The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signifying the longstanding partnership between the two organizations to protect The Bahamas’ natural resources. As the stewards of The Bahamas’ national parks, the BNT’s mandate includes managing national parks to protect The Bahamas’ invaluable natural resources through science, education, conservation, and enforcement. The RBDF has long played an integral role in supporting the BNT’s mission by assisting with enforcement in national parks. In particular, the MOU recognizes the continued presence of the RBDF at the historic Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park (ECLSP), the oldest land and sea park in the world and one of the first marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Caribbean.
The ECLSP serves as a reservoir for marine biodiversity and a sanctuary for some of The Bahamas’ most economically, ecologically, and culturally significant marine resources. Its 174,194 acre boundary protects some of the healthiest reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, and other ecosystems in the country. The park is a complete no-take zone – meaning under no circumstances is any fishing, conching, shelling, or lobstering allowed – and requires high levels of patrolling and enforcement. Despite the RBDF’s well established presence at the ECLSP, working alongside the BNT, an MOU has never been officially signed between the two organizations until now.
BNT Executive Director Eric Carey said, “National parks are sanctuaries for some of The Bahamas’ most invaluable and unique natural resources. Many species depend on these areas, like the ECLSP, in order to survive; and we as Bahamians depend on these species as well. That makes the management and enforcement of these areas critically important. It’s our job as the stewards of national parks to protect The Bahamas’ natural treasures for now and tomorrow, but there are 32 national parks across the country and it would be impossible to do it all on our own.
“Our very important mandate would not be possible without the assistance of the RBDF, whose own work is also vital to the integrity of our country. One of our goals for the ECLSP for this year and beyond is to create capacity for enhanced enforcement of the park, so we’ll be relying on the RBDF even more. In light of that, this MOU signing comes at an opportune time in our plans. We thank the RBDF for their service in support of protecting national parks, and we’re happy to finally officially have this MOU signifying our commitment to working
together after all these years.”
Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Commodore Dr. Raymond King, noted during the ceremony that he has been involved in the BNT-RBDF partnership since its inception. He advised that some time ago when he was a young sublieutenant and captain of one of RBDF’s smaller vessels, he met with then-ECLSP Warden Ray Darville. Commodore King said that there and then, he realized there was an opportunity and a need for RBDF to support the BNT. And that was the beginning of the two organizations working together in support of each other’s goals.
Commodore Dr. Raymond King said, “We thank Mr. Carey and the BNT for agreeing to partner with the RBDF through the signing of this MOU. It is seen as a vital tool to the RBDF as we continue in the execution of our duties of enforcing the laws of The Bahamas with respect to our wildlife and natural resources.
“We also see this as an opportunity for the RBDF to gain more training and education in wildlife enforcement and conservation; and for us to continue in the mandate of guarding our heritage. We’re most grateful.”