The waters of Exuma Cays have been managed as a no-take marine fishery reserve since 1986, allowing populations of commercially important species such as queen conch, Nassau grouper and spiny lobster to thrive. Sea turtles swim throughout coral reefs teeming with marine life.
Exuma Cays located about 65 miles (105 kilometers) southeast of the Bahamian capital Nassau, was the first land and sea park in the world. It is also the oldest national park in The Bahamas. The Bahamas National Trust, a Conservancy partner, established this park in 1959.
Though the park is mostly water, the land is a vital refuge for a small mammal called the hutia, several rare and endangered iguana species and marine birds such as terns and the long-tailed tropicbird that nest high in the bluffs
- Private development of vacation homes and booming tourism are two of the prevailing threats to the park. If not properly managed, these activities destroy native vegetation and lead to increased private and commercial boat traffic. Boats and divers can cause irreparable damage to coral reefs.
- Other threats include offshore channeling and dredging, water pollution and overharvesting of fish and other marine species.
The Conservancy began working with local partner, the Bahamas National Trust, in 2000. The Conservancy supports the park's full-time staff and volunteers in their efforts to build nature trails, fund research, conduct wildlife inventories and establish fees for boaters who use anchors or permanent mooring buoys. The goal is to make the park financially self-sufficient.
The Conservancy also works with the Bahamas National Trust to:
- Encourage stewardship and natural resource preservation by linking government and community efforts focused on training, education and technical assistance.
- Map all vegetation, land and water of Exuma Cays as part of a management plan for the park.
Established in 1959, the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, managed by the Bahamas National Trust, was the first park of its kind in the Caribbean. Over the next 25 years, as pressure on the fisheries and other marine resources in the Exuma islands increased, the Bahamas made the park a “no-take zone.” (It was also the first no-take zone in the Caribbean.)
A no-take zone is exactly what it sounds like: an area that is protected from fishing or other types of marine harvesting or development. By creating a core protected area, where people are still free to sail, swim, snorkel, dive and hike, The Bahamas also protected the fisheries in the waters outside the park.
“Oh yes,” notes Tucker Rolle, a native of the Exuma Cays, “if it weren’t for the park, we’d have been fished out long ago.”
The park supports local fishermen as well as sportfishing and other lucrative tourist industries in the Exumas. The park’s pristine reefs, uninhabited islands, miles of white beaches and the clearest water in the world, attract visitors from around the world.
See some of the wonders of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park