One of the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation’s major priorities is to contribute to the conservation and management of marine ecosystems. Below we describe some of these key achievements:
The Bimini Biological Field Station team has been working tirelessly to insure the protection of Bimini’s North Sound since 1997 when the Prime Minister visited the site and declared his intention to establish a No-Take Marine Protected Area (NBMR). In 2000 the Governor General announced from the Throne that the NSMPA would be legally established by the government. Again on 16 January 2009 Mr. Phillip Weech, director of the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission announced during a Bimini town meeting that the long anticipated North Bimini Marine Reserve has been officially put in place since December of 2008. As one of our primary study sites for more than three decades, the NBMR serves as critical (nursery) habitat for many of Bimini’s conch, lobster and finfish species as well as the lemon shark. Furthermore BBFSF research identified 370 different animal species within the boundaries of the NBMR, including 13 that are listed by the IUCN as Threatened or Endangered. Smalltooth Sawfish (Pristis pectinata), the Bimini Boa (Epicrates striatus fosteri), and three species of sea turtle (Loggerhead, Hawksbill, & Green) all face dire threats to their survival, yet they are not now able to find safe refuge within the Bimini Reserve.
Data collected by BBFSF researchers was a key factor in determining the importance and value of protecting this area, and our studies continue to monitor the ecological health of this pristine marine environment. However although the government clearly and multiple times announced the NMBR it remains at risk. We are still trying in the face of mounting resistance to protect what is left of the site.
In 2011 the Bahamas Government declared well over 600,000 Km2 of their waters as a shark sanctuary, prohibiting any commercial fishing of the animals as well as banning the possession, sale and trade of shark products.
Data collected by BBFSF researchers was a key factor in determining the importance and value of sharks to the Bahamian economy, and our studies continue to advance our understanding of these apical predators now fully protected. This is an astounding turn of events and will assure the long-term survival of elasmobranch fishes in the wider Atlantic in perpetuity. We are truly gratified to be a part of this historic event.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a rule that prohibits both commercial and recreational harvesting of lemon sharks in Florida waters. In 2009, BBFSF along with concerned citizens and groups took a stand to protect the lemon sharks, which are known to be the most vulnerable large coastal shark species; and to aggregate in Florida waters. The groups approached the FWC to request a ban on the harvest of these sharks. The general life history of this species for example low fecundity, high juvenile mortality, slow growth and age needed to reach sexual maturity, exacerbates its vulnerability to over harvesting. Any commercial or recreational harvesting of the aggregations could lead to a total depletion of the stocks in a short time. For these reasons the FWC ruled in favour of protecting the lemon shark in Florida Waters, for which it has jurisdiction.
Data collected by BBFSF researchers over a period of several was the key factor in demonstrating the high fishing mortality and identifying its impact on the spatio-temporal formation of adult lemon shark aggregations off the east coast of Florida. Our long-term studies continue to demonstrate the importance of this area to local and international lemon shark populations.
In January of 2013 the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation was awarded the prestigious Cacique Award for Sustainable Ecotourism. This award reflects the contribution BBFSF has made to Bahamian ecotourism and it was an honour to accept this on behalf of all the scientists, students, volunteers and members of public who have contributed to our foundation.
The American Elasmobranch Society is a non-profit organization that seeks to advance the scientific study of living and fossil sharks, skates, rays, and chimaeras, and the promotion of education, conservation, and wise utilization of natural resources. The society holds annual meetings and presents research reports of interest to professionals and students of elasmobranch biology. Those meetings are held in conjunction with annual meetings of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists each year at rotating North American venues.
Dr. Gruber (BBFSF, President) founded the American Elasmobranch Society in 1983, was the president in 1985 and 1986 and a director on the board from 1984 to 1997. BBFSF past and present scientists have been attending AES showcasing our results since its inception.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature - Shark Specialist Group (IUCN SSG) is a group of 171 experts from 55 countries distributed among 12 regional groups (roughly reflecting FAO fishing areas) in the fields of shark biology, conservation, management, fisheries and taxonomy connected by their joint goal to promote the sustainable use, wise management and conservation of all sharks, rays and chimaeras. Members of the SSG work together to assess the threat status of sharks, rays and chimaeras, collate knowledge into scientific publications and reports and to give independent science-based advice to decision makers and management authorities.
Dr. Gruber (BBFSF, President) founded the IUCN Shark Specialist Group in 1991 and was Chairman from 1991 to 1996. BBFSF alumni Dr. Dean Grubbs, Dr. Enric Cortez, Dr. Demian Chapman and others play integral roles in assessing the threat status of elasmobranchs globally.
The aim of Pew’s environmental initiatives is to strengthen policies and practices in ways that produce significant and measurable protection for terrestrial and marine systems worldwide.
Dr. Gruber (BBFSF, President), Dr. Chapman (BBFS, Advisory Board) and Dr. Kessel (BBFSF, Vice President) are Scientific Advisors for the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The Bahamas National Trust is a unique legislated non-government organisation. Charged with developing and managing the Bahamas National Park System, the Trust is the only non- governmental organization in the world with such a mandate.
Dr. Gruber (BBFSF, President) served as a Scientific Council Member for the Bahamas National Trust from 1989-2005.