Seahorse National Park Designation Celebrated with Dedication Ceremony
January 16th, 2024 – Eleuthera, The Bahamas
In a significant milestone for conservation in The Bahamas, a recent dedication ceremony celebrated Seahorse National Park at Sweetings Pond and Hatchet Bay Cave as the country’s official 33rd national park, and the second on Eleuthera.
Sweetings Pond is a large, land-locked saltwater pond, home to many marine creatures; most notably, a population of seahorses believed to be the densest population in the world. The new park spans 548 acres and protects Sweetings Pond and the surrounding terrestrial area, including the historic Hatchet Bay Cave, one of the longest dry cave systems in The Bahamas.
After more than a decade of effort involving research, community outreach, and advocacy from the BNT and its partners, Seahorse National Park (SNP) was officially declared on September 7, 2023. The dedication ceremony, held at the park on January 6, 2024, was attended by Minister of Public Works & Family Island Affairs and Member of Parliament for South and Central Eleuthera the Hon. Clay Sweeting (formerly Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources); Deputy Director General of Tourism and Director of Aviation Dr. Kenneth Romer; Southern Shores Member of Parliament and Chairman of The Bahamas Agricultural & Industrial Corporation (BAIC) Leroy Major; BNT partners, local government, donors, staff, and community members.
Speakers included Sweeting, Major, businessman and philanthropist Oscar Tang, BNT Council President Geoff Andrews, and BNT Executive Director Lakeshia Anderson-Rolle. The ceremony highlighted the significant contributions of various individuals and organisations, emphasising the central role of science and community involvement in the park’s establishment. Dr. Heather Mason, the researcher whose critical work supported this important declaration, received special acknowledgement at the event; as well as Minister Sweeting; Senator the Hon. Ryan Pinder, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs; Major; and attorney and BNT Past President Pericles Maillis, who all worked closely with the BNT to fulfil the designation of this new national park. Several BNT staff, past and present, were also recognised; along with donors who have supported SNP so far, including the Leon Levy Foundation; The Cove, Eleuthera; the Sean Connery Foundation; and the University of Tampa.
The BNT’s plans for Seahorse National Park are ambitious and inspirational, with the now-protected area set to become a beacon of sustainable development and ecotourism in the region. Inspired by the success of Eleuthera’s first national park – The Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve – the BNT aims to transform SNP into a world-class destination that protects and highlights the unique biodiversity of Eleuthera while contributing to its economy.
Minister Clay Sweeting said: “As my final act as Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources, & Family Island Affairs, I thought it fitting to ensure that the legacy of Sweetings Pond be holistically developed and preserved for generations to come. I thank the BNT team for their vision and partnership; as well as BAIC, the Attorney General, and the generous donors for their contributions. Most importantly, I thank the people of Hatchet Bay for being involved in the discussion and a part of what we have here today in Eleuthera, our home.”
BAIC Chairman Leroy Major said: “I’m delighted and excited to witness yet another milestone unfolding on the island of Eleuthera, involving BAIC along with other strategic partners and stakeholders, as we break ground for the development of Seahorse National Park by the BNT. This venture is expected to develop into an anchor project for the economic benefit of the people of central Eleuthera and future generations of Eleutherans.”
Businessman and philanthropist Oscar Tang shared his love for the area and his commitment to supporting its management: “I think the fact we are now dedicating this area to a national park is so much in the spirit of what Eleuthera offers, in terms of all that nature brings. It’s just wonderful to have this natural gift. The challenge will be to make it accessible and yet preserve the natural characteristics which have made it so amazing. We need to plan and be very careful that we don’t destroy the very beauty which has been given to us. The Cove wants to play a role in this effort, so we’re looking forward to the BNT’s master plan and helping to preserve this natural wonder, this beauty – all the things that make Eleuthera so attractive.”
Underlining its next steps, the BNT will begin fundraising to develop park infrastructure, including a Welcome Centre, educational exhibits, and walking trails. The organisation will also focus on fostering initiatives for research and ecotourism.
BNT Executive Director Lakeshia Anderson-Rolle said: “Sweetings Pond is beloved by the people of Eleuthera and everyone who happens upon this unique ecosystem. The BNT is committed to honing its value in a sustainable way, to preserve the beauty of this special place so it can benefit and be enjoyed by everyone. Today we celebrate, and tomorrow we work; and we are committed to working alongside BAIC, and the communities of Eleuthera, to transform this area into a world-class national park that supports visitation, recreation, and education. This is just the beginning for Seahorse National Park, and we can’t wait for what’s to come with the help and support of our amazing partners and supporters.”
The dedication ceremony concluded with a short tour down one of the park’s new walking trails, giving attendees a closer look at the pond and potential areas for infrastructure. A cocktail and networking reception followed at the Cove Resort in Gregory Town.
To learn more about the role the BNT plays in managing terrestrial and marine national parks, conserving wildlife, and informing environmental policy, please visit its website: www.bnt.bs and follow/subscribe to its various social media channels: Facebook, Instagram,Twitter, and YouTube. Your visit, membership, or donation can make a substantial difference in preserving the natural beauty of The Bahamas for future generations.
Printed Foam Photos of Seahorse National Park by Shane Gross.
Media Contact: Leah Carr | email@example.com | (242) 429-7902
About the BNT:
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) was created by an Act of Parliament in 1959 to build and manage the national park system of The Bahamas. Possibly the only non-governmental organization in the world charged with such a responsibility, the BNT works daily to conserve and protect the natural resources of The Bahamas through science, stewardship and education for present and future generations. There are currently 33 National Parks managed by the BNT with more than 2 million acres of marine and terrestrial areas protected.