Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bahamas MPA in Need: Summit Series group raising funds to support South Berry Island

Marine protected areas (MPAs) can be an effective means in protecting and conserving natural marine resources. By defining a specific boundary and then managing - and in some cases prohibiting - activities such as commercial fishing, marine ecosystems are allowed to flourish, which can have a beneficial effect on marine life even outside of the MPA. Worldwide, there is only a small percentage of the ocean's surface that has been designated as a protected area, even with recent record-breaking MPAs like the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Phoenix Islands, and Chagos Archipelago.

But designating a marine protected area is just the first step. The next step can be an imposing hurdle: establishing the infrastructure to support, maintain, and enforce all related regulations. Without those components, an MPA becomes nothing more than a good intention.

In 2009, the Bahamian government set aside 6 new marine protected areas, bringing the total to 25 MPAs in the Bahamas. One of those areas, the South Berry Island Marine Protected Area, covers only 70 square miles but is considered one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the Bahamas and includes coral reefs, a conch nursery, and a 6,000 feet deep trench known as the Tongue of the Ocean. Unfortunately, it is also sadly lacking in a functional infrastructure and so the area is largely unregulated.

Hoping to come to the South Berry Island MPA's rescue is an organization of influential entrepreneurs, artists, and innovators - members of a group that sponsor the Summit Series, a kind of creative brain trust of individuals who are dedicated to giving back to the planet in one way or another. This past April, the Summit Series held a Summit at Sea aboard a cruise ship in the Bahamas and donations came forth to meet the $500,000 price tag that was determined to be what was needed to implement and sustain the South Berry Island MPA infrastructure.

To date, they have reached over $475,000 of the needed total. Individual donations are being managed by The Nature Conservancy and accepted through, another of the growing number of online fundraising sites, and there are some enticing prize drawings for donors including a $1000 Zappos gift certificate
(Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO, has offered a dollar-for-dollar match to $25,000) and 600-foot submarine ride off the south coast of Florida, compliments of my friends at OceanGate Expeditions.

If you would like to learn more, here are several website you can visit:
Click here to learn about the Summit Series.
Click here to learn about the Summit at Sea.
Click here to visit the website to donate and enter in a drawing.

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