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The Green About Keeping Ecosystems Pristine - An Economic Perspective

May 01, 2019

Photos:  @ajgottschalk, @jamesjcarroll

When I asked friend AJ Gottschalk to bring some JOOB prototypes to test out on the flats of Andros, specifically South Andros, in the Bahamas, I also asked him to get a local perspective on the impact of fly fishing and the importance of conservation and sustainability for the small island community.

Andros is the largest island in the Bahamas at 2,300 square miles, but it is also one of the least inhabited (8,000 residents). For those seeking outdoor adventures and a desire to enjoy pristine environments, this is a place many select to visit. For flyfishing enthusiasts, it’s a prime destination for bonefish.

We spoke with Ellie Rahming, one of the guides on the island who works with Andros South Lodge, to get his perspective on the conservation efforts to keep the flats pristine for generations to come and the impact flyfishing has on the island. 


The Local Efforts to Preserve the flats of Andros

Ellie mentioned some recent laws that have helped curb net fishing on the island, which can have a  devastating impact on the reef system and the fish populations.  The local fisherman would have to pay a substantial amount ($3,000) if caught and would have to serve jail time, which is serving as a deterrent around the island.  Starting with a strong local enforcement mechanism is key and something the community backed. 

The guides on the island also serve as educators and in some degree enforcers as they tend to be in the more remote places along the flats of South Andros and can report the use of nets.  

Another recent law that is expected to pass in 2020 is the use of plastic bags in The Bahamas. The Bahamian government is expected to ban all plastic bags across The Bahamas. This ban not only helps the flats ecosystem but could help in curbing tourism losses due to pollution.  Representatives from the Bahamas Plastic Movement said if the rate of plastic pollution increases, it could cause up to US $8.5 million in tourism losses for the country.   t’s really smart of the Bahamian government to take this action. Looking forward to hearing the impact this ruling has over the coming years.

 Direct and Indirect Economic Impact from Angling in Andros

The conversation switched to how angling and flyfishing in particular has impacted the island. Ellie mentioned that, while the guides directly benefit to anglers visiting Andros, the whole island is impacted in a positive way. 

In one of the more recent studies on the economic impact angling has in the Bahamas, the analysis looked at the direct and indirect impacts of guided and non-guiding fishing across the Bahamas. 

For Andros, 81.2% of all direct tourism dollars comes from flats angling expenditures, as compared to 3.3% for all of The Bahamas. In addition, for every $1 spent directly on flats fishing, another $1.02 was brought into Andros. As Ellie had said, the whole island benefits when fisherman are visiting the flats. 

Non-Local Impacts

When we were driving back to the lodge we noticed an abandoned boat that was filled with garbage, and we asked Ellie about the issue of waste and recycling on the island.  He said that most of the garbage we see doesn’t come from the island population, but rather cruise ships that dump their waste offshore far south,  which then drifts with the currents onto the flats and is deposited onto the island. 

In doing some research on the topic, we found numerous studies that back up Ellie’s comment, but we also found some positive data that shows cruise ships are improving some of their waste practices. There’s still a way to go, though.

The EPA estimates that a single 3,000 person cruise ship pumps 150,000 gallons of sewage into the ocean per week.   And while the sewage on most cruise ships gets treated before being dumped, there have been cases and violations in which the sewage was contaminated. 

In 1993 The U.N. International Maritime Organization outlawed dumping in the Caribbean, yet the law will not take effect until enough of the surrounding nations report their capacity for treating trash for cruise ships. 

So what does this all mean?  Helping preserve a place like Andros takes a holistic effort.  Local and global initiatives can have an impact.  And for those that enjoy and wish to preserve these types of spots, it means lending a hand in any way possible.   And tourism that helps preserve, rather than destroy, places of beauty like Andros can certainly help such ecosystems. 

How to Get Involved

There are many organizations you can join across the globe to do your part. We picked a few here but there are so many we would urge you to find one that fits your environmental passions.

Bahamian Environment Protection Foundation

Bonefish and Tarpon Trust

The Nature Conservancy

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