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Mission for Mangroves Tour Officially Launched

The Mission For Mangroves Launch in Grand Bahama, held on Monday, November 20th2023, at The Pelican Bay Resort in Grand Bahama

Eco-tourism offerings on Grand Bahama have now been expanded with the launch of the Mission for Mangroves tour, which was officially launched last week.

The initiative was spearheaded by the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) in partnership with the Bahamas Protected Areas Fund (BPAF), the Grand Bahama Island Promotion Board (GBIPB) and the Ministry of Tourism, Investment and Aviation (BMOTIA).

Twelve taxi drivers were certified as stewards of the environment after training facilitated by BPAF and Waterkeepers Bahamas.

Veteran taxi driver and General Secretary of the Grand Bahama Taxi Union (GBTU) Geraldine Dean said the training sessions were “excellent”.

“A lot of times we don’t understand about our environment, so this program taught us about the environment,” Dean said.

She admitted to being ignorant of some of the information shared.

“But once I got into it, I understood how important the mangroves are and how the tour can be beneficial to the environment and for taxi drivers financially as well,” she said.

“As citizens of this country, everyone has a role to play in protecting and preserving the environment for future generations.”

BHTA’s Executive Vice President Suzanne Pattusch said the specially-trained drivers and operators can now take visitors on an exciting journey in environmental restoration and regeneration of the Mangroves.

“Visitors are able to actively participate in restorative efforts, leaving behind a permanent ecologically friendly imprint of their visit through their engagement with local Bahamians and other environmentally conscious stakeholders,” said Pattusch.

Mangroves are living barriers which protect against the damaging effects of storm surges and mitigate coastal erosion, and protect the estuaries in which they flourish.

Estuaries are also a key component of a healthy eco-system as they provide a vast variety of local marine life with a nurturing habitat in which they can grow, and flourish, and the estuaries store more carbon than land-based forests.

BPAF Chairman Glenn Bannister said the launch was a celebration of resilience, partnership and sustainability.

“We recognize the importance of the mangroves not just a health item, but as the first line of protection of our island from storm surges, swells and climate change. Together we are forging a path of preserving and protecting of eco-system.

“Seventy percent of the mangrove population was damaged. So, we are pleased to see this come to life after months of discussions between all of our partners,” said Bannister.

He said the program’s launch is not just a testament to collaboration but also honors the spirit of taxi drivers, who are not just guides but ambassadors of the Bahamian culture eager to showcase the vibrant essence of this island.

Under the tutelage of the stewards, guests taking the Mission for Mangroves tour, will be able to leave behind a baby mangrove, a propagule, planted and nurtured in the fertile soil of Waterkeepers’ Mangrove Farm at Coral Vita.

The propagules will grow and develop under the care of Waterkeepers staff and will eventually be replanted in coastal environments which suffered significant depletion of their mangrove population during Hurricane Dorian.

Minister for Grand Bahama Ginger Moxey congratulated the new stewards.

“The Ministry for Grand Bahama is proud to support this innovative, eco-tourism initiative that ties in well with our government’s Innovate242 initiative,” she said.

“Grand Bahama is an island that has proven its resiliency, time-and-time again, and with its many initiatives tied to biodiversity, coral reef restoration, birding, and of course, mangrove restoration, that create the perfect model for sustainable tourism, adaptation and mitigation.

“This exciting initiative provides great opportunities for Bahamian entrepreneurs, as evidenced by the newly certified stewards of the environment tour guides, who have undergone training in environmental conservation and mangrove management to provide our visitors with invaluable knowledge about the importance of Mangroves.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investment and Aviation, Chester Cooper said the groundbreaking initiative not only adds another tourism experience to the island, but it also deepens the collective commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability.

“What we are doing here with the Mission for Mangroves is not optional and, therefore, we all must be stewards,” said Cooper.

Nassau Guardian, Barbara Walkin

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