Last month, the WildAid Marine team completed a formal scoping trip to The Bahamas, one of WildAid Marine’s newest project sites. The ocean is a defining element of daily life in The Bahamas where coastal and marine ecosystems support countless endangered species, provide livelihoods for tens of thousands of fishers, and contribute to tourism revenues that top $2.5 billion annually.
Recognizing the immense value of their oceans, The Bahamas has long been a leader in ocean conservation. To date, The Bahamas has designated 10 percent of its waters as marine protected areas (MPAs) and, in 2011, outlawed commercial shark fishing in all national waters. Despite these important steps, foreign and domestic poaching still poses a serious threat to the long-term health of wildlife and fisheries.
This year, WildAid Marine teamed up with The Nature Conservancy and the Bahamian government to develop and implement a roadmap to address key challenges and lead the country’s fisheries to long-term sustainability, including addressing illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing in The Bahamas’ national waters. Our Bahamian partners recognize the detrimental effects of IUU fishing and momentum is building in support of meaningful ocean protection.
Our most recent visit to The Bahamas was intended to inform the final drafting of the Marine Protection System (MPS) Plan for The Bahamas and scope operational platforms in the southern part of the country. During the trip, we completed a series of meetings and site visits with our key partners to identify the strengths and areas of improvement within the existing marine surveillance and enforcement system.
In addition, we facilitated a meeting between the Royal Bahamas Defense Force and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Law Enforcement Program to discuss areas of shared concern related to illegal fishing in The Bahamas’ northern waters. By combining our extensive enforcement experience with our local partners’ knowledge and expertise, we will be able to develop an effective, realistic MPS Plan responsive to local needs.
A final draft of the MPS Plan is expected to be finalized and distributed to our partners for review early in 2020. As we move into 2020, we will be focused on establishing and formalizing a stakeholder workshop to develop a Strategic Plan based on the MPS Plan.
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WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to protect wildlife from illegal trade and other imminent threats. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages more than $308 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.
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