By LETRE SWEETING
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas National Trust yesterday signed a lease agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources for the development of the Seahorse National Park at Sweetings Pond and Hatchet Bay Cave in Eleuthera.
The lease agreement was signed yesterday at a press conference by representatives of the Bahamas Agricultural Industrial Corporation (BAIC), under The Ministry of Agriculture and Bahamas National Trust (BNT).
The development of the 548-acre park is one that has been anticipated throughout successive governments in an effort to protect the highly concentrated seahorse species in Sweetings Pond.
Clay Sweeting, the newly announced Minister of Works and Family Island Affairs and outgoing Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources said this important project would be his final under that portfolio.
“With the assistance of the BNT, this destination, can be protected, preserved and regulated so that natives and visitors can experience these phenomena safely so as to ensure the growth of the population of the seahorses as they have done with the land and sea park and other national sites around the country.
“The lease agreement being signed today aims to strike a balance between economic growth and environmental preservation. It provides guidelines and regulations for sustainable use of Sweetings Pond, ensuring that its unique biodiversity and fragile ecosystem are protected for generations to come.
“By the grace of God, upon the execution of this lease, within one to three years remaining, The BNT will officially open their doors at the Seahorse National Park at Sweetings Pond and I will still be the Member of Parliament for Central and South Eleuthera and see this project officially opened.”
The Central and South Eleuthera MP said Sweetings Pond has been a treasure for Eleuthera for decades.
“It is a unique and ecologically important site in Eleuthera as a natural inland seawater pond that is connected to the ocean through blue holes. One of the remarkable features is its high concentration of seahorses.
“The pond’s waters provide a nursery habitat for numerous fish species such as small reef fish and juvenile sharks. The ecological integrity of Sweetings Pond is of great importance as it serves as a vital part of Eleuthera’s natural heritage.”
BNT executive director Lakeisha Adderley called the move “a pivotal moment for the history of The Bahamas for our national park system and for the people of Eleuthera” as the 33rd addition to the National Park system and the second on Eleuthera.
“Minister Sweeting, you brought us to the finish line,” she said.
“The declaration of Seahorse National Park at Hatchet Bay Cave and Sweetings Pond is more than just a designation; it is our shared promise to community, to future generations, and to the world — that we are committed to conserving our unique and precious natural assets for the benefit of all Bahamians.
“Today’s lease signing is the pinnacle of a decade-long effort of pooling together financial resources, field experts and partners, to support scientific research, educational programmes in local schools, extensive community outreach, stakeholder consultations and advocacy — for the protection of Sweetings Pond and its surrounding environment.”
She added: “We have proactively created a comprehensive conceptual plan that will guide the sustainable development of park infrastructure, amenities, and facilities for public use.
“This includes the development of trails, recreation and entrepreneurial programmes, signage and educational exhibits. We are especially devoted to developing a science-based ecotourism plan to support local businesses on the island while conserving the park’s sensitive natural resources.”