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The Bahamas Triple Marine Protected Areas

The Bahamas have announced the expansion of its protected marine and coastal areas by 11 million acres

On 31 August, Kenred Dorsett, Minister of the Environment and Housing, announced the creation of 15 new parks and three park expansions in order to protect endangered and threatened species. The park area covers crucial habitats of the endangered rock iguana, the Nassau grouper, queen conch and spiny lobster, as well as nesting and breeding grounds for more than 82 per cent of The Bahamas seabird species.

The Bahamas have played a key role in the Carribean Challenge Initiative (CCI) which aims to triple marine protected areas by 2020. CCI signatories have committed to protect 20 per cent of their marine and coastal areas and to ensure those areas are properly managed. 

In 2014, the Bahamas Protected Area Fund was established to devote staff and resource to the monitoring of its parks.

'We recognized that biodiversity is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter and a clean and healthy environment in which to live,' Minister Dorsett said, adding: 'Protected areas constitute an important stock of natural, cultural and social capital, yielding flows of economically valuable goods and services that benefit society, secure livelihoods, and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.'

Shenique Albury-Smith, Senior Policy Advisor of The Nature Conservancy for The Bahamas, called the effort 'a tremendous moment for conservation in The Bahamas'.

'Not only are these areas important for the country’s iconic wildlife, but they will benefit Bahamian livelihoods as well. These declarations represent a tangible demonstration of the government commitment to protecting our marine resources,' Albury-Smith said. 

In a joint effort, the Bahamas Environment Science & Technology Commission, the Bahamas National Trust and the Bahamas Department of Marine Resources and the Nature Conservancy managed to exceed original expansion plans of just 6 million acres. The project is partically funded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the Waitt Foundation and the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation.

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