Statement on the North Bimini Ferry Terminal Project, Bimini, Bahamas

June 3, 2014

Aerial of Bimini from 2007. © Carrie Vonderhaar

I am writing this statement in regards to the recent activity surrounding the controversial North Bimini Ferry Terminal project in Bimini, Bahamas. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this issue and I thank you for recognizing the international concern regarding the health and sustainability of Bimini’s natural and cultural resources.

As founder and president of Ocean Futures Society, a non-profit marine conservation and education organization, my mission has always been to inspire and educate people around the world to understand, love, and protect the natural environment that sustains us.

Bimini is a visitor’s paradise and a diver’s dream – a chain of islands located 43 miles from the US and whose tropical waters support some of the most pristine coral reefs left in the Bahamas. Yet over the last few decades, the 1,600 residents of Bimini have witnessed the demise of the coral reefs they love in place of corporate luxury hotels whose continued expansions along the coastlines threaten the very systems they rely upon for economic, social, and environmental prosperity.

The proposed project for the North Bimini Ferry Terminal would use large-scale invasive equipment to dredge into the seafloor – destroying and displacing precious coral reef habitats in order to build a 1,000 ft pier and 4.5-acre artificial island to accommodate large cruise ships.


Ocean Futures Society is concerned with various aspects of this project, and we believe that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prepared for Resorts World Bimini in October 2013 outlines many of these important considerations that may have costly and potentially irreversible consequences for the people and resources of Bimini.

Lack of studies for the actual demand for ferry terminal: Due to the magnitude of this project and the potential for enormously high environmental and cultural costs, there is simply not enough evidence that the ferry terminal is in high enough demand or that the island of Bimini can even support the enormous increase in foreign visitors.

The EIA summarizes the concern for the inadequate input from local Biminites on the need for and potential harmful consequences of the proposed Ferry Terminal project. A small sample size of only 50 individuals for their surveys does not properly encompass the interests of the community or the impact to the environment.

Furthermore, of the 50 residents sampled, locals were told that the number of visitors would increase by 360,000 per year opposed to the intended number of 570,000 visitors per year (a factor of 11 more than the number of current visitors). When asked about Bimini’s role in increasing tourism, the survey indicated that 64% believed tourism should remain the same, 8% said it should decrease, and 28% said it should increase, but many emphasized that they wanted tourism growth in a sustainable direction that contained a manageable number of tourists that contributed shared benefits to Bimini.

With that knowledge in mind, the ferry terminal is being constructed to support the Bimini SuperFast Ferry, operated by Resorts World Bimini. The ferry has the capacity to carry 1,500 to 2,500 visitors, while the population of Bimini itself is roughly 1,600. The SuperFast Ferry would operate once per day on weekdays, and twice per day on weekends. Bimini does not have the current capacity and infrastructure to accommodate a doubling, or potential tripling of their population in the course of a single day.

Environmental degradation: The construction of this project will directly impact and destroy coral reefs, which are vital habitat for numerous marine species that support fisheries, recreational fishing, and associated tourism from divers and snorkelers.

There are 14 prestigious dive sites that are within 1.5 miles of the proposed project. The disruptions to marine life include mortality of all animals that fall within the proposed ferry terminal zones, as well as unintended mortality of marine animals exposed to high levels of sedimentation, noise, turbidity and perturbations in the water. Resorts World Bimini plans to re-locate corals in an attempt to mitigate negative consequences. However, they can only remove scleractinian (stony) corals >10cm and >25cm, all others that are not removed will likely die.

As the Executive Director of DEMA, Thomas Ingram, emphasized in his statement on the Bimini ferry terminal project, the average diving consumer from the US is affluent and interested in diving on healthy coral reefs. Furthermore, these individuals are capable of contributing greatly to Bimini’s economy and hold environmental health and pristine coral reefs at a very high value. The environmental degradation that may come from the proposed ferry terminal threatens this delicate and precious consumer relationship.

Economic loss for native Biminites: Due to the massive increase in foreign visitors from associated tourism, there are many concerns regarding the quality of life for locals when faced with the added stress, disruptions, and potential economic losses associated with this proposed project

The survey of 50 residents revealed concerns from local Biminites regarding the negative consequences that increased tourism may have on the fishing industry, and many were concerned with the issue of overfishing. Bimini is known as the fishing capitol of the Bahamas, and is considered a location highly prized for its sport fishing. An immense increase in visitors could threaten not only commercial and sport fishing interests, but also the livelihoods of many locals who rely upon subsistence fishing for survival. The survey indicated fears from locals about the consequences of tourism negatively affecting and ultimately depleting these natural resources.

Other concerns regarding economic loss to native Biminites includes the loss of jobs during the construction of the Ferry Terminal, as the majority of workers are set to be outsourced from foreign lands.


As founder of an ocean conservation organization, my team and I are dedicated to protecting marine resources and the interests of local communities. I strongly believe that the negative consequences of this proposed project far outweighs the potential benefits.

As the proposed Ferry Terminal project continues to evoke discussion, we ask that the Bahamas and Bimini Government carefully evaluate the project and consider all other potential avenues for sustainably and responsibly increasing tourism in Bimini without this high potential risk of harming the environment.

The tourism industry is a booming economic market and it is imperative for local governments and businesses to create sustainable developments that not only enhance the tourism industry, but also protect and enhance the surrounding environmental resources as well.

We thank you for the opportunity to share our concerns about this proposed project and offer our help and support in any way we can. We hope that this information sheds light on our major concerns and that together a more harmonious solution to increasing the tourism industry in Bimini can be found that benefits tourism operators, marine resources, and the Bimini community as a whole.



Jean-Michel Cousteau
President, Ocean Futures Society