On October 10, the CEI team headed to Wemyss Bight Homecoming to spread the word about the lionfish invasion. The team was armed with a large batch of lionfish fritters to give everyone the chance to taste these invaders. The booth grabbed lots of attention from a large range of age groups, enticed by the live lionfish in a tank and the smell from the fritters! Most people had the perception that lionfish were poisonous and wanted to know if it was safe to try the fritters. The misconception that lionfish are poisonous is a large problem facing the management of the invasion, as it reduces the demand for lionfish!
After educating people that lionfish were in fact venomous (therefore the meat contained no toxins) and extremely tasty, the fritters were a hit! Earrings made from lionfish fins were also on show, enabling us to increase awareness surrounding the lionfish jewellery market, another great way to increase incentive for the removal of the invaders from reefs. The team will be continuing to attend events like these in the future, passing on knowledge and changing people’s opinions on lionfish.
The Slayer Campaign has been a huge success at the Cape Eleuthera Institute this year, and we’re well on our way to setting a new record for the total catch this season. The initiative provides the perfect opportunity for local fishermen, while also removing invasive lionfish from the reefs. Here at CEI we always make sure the fillets are passed on to our kitchen staff so that the taste can be shared throughout the community.
The true spearing skills of our local fishermen were recently highlighted by the size of one lionfish in particular, whose total length reached a rather impressive 44 cm. You may remember we recently set an official record here at the Cape Eleuthera Institute with a 42 cm fish. So, when this new record breaker was laid before us on the dissection table, we decided to submit the numbers (and photo to prove it!) to the wider international community of fellow lionfish slayers. We can now proudly announce that our own 44 cm lionfish is the new official record for the whole Bahamas. Great work Dennis Johnson and Leonardo Butler for slaying this fish!
If you’re curious, the world record is currently held at 47.7 cm, so we’re not too far behind! Check out the Lionfish.co website for more details.
On Friday 18th September, Dr. Owen O’Shea of the Shark Research and Conservation Program along with Shark Program intern Amanda Billotti and Educational Program leaders, Anna Zuke and Lydia Geschiere made the trip to Spanish Wells’ All Ages School to deliver a workshop to 36 students from 11th and 12th grade as well as their teachers. This was the first time that CEI scientists have visited this tiny fishing community off the north coast of Eleuthera to share the exciting work we do here. During the workshop students were given presentations about the evolution ecology and importance of rays and sharks, particularly in Bahamian waters lead by both Dr. Owen O’Shea and Amanda Billotti. One of the main themes touched upon was the importance of these ancient animals as economic resources in The Bahamas; discussing how a living shark or ray is of greater value as a tourism tool, then a dead one at market.
The students then participated in group discussions where they were able to collaborate amongst themselves to demonstrate and share what they had learned. Four key concepts were randomly assigned to each of four groups, and the CEI team mentored a group each, before a student from each team presented their groups responses to the class – these topics included discussing the ecological role of these animals in marine ecosystems and global challenges to the conservation of these animals.
CEI research teams in collaboration with the Educational Program team are striving to increase outreach to other communities on Eleuthera. Each month will see representatives of the Shark Research and Conservation Program travel to a different school to deliver interactive workshops and discussion with students about these most valuable of marine resources.
CEI and team EP aims to continue to promote internship opportunities to Bahamian students, and this was warmly received by all of the students we interacted with last week.
While all visiting groups are special to us here at CEI, certain ones touch our hearts in unique and unexpected ways. Akhepran International Academy, visiting us for the first time from Nassau, was one group that made a big impact in their short time with us.
On Monday August 24, 10 students along with 2 teachers arrived from New Providence and jumped straight into the island school life. They had a jam packed day to orient them to our campus, complete with a sustainable systems tour and awesome day one snorkeling.
The rest of the week had a large emphasis on working with our research teams and discussing the implications of their work on our world. Lloyd Allen, head chaperone and a teacher at Akhepran, has a big vision for his scholars and hoped that in their time here they would see the plethora of career options in sciences and engineering and be inspired to pursue their passions.
Some students have dreams of being engineers. These students really enjoyed learning about our aquaponics system with Michael Bowleg and spoke excitedly about going home and engineering their own aquaponics system at home. Others dream of being marine biologists and, after a morning learning about and dissecting lionfish, want to go back to Nassau and tell everyone they know about this invasive species and get them to eat lionfish instead of more commonly overfished species.
These examples are just the beginning of this group’s studies.
Their curiosity, questions, and positive approach to life made them a joy to spend the week with. By the end of the week many spoke about how their perspectives on the ocean had shifted and they had learned to love the ocean they grew up around even more. One student said, “every time a wave hits against me it’s like a kiss from mother nature” and another admitted that she had fears about the ocean, but that swimming in it and “being one with the fish” showed her she didn’t need to be so afraid.
This was truly a week of growth and inspiration, and even though their trip was cut short by threats of a hurricane, we look forward to this relationship and have hopes to visit their school in Nassau in the future.
On Friday, August 21st, the Shark Research and Conservation Program at the Cape Eleuthera Institute was once again honored to host and be involved with 22 young Bahamian students from the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) Eleuthera Sea Camp for a full day of research-related activities. Friday capped off a week-long summer camp focused on the Eleuthera’s marine environment, and the relationships that residents of the Bahamas have with that environment.
Firstly, students were introduced to our systems and facilities via a 60-minute walking tour of campus including a visit to our permaculture farm, aquaponics system, wet lab, and biodiesel facility. At each stop, members of the community informed students about sustainable farming practices, biodiesel production, and how we grow fish to not only eat, but that help us grow our lettuce and herbs. Following the campus tour, the students ate a picnic lunch at the Boathouse with members of the Shark Team.
The afternoon was full-on, filled with the CEI shark research team, shark handling demonstrations, and a stingray tagging experience. Research Technician Cameron Raguse kicked things off with a short presentation on shark ecology, explaining their role as a top-predator in the Bahamas and how integral they are to maintaining a stable ecosystem. The students then split into groups alternating between two activities: one with Dr. Owen O’Shea and his team for stingray tagging; and one with University of Illinois graduate student, Ian Bouyoucos demonstrating shark handling and physiology. In each case, the students got an in-depth look at research here at CEI, as well as getting up-close with some often misunderstood animals.
At the end of the day, the group left with a better understanding of elasmobranchs as a whole, and a deeper appreciation for the wildlife right at their doorstep.
Friday, July 24th marked the culmination of the 20th summer of the South Eleuthera Children’s Camp at Cape Eleuthera. Fourteen children between the ages of 8 and 14 attended the one-week camp designed to introduce campers to the ocean and teach them about marine issues and conservation. For many young campers, this was their first contact with the ocean and on day one they are taught to face their fears of the sea as they dive in and learn how to swim. One camp counselor describes her first day as “inspiring” and “of real importance to children who live in such close proximity to the ocean”. All 14 campers passed their swim test and three days later dove into the deep blue of the Exuma Sound. When asked about their favorite part of camp, many children stated that facing their fears and jumping into the deep blue sea was the highlight of their journey.
Aside from learning to swim, the campers learned about ocean conservation and the marine creatures that inhabit their waters. At the end of the week, each camper gave a presentation of what they had learned to an audience of master student scientists from around the world.
Two current, CapeEleuthera Island School employees were among the first campers in the two-decade-old tradition. Sammy Dorset of Tarpum Bay, attended the camp at age 15 and Shamara Burrows of Waterford, attended at age 9.
For both Sammy and Shamara, this camp was their first encounter with Island School founders, Chris and Pam Maxey and, for Shamara, her first encounter with the ocean and learning to swim.
Both Shamara and Sammy are now key contributors to The Island School community. Sammy is a Biodiesel Technician where he works to convert used cooking oil into usable diesel to supply Island School vehicles with a sustainable, alternative fuel. Shamara is part of the accounts team and works diligently to compensate and maintain good standing with our various vendors and suppliers. They both remember their experience at camp fondly and attribute much of their current success to their first contact with The Island School – at summer camp.
When asked about the origins of the Summer Camp, Chris Maxey said, “Our true roots here for supporting educational opportunities on Eleuthera began back in the summer of 1995 with the start of our South Eleuthera Camp. Long before The Island School or the Deep Creek Middle School we camped along the shore in the Casuarina forest. I am especially proud that two of our pioneer campers who back in the beginning lived in tents by Sunrise Beach are now working with us at Cape Eleuthera Island School. The camp journey is focused on exploring the marine environment and helping instill a conservation ethic in this next generation of South Eleuthera citizens; now this summer in our 20th year of running the camp we have reached well over 250 campers. We give special thanks to the Cotton Bay Foundation for funding this opportunity since it’s inception.”
The South Eleuthera Summer Camp is a tradition here to stay and to continue to inspire young people to understand, explore and love their environment.
Two weekends ago, The Island School hosted the SEA Change Youth Summit with musician, Jack Johnson and 5 Gyres to raise awareness about the impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean and to inspire young students to be advocates for change. 34 Students gathered from Abaco, Grand Bahama, New Providence and Eleuthera as well as a school group out of New York and another student from Jamaica.
As part of the kick-off for the weekend on Friday June 5th, Jack Johnson took part in a designation ceremony to become a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The designation was timely as last Friday marked World Environment Day, a UN flagship event encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment, celebrated in over 100 countries.
Included in the kickoff to the festivities hosted on The Island School’s campus were remarks from Chris Maxey, founder of The Cape Eleuthera Island School, Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen, founders of the 5 Gyres Institute and Celine Cousteau, film maker, environmentalist and daughter of ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau and the granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau. Also in the line up was Kristal Ambrose, founder of Bahamas Plastic Movement and Minister of Education, Science and Technology, The Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald.
The first day of the Summit centered around raising awareness on the issue of plastic pollution so that the students could create their own solutions based on the stories and information they’d received. In the afternoon students, facilitators, Jack Johnson and visiting UNEP representative, Naysan Sahba visited a local beach to do a clean-up lead by Kristal Ambrose. The day finished with a Junkanoo, cultural activity lead by Art teacher and Space to Create founder, Will Simmons in which Summit attendees, Island School students and Jack Johnson created original songs about plastic pollution to the Junkanoo beat provided by the visiting South Eleutheran students from Preston H. Albury High School.
The second day began with a workshop on how to reduce single-use disposable plastics in the household. Students were given tips and tools on how to make their own toothpaste and steer away from buying highly packaged products and personal care products containing plastic micro-beads. After lunch, David Stover, co-founder of Bureo Skateboards told his story of making skateboards from fish netting found in the ocean and beaches of Chile. The students then sifted through their findings from Friday’s clean-up to create a symbolic SEA Change eye sculpture out of plastics with Dianna Cohen, founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition. The sculpture was then showcased at the Deep Creek Homecoming where Summit attendees enjoyed a plastic free event thanks to a donation by World Centric for all food packaging. Recover also pitched in with a donation of t-shirts for the homecoming made from recycled plastic bottles.
The last day of the Summit was spent teaching the students how to tell and share their own stories and to create their own solutions. Facilitators and visiting activists, scientists and artists participated in group discussions on how each student could make a change in their home, on their island and in their country. The day ended in a closing ceremony with music by local band, The Rum Runners, as well as Jack Johnson, who performed alongside local and visiting musicians and even played a tune with two Island School students.
Summit organizer, The Island School’s Brittney Maxey, was blown away by the energy coming from the young students. “This is a historical event not only for us at The Island School and the island of Eleuthera, but also for The Bahamas and other island nations as a whole. We are sending these motivated young people back out into the world equipped with the tools to make a difference in their communities. The Island School’s mission is leadership affecting change and this weekend embodied this belief not only for the students but for the island of Eleuthera. We are a small place making big change.”
Thank you to event supporters: Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, AML Foods, Cape Eleuthera Resort & Marina, Recover, World Centric, From the Bow Seat, Bahamas Waste Limited, Cable Bahamas, One Eleuthera, The Muggia Family and Kim & Floyd Wilson
On Saturday, June 6, Spring 2015 Island School students participated in the Research Expo, their final Research Class assignment, which coincided with the Youth Action Island Summit hosted at the Island School. For the Research Expo, each group was required to focus on the “bigger picture” of conservation in their research area and present their conservation message through the use of games, trivia, slide shows, and their Research Poster.
This assignment was a great way for the students to show off all they have learned this semester, as well as to allow the students to demonstrate their abilities to speak to various audiences, such as young Bahamians, scientists, and UN delegates
At the end of the Research Expo, the Spring 2015 Plastics Research Group presented their findings to everyone in attendance. The audience was very impressed, with one Summit attendee praising the students for doing graduate level research in high school.
Overall, the Research Expo was a success. The students enjoyed meeting people of various backgrounds, answering questions about their research, and demonstrating all that they have learned this semester. Their final research posters, which were displayed at the Research Expo, can be found here.
Last weekend, Deep Creek hosted its annual Conch Fest. Unlike past years, Conch Fest was new and improved, focused on keeping Deep Creek green, clean, and pristine. Instead of using plastic containers to hand out food, all of the booths used recyclable materials. Single use plastics have become an issue for the oceans, as they are being consumed by and entangling marine organisms. This initiative in Deep Creek will hopefully spread to other settlements as well as other islands to reduce the plastics ending up in the oceans.
The Sustainable Fisheries Team of The Cape Eleuthera Institute set up their own booth at Conch Fest among the many others. While the live lionfish in the tank and the model of the aquaponics system attracted attention, the main attraction of the night was the lionfish fritters that the team handed out as samples for everyone to try. Although conch fritters are part of the traditional Bahamian cuisine, many Bahamians were both surprised and impressed by how tasty the lionfish fritters were! Most people came back for seconds and many requested a bag to take home with them.
The team also had lionfish jewelry on display and every pair or lionfish earrings were sold by the end of the night. Some people even made special orders for lionfish jewelry to be picked up at a later date.
Although conch fritters are a tasty treat, conch is an unsustainable fishery. Hopefully people will begin to cook lionfish fritters instead of conch fritters after tasting them at The Sustainable Fisheries booth this year. Next year the Sustainable Fisheries Team will be back at Conch Fest handing out lionfish fritters, and spreading the word on how pretty (as jewelry) and tasty lionfish can be!
Please follow this link to find updates on shark research by Florida State University graduate student Brendan Talwar, looking at post-release survivorship of deep sea sharks in Eleuthera, The Bahamas.