Rainbow Parrott fish

Those who have been diving with Ocean Fox Cotton Bay for the last year and a half have likely heard Al discuss our desire to create a Marine Protected or Preserve Area at Blackbeard’s Treasure Hole. Our desire is to create a small Preserve area, likely the size of 2 or 3 football fields (300′ by 900′) so as to not take away a “local fishing area” of any size, but large enough to do a field study with local high school students doing monthly fish counts and coral re-birth documentation.

Our plan is to recruit 8-10 high school students each year from the High Schools in Palmetto Point, Windemer, Rock Sound and Deep Creek who would venture out to the Marine Protected Area once a month and take pictures of the coral and do fish counts. Ocean Fox Cotton Bay would provide all of the necessary equipment, supervision and transportation to the reef for the High School students. In exchange the students would prepare a science paper documenting the changes in the reef , identifing the various species of fish, coral and other marine creatures found on the reef environment during a 12 month period in conjunction with their science class teachers.

We would work together with the local community to promote the concept of Marine Protected Areas as a way to preserve the delicate marine life balance on the reef.  Having a Marine Protected area  benefits  the fishermen as the area works as a breeding ground, and it benefits  the community, as snorkeling and diving tourists love to visit protected or preserve areas. We would use this as a demonstration project for Eleuthera in the hopes that the documented success in one area would motivate the community to develop marine protected areas in other Settlements to encourage more tourism on Eleuthera. This would provide snorkel or dive sites that could be reached from shore, called shore diving, which we really do not have on the island at this time.

The body of water on the South end of Eleuthera is called Exuma Sound, which is a tongue of the Atlantic bound by Exuma on the West, Eleuthera on the North and Cat Island to the East. From the Southeast tip of Eleuthera (Lighthouse Beach) to the Northwest tip at Cape Eleuthera is approximately 22 miles along the wall. Blackbeard’s Treasure Hole is the best shallow reef on the entire coast of South Eleuthera.

There are at least 19 different species of coral on Blackbeard’s Treasure Hole. Excellent, healthy and thriving species, which if we could restore some of the fish balance would be even more vibrant and would rebuild the food source for the marine life. Part of the reason is the boiling hole itself, which provides cold clean water to the reef system twice a day as the tide on the Atlantic side of the Island begins to rise about an hour and a half before the tide starts to rise on the south end of Eleuthera. This tidal event pushes water under the island and up through the boiling hole, which is an entrance to a vast network of limestone caverns below sea level.

We at Ocean Fox Cotton Bay feel very passionate about the need to create a Marine Protected or Preserve area of limited size as a demonstration project to help the economy of Eleuthera and further the education of everyone on how delicate the marine environment is and what we can all do to protect the beautiful gift Eleuthera has been given.

It has be “hinted” to us that to do the demonstration project we will need the support or endorsement of a “Nationally” recognized organization which we are trying to find. We are not asking for monetary support, and while we are a small operation,  we will fund what we have laid out in order to get the project started. We need some known organization or University to “bless” our project. Of course if they wanted to help with organizing or providing guidance on how best to implement the project we would gladly welcome the help and support as well as invite them to come and witness the project first hand.

If you would like to help with our efforts to develop a Marine Protected Area, forward this blog to anyone who might be interested, any organization which we could contact and might be interested in supporting our project; post this on your Facebook, Twitter or any social media account and help us spread the word.

If you have a “local dive shop” send it to them as well and ask them to post or link the blog. Together we can make this happen on Eleuthera.

Eleuthera is a wonderful place, friendly people, excellent food, unpopulated beaches and some great diving which would be enhanced with a few strategic Marine Protected Areas on the Island which could be accessed from shore in Settlements like Governor’s Harbour and Rock Sound. We just need a demonstration project where now we have the boats, equipment and personnel available to make it happen.

Spotfin Butterfly fish
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