Concern Over Coot Pond ‘Commercialisation’

May 31, 2017

[Updated] The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce [BEST] and Greenrock said they are “concerned about the creeping commercialisation of areas outside of the five beaches plan of the Bermuda Tourism Authority.”

“Under the existing plan only five beaches are designated for development and concessions – Horseshoe Bay, John Smith’s Bay, Shelley Bay, Clearwater Beach and Tobacco Bay,” a statement from the groups said.

“Despite this, we are seeing the commercialisation of Coot Pond, an environmentally sensitive site to the east of [and separate from] Tobacco Bay.

“We welcome jobs for Bermudians and enhancements to Bermuda’s tourism product. However, we cannot endorse activities which do so at the expense of Bermuda’s environment and risk undermining Bermuda’s tourism product in the long-term.

“Coot Pond is an ecologically sensitive area; the landward edges of the bay is composed entirely of nature reserve, coastal reserve and parkland. The bay provides an important mangrove and seagrass habitat, providing key roosting areas for herons and a protected area for juvenile fish and lobsters.

“The seagrass also serves as a feeding ground for juvenile green sea turtles that frequent the bay. It is also a key breeding ground for fry and other baitfish – this is marked by it being one of the few bays closed to net fishing for baitfish.

“While the bay has historically been used as a safe harbour for fishing boats, these boats are on established moorings and are not coming in and out of the bay on an hourly basis. The presence of these existing boats has a qualitatively and quantitatively different ecological impact than the bay being used as the base of operations for a water sports company, including the siting of a floating dock for jet skis.

“We have concerns about the impact of the regular operation of jet skis going in and out of Coot Pond on the local ecology of the area. There is the risk of the seagrass in the bay being damaged by sediments and turbidity from these operations, while turtles and herons will likely be displaced.

“There is also the risk of the bay, an important nursery ground, being disrupted leading to long-term impacts to our fisheries, especially to the already critically low levels of large predatory fish on our reefs.

“We welcome tourists to our beaches and their enjoyment of our waters. And we welcome the continued [but environmentally sensitive] development of the already named five beaches for tourism purposes.

“However, we are opposed to the creeping development of natural places outside of the five beaches. What is the point of encouraging tourists to visit Bermuda for our nature if in the process we are destroying that very nature?

“We are also concerned about the process that has given permission for this operation despite the safeguarding zonings, the prohibition against fishing nets, and the commitments from the Parks Department and the Bermuda Tourism Authority to limit commercial development to the five mentioned beach/parks.

“We remind the public and our leaders that this venture will be using a public resource. The public ought to be informed and have an opportunity for input before a limited public resource such as this is given over to commercial exploitation.

“We note also that on February 3rd, 2017, in the House of Assembly, the then Minister of the Environment Cole Simons discussed the work to date on developing a marine spatial plan for Bermuda.

“We believe that this commercial encroachment in Coot Pond highlights precisely why we need a marine spatial plan and stronger regulations to protect our sensitive marine areas.”

Update 10.18am: BTA Director Of Public & Stakeholder Relations Glenn Jones said, “While the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s Beach Economy Vision has bipartisan political support and broad public support [including positive feedback from BEST], it would be premature to say all the beach relevant departments of the government have fully adopted our proposal. We are working with partners where we can find them and trying to overcome obstacles where they exist. We created a national vision for our beaches because our visitors want an enhanced beach experience and because Bermudian entrepreneurs are relying on us to facilitate the creation of jobs and opportunity on Bermuda’s shoreline.

“The Bermuda Tourism Authority has no authority over who is granted beach concessions approvals and the relevant authorities have not sought our viewpoint as it relates to this particular concession, but generally speaking we support entrepreneurs who want to provide experiences for visitors – particularly adventure-seeking options that appeal to younger audiences now attracted to Bermuda. And while our vision is focused on enhancements at five public beaches, it’s sensible to have non-permanent, non-intrusive concessions at other locations where there is user demand to support small business operations. In most cases, we believe non-permanent concessions and visitor excursions can be created while at the same time balancing the environmental sensibilities which are critical to the sustainability of our tourism product.”

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Comments (12)

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  1. save out environment says:

    There are a few things here that need looking into can someone look at the original MOU and the paper trail carefully you will discover that the persons in Parks made certain recomendations the tourism authority and PS marched to a different beat that created this problem

  2. Hopeful............ says:

    Which authority grants permission for the water sport to operate in this area? If this is a “closed area”, how then, were they permitted to operate. Minister for the environment should pull the permission immediately…………

  3. redamtibi says:

    When will we learn? If this beautiful area is commercialized it is finished…never to be the same.

  4. Leslie says:

    But what BEST omits is the strong, unified voice exerted by area residents, which brought this dismal affair to light. The article could mislead the reader into thinking BEST was the primary, initial objector. But then again; BEST knows politics…and to this day, they tacitly avoid major enviro-impacts such as ‘Raw-sewage Discharge into Inshore Waters’; The use of Castle Harbour East as a Dump-site for Mixed-metals being a perennial “top two enviro-insults which have managed to escape the scrutiny of our government and local environmentalist-nogo’s.”
    This matter will undoubtedly be discussed at the next Marine Resources Board meeting next on Tuesday, June 6th. The main mission has been accomplished, in any case.

    • Stuart Hayward says:

      Hey Leslie, it’s pretty obvious that we (BEST) need someone like you to help us select targets for our attention. Come on over to the green side. Give us a call and help us do it right.
      -Stuart Hayward 292-3782

  5. Clarity says:

    The bay will be permanently mashed up in a month of temporary activity . The BTA should not imply they support environmentally damaging activities even if they are “temporary”.

  6. Real Onion says:

    LEAVE COOT POND ALONE!…..Case Closed.

  7. Vote for Me says:

    Come on people.

    Recommend an alternate location.

    Clearwater Beach, St. George Harbor, Tobacco Bay??

  8. aceboy says:

    The caves in Tom Moore’s jungle are being destroyed by the tour operators taking group after group in there off the cruise ships. Apparently that asset belongs to them. I went for the last time with my family last summer and one of the tour guides tried to make me line up to go in the cave. The line they wanted us to stand in (which I absolutely refused to stand in…who did this youngster think she was?)was comprised of cruisers all standing in thick brown mud created by group after group coming out of the cave wet from swimming. All that mud ended up in the cave on the feet of subsequent groups. I have watched groups throw those glow sticks into the cave and never retrieve them. Sad.

    • sage says:

      Not good, that needs to be addressed right away, the caves and the area are protected or supposed to be the eco-system within is fragile, apparently no one is monitoring the situation and all the mud and sunblock and god knows what else may have caused irreversible damage already.

  9. Cromwell says:

    “The BTA should not imply they support environmentally damaging activities” by their omission they are doing just that. Money and their improved tourism figures before the environment. That is self destructive behavior and some time in the future will be found politically unsustainable.

    The OBA should be held accountable. The previous Minister Cole Simmons would not have allowed that Coot Pond situation to happen or his own voters would turn against him.

    Cole you need to fix the situation now before the election.

  10. Food for Thought says:

    Shelly Bay is also protected against jet skis, no? It’s also a breeding ground for fry and other small bait fish. It’s also an excellent source of sea grass for turtles and parrot fish. You’ll often find heron looking for their dinner along the shallows. Let’s NOT relocate this jet ski business to Shelly Bay.

    Where is the Minister of the Environment on these issues? Mr. Richards – with your recent re-election, perhaps help to shed a little light?

    Stay positive Bermuda; stay peaceful as issues are resolved. ✌