By COLLEGE OF THE BAHAMAS, For The Guardian
The Marine and Environmental Studies Institute at The College of The Bahamas has been selected by the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund (DWCF) for a $12,000 award for its work on the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish in The Bahamas.
Specifically, the DWCF funds will go toward ecological research and the establishment and management of an online information network for the National Lionfish Response Team in The Bahamas.
The Commonwealth of The Bahamas faces significant challenges in the management and protection of marine resources over the 1,200 kilometer-long archipelago. Well-known stressors on the marine environment include over-fishing, pollution and climate change. The threats posed by invasive marine species, however, is less familiar to both scientists and the general public alike but is becoming increasingly significant due to globalization and its concomitant rises in the rate and magnitude of biological invaders.
Biological invaders, also referred to as “invasive species”, are non-native species that become established in a new environment and proliferate and spread in ways that may noticeably impact native populations, species or entire ecosystems. The recent introduction of the Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans) to the western Atlantic Ocean is of special concern to The Bahamas due to the unknown but potentially adverse effects of lionfish on native fisheries and the ecology of Bahamian coastal systems. Furthermore, the venomous nature of lionfish may present a human safety risk to uninformed beach goers, divers, and commercial and recreational fishermen.
The Marine and Environmental Studies Institute at The College of The Bahamas, in collaboration with the Department of Marine Resources, is creating a long-term national lionfish response plan that entails a partnership between both local and regional government and non-governmental agencies. The plan focuses on: 1) ecological research, 2) invasion management and policy development, and 3) educational initiatives to understand the implications of the establishment of lionfish in The Bahamas.
COB President Janyne Hodder said: “The College is pleased to be a partner in a project that has the potential of protecting the precious natural environment of this country. By virtue of our mission to teach, to carry research and to offer service to the nation, we are particularly suited to ensuring the development of sustainable solutions to the problems of the nation. This particular project also builds on talent and capacity which already exists at The College and we are grateful to the talent and dedication of Dr. Kathleen Sullivan-Sealy and her colleagues at the Marine and Environmental Studies Institute.”
The College of The Bahamas was selected from more than 260 applications reviewed by scientists, veterinarians and other animal experts.
The organizations range from large national groups to small community efforts, from Africa to Florida, and in total received more than $1.5 million in awards, bringing the DWCF total to more than $11 million in conservation projects supported.
“Our company has a commitment to the environment that dates back to Walt Disney himself,” said Jerry Montgomery, senior vice president of Conservation and Environmental Sustainability for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “Protecting wildlife and wild places through the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund is a key component of our mission.”
The Marine and Environmental Studies Institute at The College of The Bahamas is a multidisciplinary research unit committed to building national capacity in long-term environmental research, monitoring and information management. This research unit is focused on special issues related to the sustainable use and management of marine and other natural resources. By collaborating with Bahamian Government Ministries and international research institutions, The Marine and Environmental Studies Institute at The College of the Bahamas engages in projects that meet critical information gaps at the national level. The Institute strives ultimately to produce peer-reviewed publications that influence sustainable development on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in general and national policy in particular. This award acknowledges the role of The Marine and Environmental Studies Institute at The College of the Bahamas in long-term marine research and monitoring.
The Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund receives a significant annual donation from The Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney World Resort covers the fund’s administrative costs.
“In addition to our company’s contributions, many guests who visit Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Cruise Line share their personal commitment to conservation by making a donation to the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund,” added Montgomery. “Disney guests who are inspired by the fund are able to participate knowing that 100 percent of their donation goes toward conservation.”
- For a complete list of Disney Wildlife Conservation projects visit www.disneywildlifefund.com