Group studying impact of Hurricane Matthew on Bahamas coastlines

Group studying impact of Hurricane Matthew on Bahamas coastlines

Monday, December 26, 2016

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NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) — The marine conservation organisation, Young Marine Explorers (YME), says it is conducting a study to determine the impact of Hurricane Matthew on coastal and marine resources in the Bahamas.

The YME said it is collaborating with the Miami-based Coastal Ecology Lab at the University of Miami on the six-month project which is being funded by the Waitt Foundation, an International organisation with the mission to protect and restore ocean health.

"The passing of Hurricane Matthew coming up from the south to the north of the country has had unprecedented impacts on the people and communities of these four islands. YME teams will look at the loss of natural capital, for example, fish populations, spiny lobster, and mangroves that protect the coasts, from hurricane waves and winds to determine what the potential long-term changes might be to mangroves, beaches and coral reefs," YME said in a statement.

The hurricane battered the country in October leaving millions of dollars in damage. No one was killed during the onslaught of the storm that had been blamed for more than 500 deaths in neighbouring Haiti.

"This hurricane has changed everything; We will be talking about the before and after of this storm for decades to come. This storm will change not only how we live on the island, but will increase our need to understand what changes have occurred just off our shores," said YME’s founder and chief executive officer Nikita Shiel-Rolle.

"This will be the first study of its kind in The Bahamas to actively engage high school students in applied conservation science that will document the natural resource cost of a major storm event," she said.

The YME said that Bahamians are naturally resilient to hurricanes and tropical storms, but after Hurricane Matthew, many people are only just now beginning to see the enormous scale of the growing costs of recovery.

"The indirect costs of hurricanes emerge slowly after the storm; these costs include lost wages, long-term health impacts as well as loss of natural resources. We can easily see the trees and vegetation stripped away on land, but it is much harder to know what the immediate and long-term impacts will be on ocean resources and what this will mean for our economy and well-being.

"Hurricanes and storms in the past, such as Tropical Storm Noel, moved sediment and pollutants into near shore waters, resulting in the die-off of seagrasses and sponges.

"On Long Island, for instance, the passing of the tropical storm in 2007 resulted in a coastal "dead zone" which impacted the livelihood of fishermen throughout the island," the YME said, adding "the size and scope of Hurricane Matthew passing through the entire country presents a unique opportunity to look along the hurricane path from south to north at the damage to a large portion of the marine environment."

According to the YME, "this project will lay the foundation for a long-term monitoring programme that will be managed by Young Marine Explorers.

"The data collected by YME members will produce valuable information that can be used by both governmental and non-governmental agencies."

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