine Foundation for its funding support for the effort in Andros.
The Bahamas like many other countries is committed to protecting 20 percent of our marine environment.
Today with these new parks, The Bahamas made a giant step towards making this a reality."
© 2012 The Freeport News