All Hands on Deck: Highlighting the Volunteer Efforts of M/Y Alder in the ECLSP

All Hands on Deck: Highlighting the Volunteer Efforts of M/Y Alder in the ECLSP

By: Leah Carr

July 19, 2023

The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP) is renowned among the many spaces that make up The Bahamas’ 32-national park system, and for good reason. While each national park showcases the incredible beauty of The Bahamas in its own unique way, there’s something about the ECLSP that makes it stand out as a visitor’s-favorite. It’s consistently the most visited national park each year, drawing boaters from all around the world to its turquoise waters and sandy shores that provide habitat for some of the country’s most valuable biodiversity.

The ECLSP protects 174,194 acres of some of the healthiest reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, and other ecosystems you’ll see in The Bahamas. As the official manager of national parks in The Bahamas, The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) is mandated to protect these special areas like the ECLSP in order to safeguard our natural resources on behalf of Bahamians. We’re incredibly proud of our team of dedicated and passionate staff who’ve taken on this momentous task; and we rely heavily on the support of everyday people and community members to achieve our mission.

In this secluded piece of paradise where logistics are scarce and facilities are few and far, there’s always a need for volunteer support. But the remote nature of the ECLSP means opportunities to organise major volunteer efforts are very limited. Thankfully, the ECLSP has benefitted from self-motivated volunteers and park supporters since its inception. Some of these longtime supporters are our friends from the Motoryacht (M/Y) Alder. Recently, it’s been all hands on deck aboard the Adler, whose owner and crew has taken the opportunity to create some real impact during their trips to the ECLSP, turning their visits to the park into coordinated volunteer efforts.

The M/Y Adler has been patronizing the ECLSP for more than 30 years, including joining the “Special Friends of ECLSP” Wall at Warderick Wells. This special wall showcases visitors and boats that have donated $1,000 or more to the conservation of the national park. Recently, boat captain David Johnson, crew members Michael Francis, Andreas Kraus, and Zane Colebroke, and the yacht’s owner have been assisting in the park’s upkeep through several coordinated cleanup efforts. More specifically, they’ve been removing plastic waste and debris from some of the remote, pristine beaches in the park.

There’s currently no on-site facility in the ECLSP for large trash disposal. Any large amounts of debris collected in the park has to be transported to New Providence or other nearby islands for proper disposal. A visit to the ECLSP for M/Y Adler means a chance to make the most of the trip by providing free collection and transportation of debris onboard the vessel.

“Like many other visitors to the ECLSP, our initial efforts were concentrated on collecting and consolidating large piles of plastic waste and placing them well above the high water mark,” said  M/Y Alder’s Captain David Johnson, but it quickly became apparent that the real problem was the plastic was not being removed from the park frequently enough. When we returned the following year, the piles of waste that had been consolidated had been pulled back into the sea by major storms passing through the area.”

This prompted the Adler team to not just collect the debris on the beach, but also to remove as much of it as possible whenever the boat returned to the ECLSP. Once in New Providence, the waste is properly disposed of with support from the Lyford Cay Marina. Recently the Adler team has also established a relationship with Richard and Carla MCombe, managers at Norman’s Cay Marina, that allows them to dispose of waste collected from Hawksbill Cay at the marina’s facilities.

“When Adler returned to the ECLSP earlier this year, the windward beaches were in the worst condition we had seen for many years,” said Captain Johnson. ”Following a determined clean up effort, over 30 large bags of plastic waste have been removed from the cays for 2023 so far.”

On one of the team’s most recent trips, they spent three days removing accumulated plastic waste from the northern windward beach at Hawksbill Cay, and left with more than 15 bags of trash to dispose of!

Captain Johnson said, The leadership and drive to clean up the beaches in the park begin with the yacht owner. He enjoys exploring the cays by land and sea, and has been visiting the ECLSP on a regular basis for over 40 years. Without his interest and support, none of our cleanup efforts would have been possible. We hope our efforts will in some way inspire others to ‘answer the call’ and support the BNT and their efforts to protect the natural beauty of the ECLSP.”

The Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park serves as a reservoir for marine biodiversity and a sanctuary for some of The Bahamas’ most economically, ecologically, and culturally significant species. We rely on the help of members, donors, volunteers, and supporters like those onboard the M/Y Adler to protect and preserve these precious natural resources for generations to come. The BNT created the Support Fleet Network specifically for boaters who want to support places like the ECLSP. By becoming a member of the BNT’s Support Fleet Network, you’re playing a vital role in protecting the natural beauty and biodiversity of The Bahamas’ marine environment.

Your membership contribution will help fund conservation efforts, including the management of national parks, historic sites, and marine protected areas. You’ll also be supporting conservation education for youth and local communities, research on endangered species, and advocacy for fisheries and conservation laws.

The BNT proudly recognizes the work of the Adler team – a small group of highly motivated individuals who’ve answered the call to protect the natural resources of The Bahamas that they value so much. We thank the teams of M/Y Adler, Lyford Cay Marina, and Norman’s Cay Marina for their ongoing efforts and support!

If you or your vessel would like to offer support to the ECLSP in another way, please contact us today.

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