How Bahamas fishermen are preserving their paradise from risky mining


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The crystalline saltwater flats around the island of Andros, The Bahamas, are filled with lightning-quick bonefish that beguile sport fishers. Vast nurseries of knotty mangroves and seagrass beds shelter baby spiny lobster, snapper and other juvenile fish. Its barrier reef, the world’s third largest, is home to more than 164 species of coral and fish. And the island’s pine forest supports rare birds, including the critically endangered Bahama oriole.


“I can reach outside right now and pluck an avocado,” says Prescott Smith, one of about 8,000 Andros residents. “This place is really a paradise.”


Andros is also where the Bahamas Materials Company has proposed a 5,000 acre limestone mine that could put this precious ecosystem at risk.

Local conservationists fight back

Smith, a fly fishing guide and local conservation leader, is one of several Bahamian environmentalists who have been speaking out against the mine. “This will be devastating to fishing,” he says.


Mining for limestone, which is widely used in construction, is a multibillion dollar industry. It has been associated with water contamination and scarcity, soil degradation, air pollution and sinkhole collapses.


In a June 2022 letter to the prime minister, several conservation groups, including Bahamas Sportfishing Conservation Association, Environmental Defense Fund and others detailed their concerns about the potential impacts of the mine on the environment and the 500-plus local jobs that depend on healthy land and seas.


In August, these efforts seemed to pay off. The Bahamas Investment Authority rejected the proposal — a surprising move for an agency created to smooth the way for investors.


But celebrations of the victory could be short-lived. The company has said it will continue to pursue the project, which has other avenues for approval.

Battling mining misinformation

Many people in The Bahamas are not aware of mining risks, says Smith.


BMC has been campaigning intensively for community support on Andros. The company’s promotional materials promise to create 151 permanent jobs and an estimated $1 million in community development funds. In 2020, BMC donated a firetruck to the local government in North Andros.


To help the community make an informed decision, EDF and the nonprofit Community and College Partners Program reached out to the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange, a program that connects communities with scientists, to find Sophie Huss, a Michigan State University geologist who studies sustainable mining.


Huss is now leading a team of seven volunteer scientists to develop an environmental impact brief on the project. She’s participating in information sessions for community members, as well as meeting with local and national officials, to discuss the potential impacts of the mine.


A major concern is the risk to Andros’ freshwater lens, an underground formation that is the largest freshwater resource in The Bahamas. Fresh water is increasingly threatened across the Caribbean, due to sea level rise and hurricane-induced storm surges, which bring saltwater into the system.


At a proposed depth of 80 feet, mining would break through the lens, opening it to contamination. And because Andros’ limestone land base is porous and riddled with caves, “pollution can travel through very easily,” says Huss.


Polluted groundwater would enter streams and then flow out to coastal waters, contaminating the coral reef, mangroves and seagrass beds on which more than 100 fish species — and thousands of people — depend.

Community-based conservation

The mine’s supporters on Andros say it offers a rare opportunity for economic development. But Smith and others see a future based on sustainable use of Andros’s natural resources. Smith has trained hundreds of fly fishing guides in The Bahamas, helping build a $170 million angling industry, and has founded three nonprofits dedicated to conservation and education.


“People prey on communities who are not aware of what’s at stake,” Smith says. “True conservation is about equality. When people realize they can earn a living from a sustainable use of the environment, they will protect those resources.”


This article will appear in the Winter 2023 edition of EDF’s Solutions magazine. Join EDF and receive the magazine for free!



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This art is garbage. Literally


Washed Ashore is hoping to teach people about marine debris and plastic pollution through epic, giant artworks of sea creatures … all of which are made from, you guessed it, ocean garbage.


According to Washed Ashore’s website, the organization works with artists and scientists to educate the public on how consumer habits can cost sea creatures their habits, homes and even their lives. They hope to teach exhibit-goers that “every action counts.” The traveling exhibit has been on display at the U.S. State Department, United Nations, The Smithsonian National Museum’s Ocean Hall and more. You can learn more about Washed Ashore’s mission online.


Check out some of Washed Ashore out-of-this-world, large-scale sculptures and wall pieces below!


This great white shark seems even more, well, great, when you remember it’s made from debris from the ocean!


The detail on this giant penguin named Gertrude is stunning!


This gigantic jellyfish is larger than life!


This colorful turtle was created against the backdrop of its very own ocean, complete with algae and a jellyfish friend!


The Whale Ribs arch is a popular attraction since visitors can walk through it and marvel and the craftsmanship from both inside and outside the arch.


Priscilla the Parrot is a colorful feat that will surely capture your attention.


SeeMore offers viewers a rather realistic depiction of a sea lion, considering it’s made completely from sea rubbish.


This blue marlin artwork is one of many from Washed Ashore that is sturdy enough to be displayed outside!


The magnificent red octopus truly shows off how garbage can be turned into a work of art.


This giant shark comes with its own patch of sea algae, coral and more!


You almost won’t believe this sturgeon is made from garbage; it looks so realistic and life-like!


This patriotic bald eagle stands tall with its wings outstretched to the sky.


One of many jellyfish made through Washed Ashore, this gumdrop jellyfish stands tall over a bed of colorful sea coral.


The tufted penguin’s hair truly does look like, well, hair! And its orange eyes, beak and feet stand out against its black coloring.


The blue and orange trigger fish floats atop some algae and rope.


You’ll fall in love with this adorably cute polar bear named Daisy!


This whale tail statue really shows off just how big the whale is!


Hugo isn’t the only humpback on display! Meet Grace, who has an equally impressive and artistic tail.


The silvertip shark is showed off through this model made entirely of ocean debris.


This heartwarming depiction of two penguins will almost make you forgot about the fact that they’re made from trash found in the ocean.


Edward “swims” with a jellyfish in this colorful ocean display!


Natasha hopes you think twice about littering as she catches some waves!


With its flippers outstretched, Brody stands tall over visitors.


This happy seal sits on a bed of colorful items found deep beneath the ocean’s surface.


Zorabelle is one of man penguins on display at Washed Ashore’s traveling exhibits.


Finn looks like it’s practically swimming in this extravagant sculpture.


Leo is so tall that we couldn’t even capture its whole body in one photo!


Creamsicle’s tentacles are both impressive and elegant!


Marigold is a colorful jellyfish made with primarily yellow, orange and white debris.


This blackberry jellyfish is another massive sculpture made for Washed Ashore’s traveling exhibits.


This epic salmon swims on a sea of vibrant blue water, complete with white foam on top of the wave it’s swimming on.


This adorable river otter stands on a bed of rock with flowers and algae peeking out of its crevices.


Angus is made out of vibrant yellow debris and floats on top of a bed of algae.


This clownfish stands out against a pastel-colored sea anemone.


Bella the blue angelfish certainly looks angelic on top of this vibrant coral reef!


Flip Flop is one of many artworks designed to be displayed on the walls of Washed Ashore’s exhibit spaces.


Fish Bite is a green and blue artwork displayed on a exhibit space’s wall.


Stella is a green, white and yellow seahorse with features made from various pieces of ocean debris, including brooms, mops and combs.


This patriotic sea star is made out of, you guessed it, pieces of red, white and blue ocean trash.


These incredibly detailed masks almost look like they’re straight out of a museum, but they’re actually straight out of the ocean!


Like what you see? You can learn more about the artwork and where they’re visiting next on



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