YRE 2024 National Competition Winning Entries

1st Place
Confronting the Devastating Effects of Marine Pollution in The Bahamas
by Dejae Woods
University of the Bahamas

The Bahamas, a paradise with breathtaking beaches, nearly 700 islands and cays (Albury et al., 2024), and the most transparent water on Earth, is under a ticking time bomb. Despite its natural splendor, it grapples with numerous environmental challenges, notably significant marine pollution. The country, heavily reliant on tourism, could face a catastrophic impact if this issue is not promptly addressed. This article aims to shed light on the urgent situation of marine pollution in The Bahamas, exploring its causes, consequences, and viable solutions.

Picture this: a pristine ocean, teeming with life, now tainted by chemical contamination and trash. Marine pollution is not just a distant problem, it’s a grim reality when chemicals and trash are washed, blown, or dumped into the ocean (Texas Disposal Systems, 2020). Marine pollution introduces harmful substances or materials into the sea, directly or indirectly affecting marine life and habitats. Sources of marine pollution include oil spills, sewage discharge, plastics, chemicals, and agricultural runoff.

Every piece of plastic still exists today, and it will continue for hundreds of years, potentially harming marine life and ecosystems. “The marine litter concentration for The Bahamas and the wider Caribbean is almost 3x the global average, and in 2025, the projected plastic accumulation for the Bahamas is expected to increase by some 600 80 million metric tons.”- Kristal “Ocean” Ambrose.

Figure 1.  A rope and other microplastics in the sea, Saunders Beach in Nassau, Bahamas. Photo by Dejae Woods

Marine pollution is widespread across the entire archipelago of The Bahamas. The most affected areas are those close to urban centers and industrial sites, where pollutants are directly discharged into the sea. In Nassau, pollution often comes from cruise ships, urban runoff, and tourism impacts beaches and coastal waters; Freeport industrial discharge and shipping activities also contribute to water pollution. Even remote areas face pollution from local waste generation and ocean currents carrying debris. Remote Islands like Andros’ Barrier Reef suffer pollution from agriculture, and development endangers coral reefs. In Bimini, tourism and coastal development pose pollution risks to marine ecosystems.

Marine pollution affects marine life and the human population. It not only threatens aquatic life but also endangers the health of Bahamians. Consuming fish caught in polluted waters can lead to severe health issues, including congenital disabilities, liver damage, and cancer (EPA, 2014). Chemical pollutants accumulate in fish tissues, posing significant risks to locals and tourists who consume them.

Tourists are drawn to our country for its pristine beaches and clear waters, making tourism a vital economic driver. Yet, marine pollution diminishes the visual appeal of beaches and coastal areas, deterring visitors and impacting local economies heavily reliant on tourism revenue. Water pollution discourages tourists from participating in popular water-based activities like snorkeling and diving, leading to decreased visitor numbers and substantial economic repercussions for coastal communities.

Figure 2. An aerial view of the oil spill in Exuma, Bahamas. Photo by: Reno Curling

 Marine pollution can damage or destroy habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves, and wetlands. These habitats provide essential nurseries, feeding grounds, and shelter for aquatic species to grow and reproduce; marine life will decline significantly without these habitats.

Marine pollution has been a persistent concern in the Bahamas for decades. As industrialization and urbanization accelerated globally, pressures on aquatic ecosystems have increased. The issue has worsened recently due to rapid tourism growth, urban development, and escalating plastic production. Marine pollution remains an ongoing challenge in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas as time passes, steadily worsening each year.

Marine pollution presents a pressing issue in the Bahamas due to its heavy reliance on tourism, pristine beaches, and coastal ecosystems. Rapid urbanization and coastal development contribute to increased pollution, while the rise in global plastic production leads to a surge in plastic waste entering marine environments. Industrial activities, including chemical pollutants and oil spills, further exacerbate pollution levels.

Climate change compounds these challenges, threatening coastal ecosystems and aquatic life. Altogether, marine pollution jeopardizes the health of ecosystems, undermines the tourism industry, and poses risks to human health and livelihoods in the Bahamas. Addressing this issue demands concerted efforts to mitigate pollution sources, promote sustainable practices, and protect marine biodiversity.

Addressing marine pollution is a shared responsibility that requires a collective effort from the government, private sector, and public. The government must strengthen environmental regulations, enforce them effectively, and invest in waste management infrastructure. The private sector should adopt sustainable practices and technologies to reduce its ecological footprint. Reducing single-use plastics is crucial in combating marine pollution, as items like bags, bottles, and straws contribute significantly to the problem. Encouraging reusable alternatives and implementing plastic bans can curb plastic waste entering the ocean.

Promoting proper waste management practices, including recycling and responsible disposal, is essential in preventing litter from reaching waterways. Strengthening regulations and investing in spill response technologies are vital in addressing the threats of oil spills from shipping and industrial activities. Educating the public about marine pollution is essential for fostering individual and collective action. Together, these measures can effectively safeguard marine ecosystems for future generations.

In conclusion, marine pollution seriously threatens the Bahamas’ natural beauty, biodiversity, and economic vitality. Urgent action is needed to address this pressing issue, which jeopardizes the health of marine ecosystems and communities. We can work towards a cleaner, healthier future for our oceans and shores by implementing stringent regulations, promoting sustainable practices, and raising public awareness. Collaboration and collective effort are vital to confronting the devastating effects of marine pollution and ensuring the long-term resilience of the Bahamas’ marine environment.

Works Cited

Albury, E. Paul, David Russell Harriss, and Gail Saunders. “The Bahamas | History, Geography, & Points of Interest.” Ed. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica 1 Mar. 2024. Web. 4 Mar. 2024.

EPA. Should I Eat the Fish I Catch? A Guide to Healthy Eating of the Fish You Catch for More Information. 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2024.

One, Only. “Plastic Warriors.” only. One. N.p., 25 Mar. 2021. Web. 24 Apr. 2024.

Texas Disposal Systems. “Ocean Pollution: Causes, Effects and Prevention | TDS Blog.” Texas Disposal Systems. N.p., 1 Dec. 2020. Web. 4 Mar. 2024.

2nd Place
The Shape of Things to Come

Shania Higgs
C.R. Walker High School

Mangrove Deforestation near Bonefish Pond
Photo by Shania Higgs

Caption: You and I would be knee deep in hot water if it weren’t for
mangroves. Between marine and terrestrial communities, mangroves are a
physical buffer. During times of severe weather, they protect the coastlines
and reduce soil erosion. Additionally, they house premature marine
organisms to give them a proper chance to develop. Yet, in the last twenty
years, many mangroves have been lost due to human greed and urban
expansion. With only a simple stroll to a nearby mangrove forest, the eye
is met with a shocking yet truthful juxtaposition, illustrating the shape of
things to come.

3rd Place
For Our Islands, For Our Planet: Voices of The Bahamas

Lauren Scriven
Lyford Cay International School

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