NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) is seeking to allay the fears of residents in Mangrove Cay, Andros who purport that a foreign fishing vessel has illegally anchored and set up shop in the Andros West Side National Park.
The BNT, via a press release issued Tuesday, indicated that a number of residents in Mangrove Cay expressed concern that the M/Y Eleven vessel, a 74 ft. Hatteras out of Florida which offers fly-fishing experiences, was illegally operating as a Floating Fishing Lodge as opposed to a Cruising Yacht as outlined in its permit issued by the Government of The Bahamas.
BNT’s statement affirmed that, “the vessel is in possession of all requisite licenses and permits for operating in The Bahamas.”
The BNT, however, sent Stephen Smith, BNT’s Park Warden for Andros, to visit the M/Y Eleven to further investigate the matter.
“The Captain advised that the vessel planned to be in Andros for five and half months. The captain asserted that their operation will use only local fly-fishing guides and insisted that no foreign fishing guides are used in their operation,” Smith said.
In respect to the broader issue that the vessel might have been operating as a floating lodge, the BNT said it’s an issue that is out of its scope of control.
“The issue of vessels operating as floating lodges in The Bahamas should be part of a national discourse, which is beyond the scope of BNT’s mandate.” Eric Carey, BNT’s Executive Director said.
“Our organization will most certainly support any Government action to look into this issue. We want our national parks to not only provide ecological benefits but to also encourage and support local community economies.”
Residents also expressed fears that, “the vessel is polluting the Andros West Side National Park by dumping sewerage in the waters of the park.”
Smith’s visit to the vessel uncovered that it had a waste disposal system in place which did not negatively impact the marine environment.
“The site visit provided information that the vessel does have a domestic wastewater treatment system and the sewage is transferred to a small boat where it is taken outside of park boundaries for disposal in open ocean,” confirmed Smith.
“All trash is taken to the mainland by M/Y Eleven staff or local fly-fishing guides.”
The vessel’s anchorage also raised a red flag with residents.
The vessel is anchored at the Tarpon Hole, a blue hole that hosts an array of marine species including the rare and endangered Smalltooth Sawfish.
The BNT, in response to residents’ concerns about vessels mooring in the protected area, noted that it “will be designating areas for anchorage within the park and will be implementing an anchorage and mooring system similar to the system implemented in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, which protects the seabed as well as providing important funding for the park.”
“M/Y Eleven will be invoiced for their anchorage time in the park as per the user fee structure utilized in other national parks, and will be ordered to relocate to a less sensitive area.”
The BNT thanked residents of the South Andros and Mangrove Cay communities for bringing the matter to their attention.
The organization remains hopeful that their investigations into the matter will quell public concern.