Dive association: Bimini dredging ‘pending catastrophic event’
Nearly 40 years after he first began sharing the beauty of Bimini’s coral reefs, luring divers from around the world to the tiny island in the northern Bahamas, one of the most respected names in the world of undersea adventure today issued a warning that Bimini is on the verge of a “pending catastrophic event”.
Guinness world record holder, movie and TV celebrity and president of the Bahamas Diving Association Neal Watson expressed grave concerns about the future of Bimini’s waters, as the 450-foot-long cutter suction dredger, the Niccolo Machiavelli, hovers, waiting for a legal case to make its way through the courts, possibly clearing the way for it to dredge a channel to accommodate cruise ships delivering passengers to a resort and casino.
That dredging, say opponents, would wipe out some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the undersea world.
However, Malaysian-based Genting Group, which owns Resorts World Bimini (RWB), has said it needs to dredge the channel and build the pier to deliver up to 500,000 guests a year to the casino and hotel on the island that is now home to about 1,500 residents. RWB has said it is following all appropriate laws.
Concerned citizens who formed the Bimini Blue Coalition and initiated the legal action said they are worried about everything from the destruction of their way of life and the management of human waste, to the lack of direct economic benefit and the destruction of the reefs. Six of the world’s best, experts have said, lie in the path of the planned channel. Concerned citizens also worry that the dredging will stir up so much silt and cause so much turbidity that it will kill off Bimini’s rich fishing grounds that were immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s novel “Islands in the Stream”.
“Having started the first recreational dive operation in Bimini in 1975 and still being involved in promoting diving in Bimini, I am devastated by the pending catastrophic event about to occur in this diver’s paradise,” said Watson.
“This fragile ecosystem has already suffered a degree of degradation over the past 40 years, which has occurred throughout not only the Caribbean, but also the entire world. However, this dredging project will cause more irreversible damage to the reefs in the next 30 days than would normally occur over the next 30 years.
“This is not just an environmental issue but an economic issue. In addition to the three top-of-class dive operations located in Bimini that generate millions of dollars in revenue for the hotels, marinas, restaurants, bars and merchants, Bimini is uniquely located 48 miles from South Florida, which has the largest number of registered boats, as well as the largest concentration of divers in the continental United States. Because of Bimini’s proximity to South Florida and its reputation as a world-class dive destination, it attracts hundreds of small boats with divers that come to experience Bimini’s incredible reefs and support the local hotels, marinas and merchants. All of this is in jeopardy,” said Watson.
“Bimini has attracted fishermen, boaters and divers since the days of Hemingway,” added Watson, who continues to promote Bimini and was recently re-elected for another two-year term as head of the Bahamas Diving Association, the organization he has headed for 15 years. “The uniqueness, natural beauty, pristine clear waters, abundant marine life and incredible reefs are threatened.”
May 14, 2014