Moriah Harbour Cay National Park: The “Building a Park for the Next Generation” Project

In December 2017, the Elizabeth Harbour Conservation Partnership was approved to receive a second small grant from the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme. The primary purpose of the “Building a Park for the Next Generation” Project is to promote sustainable tourism by developing infrastructure in Moriah Harbour Cay National Park (MHCNP) and by engaging the youth of Great Exuma to envision the benefits of a national park in their community. As the Elizabeth Harbour Conservation Partnership is interested in 1) minimizing the impact of tourism on the biodiversity of the area, 2) education and awareness of visitor and local communities, 3) preserving the natural heritage of Exuma for future generations, and 4) a working collaborative relationship with the Bahamas National Trust, the organization is in favor of pursuing such a project that would specifically benefit youth, the tourism industry, and the Bahamas National Trust.

The Project will focus on those areas within the MHCNP that are likely to receive the most visitation in order to facilitate an experience that is both educational and respectful of the biodiversity that the Park protects. These areas have been identified as the eastern end of Stocking Island (in Elizabeth Harbour), of which 50 acres has now been included in the Park, and Moriah Harbour Cay, the focal point of the Park itself. At each of these locations, the Project will build cabana style structures that will serve as a destination for visitor traffic and install interpretive signage to enhance the educational experience of the visitor.

The Project’s focus on sustainable livelihoods will be emphasized by engaging young men and women from Exuma in a business plan competition, and by holding workshops for high school students and those already in the tourism industry. The workshop for students will introduce the concept of ecotourism and its potential benefits and challenges. The aim of the business plan competition is for each participant to develop an ecotourism business plan that features the benefits of access to Moriah Harbour Cay National Park and all that it protects. All participants will receive guidance in business planning, and the winners will earn an educational tour of national parks in the United States and The Bahamas to explore the impacts of national parks in communities.

Please check back for updates in 2018 on our progress! If you wish to donate to the project, you can email us and find more information here about how to get involved. Thank you! Enjoy these images from field trips to our favorite spots in Moriah Harbour Cay National Park!

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Coral Nursery Notes: Bleaching our corals on clotheslines

Slide1No, not really!! But we do have a new clothesline style nursery and there has been a lot of bleaching this season, so it is not a totally misleading headline.

Welcome to Coral Nursery Notes. The purpose of creating this special thread in the blog is to keep the interested folks up to date on what’s happening with our little reef restoration project. We’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of good direction and advice along the way, and we’ve learned some lessons too. Here’s a little history on the project. We’ll try to keep the reads brief and exciting!

Volunteers are appreciated. Our partnership with Science Under Sail Institute for Exploration continues to be very beneficial for our restoration project and for the students that are smart enough to go on one of those SUSiE cruises. In July of 2015, Dr. Robin Smith and his team of students did an awesome job of cleaning the nursery and explanting many corals, both elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and stag horn (Acropora cervicornis/prolifera), onto the reef. They inspected the efforts made the previous summer with some satisfaction that indeed, it is all worthwhile. Though still small, the corals are surviving and getting established on the reef.

We’re a part of a bigger picture. We have a new partnership with the Bahamas National Trust through their emerging Reversing the Decline of Coral Reefs in The Bahamas program. Dr. Craig Dahlgren visited Elizabeth Harbour over the summer and worked with us to set up a line nursery, stocking it with samples of coral from nearby reefs. We’re excited to be a part of a larger initiative that aims to conserve reefs throughout the Bahamas.

And now the bad news…the corals in Elizabeth Harbour are bleaching. This year has been called one of the worst El Nino events in recorded history and corals are already suffering. Here’s a good recap of what coral bleaching is and how it, along with other stressors, can negatively affect corals. We’re seeing it here in Elizabeth Harbour and hoping that our reefs are not devastated. How daunting is it to you to know that these global warming events can wipe out entire reef systems, and leave algal covered rocks in their wake? Degraded habitat for fish and other species means less diversity and resilience on coral reefs. Less color, less beautiful fish, less life. Reefs that are suffering from local stressors like pollution and overfishing are particularly doomed as explained by scientist Nancy Knowlton in a Washington Post article:

“No reefs that experience unusually warm waters are likely to escape unscathed, but reefs already suffering from overfishing and pollution may have a particularly rough time recovering, based on what we have learned from past bleaching events.”

Within this statement, there is a glimmer of hope. There’s something we can do to help  boost the ability of coral reefs in Elizabeth Harbour to recover from bleaching events. The coral reef nursery and nearby reefs are located in the boundaries of the Moriah Harbour Cay National Park. If we take conservation and park boundaries seriously, we could give our coral patients a helping hand by not overfishing and polluting the waters. The corals sure have done a lot for us. Here’s a lot more info on the science of coral reef resilience if you’re interested. 

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New Elizabeth Harbour snorkeling maps available!

Like to snorkel but not sure where to go in Elizabeth Harbour? There are now snorkeling maps available that provide the locations of our new buoys at popular snorkeling spots in the area, and the things you will see in each spot. This map will soon be available at hotels, businesses and the Port and the Ministry of Tourism offices in George Town. If you can’t wait to get one, you can see a sneak peak of the printed version below. We’ve also created an online interactive version that will now be available and updated on this website. This map features the location and lots of info about each snorkeling site, and it shows the locations of the snorkeling mooring buoy sponsors, which have committed an annual donation in support of keeping the buoys maintained and the maps printed!

EHCP mooring buoy map inside EHCP mooring buoy map outsde

We owe many thanks to those that have supported the Snorkeling Mooring Buoy Program. Please make sure to check out the program sponsors who donated time, funding, and materials to make it happen. The Elizabeth Harbour Conservation Partnership is dedicated to keeping Elizabeth Harbour the most beautiful in the region by engaging the community in our conservation efforts.

Slide1 P.S.! We would really like to get feedback from a wide variety of users (or potential users) of the mooring buoy program. Please take 60 seconds to fill out this online survey. You could win an EHCP t-shirt!

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Updated schedule for Bahamas Conservation Symposium: Exuma 2015

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Save the Dates! Bahamas Conservation Symposium: EXUMA 2015


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What do you think? Take our snorkeling mooring buoy survey!


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Snorkeling moorings featured in Southern Boating magazine!

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