NASSAU – Longstanding tensions between Resorts World Bimini and the residents on that island were brought to the fore this week after mounds of Styrofoam were seen floating in the ocean, suspected to be part of damage Hurricane Irma brought to the luxury hotel’s floating docks.
Irate residents are now demanding the government step in.
Videos and photos of the huge mounds of Styrofoam floating atop open waters have been circulated across social media sites this week, most with users urging the immediate restoration of the often-debated, critical marine habitat.
Denver Stuart, a life-long resident of Bimini, interviewed by The Tribune Wednesday, insisted things on the island were set to go from bad to worse following Hurricane Irma.
He told The Tribune: “This has been a problem for days now. I’ve seen it since Sunday. As soon as you get out on the water you see the pieces of foam just floating around. This is not good because the birds are eating it, the fish are eating it and even the turtles are eating the Styrofoam.”
Mr Stuart said the people of Bimini have long been an environmentally conscious society that treat their surroundings as an extension of their homes.
“They’re supposed to layout a silk curtain to catch it from day one, but they didn’t,” Mr Stuart claimed. “Now, it’s floating everywhere and it’s causing a big issue. This is an important marine area.”
In July, residents protested RAV Bahamas/OPAC and its partner the Genting Group, which have invested heavily in the island, mainly through Resorts World Bimini, for their alleged inaction in protecting the island’s marine ecosystem.
In a letter from Bimini residents to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, residents complained that nothing has been done to protect Bimini’s marine habitats.
“The resort has created an influx of visitors to the island, but at the expense of the people,” the letter noted. “The number of visitors to Bimini is greater than the island can handle sustainably, creating negative impact on the local natural resource.
“The vacuous promises laid out in the mitigation measures dating back to phase one of this development are still unfulfilled.”
The residents said they want clarification on how much Crown land Gerardo Capo has received and what would be the legal implications for his development of land on the North Bimini Marine Reserve and the East Wells area if a marine protected area (MPA) is approved.
Mr Stuart yesterday indicated that if the ordeal isn’t addressed soon, things could again take a turn for the worse as residents will not “sit back and allow all this foolishness to take place.”
Resorts World Bimini (RWB) released a statement in response to questions from The Tribune on the concerns yesterday.
The hotel did not specifically address the floating Styrofoam, but noted that it was aware of the issue.
“The island of Bimini was hit by Hurricane Irma with widespread damage across the island, including the marina located at Resorts World Bimini. After evacuating our employees early to allow locals the ability to evacuate during the latter part of the week, Resorts World offered space in the Hilton hotel for refuge during the storm for all those that chose to stay,” the hotel said.
“Damage assessments and cleanup efforts were mobilised as soon as the island became accessible and are ongoing as additional team members are being asked to return and assist. An announcement will be made when resort operations are able to resume.”
Attempts to contact Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira were also unsuccessful Wednesday.