Bahamian Coral Reef Dying because of Golf Course
confirm Great Guana Cay reef is sick
Jan. 20, 2012
GREAT GUANA CAY, Bahamas –Reef-killing fertilizers are seeping from a controversial, shoreline golf course on Great Guana Cay, causing reef-smothering algae blooms and coral disease on one of the Bahamas’ most pristine coral reefs, marine biologists reported at the Abaco Science Alliance conference this month.
Scientists in January surveyed reefs on Great Guana Cay, and confirmed residents’ worst nightmare: coral diseases and algae had risen dramatically on the reefs nearest the sprawling Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club since its 2010 construction.
Golf courses require heavy doses of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides to remain green and attractive. Scientists say this toxic dose of chemicals is seeping through the island’s porous limestone foundation, speeding growth of algae on the fragile reef, and weakening corals, making them much more susceptible to disease.
“These observations provide unambiguous evidence of high nutrient inputs from the golf course to the near-shore waters, with strong negative impacts on water quality and environmental health, along with strong indications that the effects are spreading to the coral reefs offshore,” explained Dr. Tom Goreau, who co-presented the findings at a science conference this month in Abaco.
Residents on Great Guana Cay are locked in an ongoing seven-year court battle against the Bahamas government and Discovery Land Company of Scottsdale, Arizona, developers of the Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club. The government leased the land to developers of the 400-home gated golf community, who promised but failed to deliver on protections for the reef. The Save Guana Cay Reef Association is demanding that developers immediately stop fertilizer leaching into the ocean, and honor their initial promises to mitigate damage and to monitor conditions.
The developers initially promised that they would:
· Slope the course toward drainage canals that would catch the water, and be recycled
· Lay impermeable liners beneath the golf course greens to prevent runoff and contamination of groundwater
· Plant 300-foot-wide buffer zones of special vegetation along the coast to absorb tainted waters that escape the other measures
· Use a special grass that would not require much fertilizer and very little chemicals.
· Have continuous monitoring by a special environmental team from University of Miami and public data access.
The Baker’s Bay website declares the golf course “is receiving rave reviews as one of the finest courses in the Caribbean” – but makes no mention of the environmental impacts. Guana Cay reefs have been particularly important to scientists, due to its high coral cover and diversity.
Thomas Goreau and Dr. James Cervino are coral reef scientists who have been
voluntarily monitoring the reef in relation since 2005, prior to Baker’s Bay
construction activities. In early January 2012 they found clear proof that the
golf course on northwestern Baker’s Bay is leaching into the water. Where the
golf course comes closest to the water there are almost no buffers exist between
the water and the golf course. Red and green algae smothering the shoreline
indicate high nutrients leaching from the porous limestone into the water. This
is the only place on the seven-mile island where the algae are present in such
concentrations. They had not been there before the golf course.
The scientists also visited reefs off of the north end of Guana cay and other sites both up-current and down-current of it, which they had visited 6 years ago. Algae abundance and overgrowth of corals were higher, along with increased levels of cyanobacteria – indicators of high nutrients. In 2005 and 2006 these sites were described as nearly pristine with very little evidence of coral disease, and only one case of coral disease was noted. In 2012, 17 cases of coral disease were noted at the north end of Guana, 3 cases at Fowl Cay, and one at the north control site.
Save Guana Cay Reef was formed in 2005 in response to proposed golf course development on north Guana Cay, Abacos, Bahamas. Our immediate concern were effects of golf course chemicals and fertilizer on surrounding reefs, some within yards of the shoreline. Golf courses need heavy fertilizer to remain green for golf. Pesticides and insecticides are used to control weeds and pests. Fertilizers make algae grow faster and smother living corals. Toxic pesticide and herbicides leaching into the water are also threats to sensitive corals.
Baker’s Bay dismissed Guana Cay residents’ concerns and built the golf course, completed around 2010. Save Guana Cay Reef has not received any of their promised scientific monitoring reports, and the University of Miami team says they have not been affiliated with the project since 2008 – before the golf course was even completed.
We call upon the appropriate authorities to investigate and control this pollution problem before it is too late and one of our most precious resources is destroyed.