DEMA: Dredging could devastate Bimini’s thriving dive industry
Top reputation among divers could be ruined by possible environmental degradation associated with the Resorts World Bimini pier terminal project, international NGO warns
As a hotly-opposed dredging operation got underway off the coast of Bimini this week despite legal challenge, a global non-profit warned that the associated environmental degradation could destroy the island’s extremely lucrative dive industry.
Tom Ingram, executive director of the California-based Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA), said the dredging of 220,000 cubic yards of seafloor at the heart of Bimini’s pristine reef system to accommodate a resort’s cruise ship ferry could ruin what is a “recreational diving jewel” of The Bahamas.
He strongly urged the government to look carefully at the project before allowing it to move forward, even as a 450-foot mammoth dredger began to excavate the seafloor this week.
“A very real concern to DEMA and to all diving businesses – especially those based in nearby Florida – is the fact that any environmental degradation, especially of the magnitude being described in the North Bimini Ferry Terminal Project EIA and its addendum, is likely to have a negative impact on the perception of pristine diving which Bimini now holds in the minds of diving consumers,” Ingram said.
“As a result of this project, it is possible that the number of divers visiting Bimini will decline dramatically as public perception develops regarding this project’s potential environmental impact.”
He said it is possible that this perception – and perhaps the reality – of the environmental impact will cause Bimini and The Bahamas to trade the affluent and sustainable diving consumer population for a population of less-affluent cruise and ferry consumers, with less-well-known demographic, life stage and economic characteristics.
“Such a trade of one population for another could have devastating impacts on the number of divers visiting Bimini, with a resulting economic impact on Bahamas Dive Association (BDA) members, DEMA members and the economy of Bimini,” Ingram said.
DEMA, based in San Diego, represents the business and consumer interests of the recreational scuba and snorkel diving industries around the world. DEMA’s mission is to promote sustainable growth in safe recreational scuba diving and snorkeling while protecting the underwater environment.
Located 48 miles from Florida, Bimini has long enjoyed a reputation among American DEMA members as a pristine diving and fishing location and annually attracts more than 3,000 diving visitors to businesses which belong to the BDA, as well as more than 3,700 annual diving visitors who arrive in private vessels, Ingram noted. Together, they generate more than $19 million a year for the economy of The Bahamas.
“These diving visitors are in addition to the thousands of visitors each year who make the short journey by air or boat to fish in Bimini’s unspoiled waters. These tourists currently spend an annual average of almost $2,800 each on Bimini, including spending at diving operations, hotels, restaurants and other facilities on the island,” he said.
“There is a strong possibility that any negative environmental impact could be long term in nature. Since underwater areas close to popular dive sites are being transformed to accommodate the North Bimini Ferry Terminal, even a partial failure to create the economic benefit projected will be devastating to the long term environmental and economic survival of Bimini.
“In our opinion, the potential economic upside of this project is inadequate when compared to the great risks involved with the potential for failure of this project to create positive economic benefit, and the long-term environmental risks involved.”
May 16, 2014
Save The Bays