Grand Bahama Proposed Parks

Grand Bahama Proposed Parks

Grand Bahama currently has three national parks but each of these parks are quite small relative to the size of the island. The BNT is proposing the expansion of two of the current sites to incorporate some very important natural features as well as two new sites that would ensure the protection of valuable resources for the future of Grand Bahamians.

Lucayan National Park Expansion
Mapping of the 6 mile long Lucayan cave system indicates that most of the known cave network lies outside the current Park boundary. The Park encompasses a section of Gold Rock Creek, a picturesque tidal creek that passes through impressive mangrove wetlands. The creek connects to the underwater cavern system, providing plankton filled seawater that is needed to support the variety of species found in the cave environment, including fish and crustaceans that live both near cave entrances and deep in the cave’s totally dark interior.

The mangrove wetland surrounding Gold Rock Creek is the last intact mangrove wetland remaining on the south side of Grand Bahama Island. The protection of the creek and its associated mangrove ecosystem is critical to maintaining its ecological health, for sustaining the biota dependent upon it, and for ensuring the health of the cave system that it serves. It also provides recreational opportunities for kayaking, bird watching, photography and scenic viewing. Currently, only 1,000 feet of this nearly 4 mile creek and associated mangrove ecosystem fall within the Park boundary. The remaining stretches, including the mouth, are unprotected and subject to threats from pollution and other forms of disturbance.

Just offshore of Lucayan National Park, lies stretches of intact coral reef formations, including colonies of the endangered Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) and the endangered Pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus). Currently, no coral reefs are under protection in Grand Bahama, and are therefore vulnerable to overfishing practices. Connecting the mangrove creek and the nearby offshore reefs is essential to ensuring that important reef fish and spiny lobsters survive from the nursery habitat to the adult stages in the near shore coral reef habitat.

Expansion of the Lucayan National Park will afford for protection of Gold Rock Creek and offshore reef habitats essential for rebuilding stocks of commercially important fish and other marine resources, a significant addition of the karst caves and blue hole system, more areas of pinelands and coppice, and sand dune.

Peterson Cay National Park Expansion
Peterson Cay is a 1.5 acre windswept and sparsely vegetated limestone island, protected as a National Park since 1968. Despite its small size, the value of the habitats currently under protection status is immeasurable. The sparse vegetation and low shrub provide a much sought after medium for nesting birds to assemble and raise their young. As such, Peterson Cay is internationally recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA), because it supports a globally significant nesting colony of Bridled Terns.
Although uninhabited, Peterson Cay is actively used for ecotourism by resident kayak tour guides, boaters and occasionally dive operators. Park users enjoy snorkeling over the adjacent coral reef system, picnicking on the beach, and otherwise hanging out in the beautiful ocean setting, to enjoy the aesthetics.

The Park is the only cay on the south side of Grand Bahama Island, located within the fringing coral reef system that extends almost continuously along the south coast. Currently, the boundaries of Peterson Cay National Park only encompass the cay itself.

The expansion of Peterson Cay National Park would encompass a greater wealth of developed ecosystems, one of the prized being the fringing coral reef systems and seagrass beds, which are known to support a variety of marine organisms, some of which are culturally and economically significant to the Bahamian community. Incorporating a marine component to the Park will support fish populations, thus serving as a reservoir that can provide substantial and sustainable benefits for the fishing industry around the island and, to a larger extent, throughout The Bahamas.

East Grand Bahama
The mangrove fringing along tidal creeks and large channels provide appropriate habitat for a variety of commercially important fish, and numerous birds that thrive on the islets that make up the chain of the East Grand Bahama Cays. The tidal flats in this area are known as prime bonefishing grounds that economically benefit fly-fishermen in East End, including the fishing communities of Sweetings Cay and McClean’s Town.

This area is famed for its Zodiac Caverns, a network of interconnected underground caves and inland blue holes, explored by expert cave divers from the early 1980s. This unique cave system represents some of the most highly decorated caves in The Bahamas, attracting world class cave divers on an annual basis. Continued research in these caves has revealed a highly diverse troglobitic ecosystem, only found in the darkest parts of the caves.

The extensive intact mangrove forests are corridors to the offshore reef system for commercially important species of fish (groupers, snappers grunts) and lobster, that move out to the deeper reefs as adults. From an ecological perspective, these habitats are also critical to providing shoreline protection from extreme weather systems. A unique feature of patch reef communities adjacent to extensive seagrass and oceanic holes are found within the creek system of Big Thrift Harbour, showcasing a variety of marine life, including spotted eagle rays, turtles, fish, lobsters, and corals including the threatened Staghorn coral, that were once important reef builders but are now uncommon in The Bahamas. The fishing communities of East End are heavily dependent on this reef system for daily sustenance, and therefore worthy of protection to ensure existing and potential threats safeguard their livelihoods.

Northshore/Gap
The shoreline for the north shore consists of intertidal mangrove wetlands, numerous creeks, sand and mud flats with seagrass, beach strands and rocky shores. The shallow bank waters, mangrove wetlands, bays, lagoons and tidal creeks provide critical spawning and nursery habitat for numerous ecologically and economically important marine species, including bonefish. An extensive area of blue holes and an as yet unexplored karst cave system exists in the coastal area in the northeastern portion of the proposed Northshore/Gap National Park.

Further inland where land rises slightly from the shore, pine woodlands with palm understory occur. Remnants from the historic logging era are found in the grid of logging roads that is still in existence, referred to as “The Gap”, and the decaying terminal structure at North Riding Point.
Numerous bird species rely on the area’s coastal and inland habitat for feeding and resting. Flyfishing for bonefish is a popular and economically important activity in these coastal waters, primarily through bonefish lodges on Grand Bahama. The habitats of the Northshore and East End of Grand Bahama all support the lucrative bonefishing industry, valued at $141million.