The “Last Chance for Lighthouse Point” campaign today released a letter from twenty-four independent scientists and experts, setting out the technical case against the Walt Disney Company’s controversial proposed cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point on the island of Eleuthera in The Bahamas. The letter was initiated by Dr. David Philips, Chair of the Board of Directors at the Fisheries Conservation Foundation, and joined by researchers and practitioners familiar with the environment and potential impacts of Disney’s $250-million plan to build a 0.6 mile long pier to dock its cruise ships and the on-shore facilities to handle up to a million visitors each year to this environmentally sensitive area.
The letter states: “In the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian, and in the face of a rapidly changing climate, the protection of ecologically important places like Lighthouse Point and the surrounding waters is now even more important and indeed urgent.”
Disney’s (NYSE: DIS) current plans threaten Lighthouse Point (LHP), a unique natural place treasured by generations of Bahamians and visitors from around the world. The seas surrounding the point are so biologically rich that they have been formally proposed as a Marine Protected Area.
“Lighthouse Point is a unique natural site containing valuable marine habitats, rich biodiversity, and endangered coral species,” the letter states. “There is no doubt that the construction and operation of the Disney port project would cause irrevocable, long-term environmental, cultural, and economic harm to South Eleuthera and The Bahamas.”
The letter warns that a construction project of this scale in a proposed protected area clearly contradicts Disney Cruise Line’s commitments to “ensuring a world where wildlife thrives and nature is treasured and protected.”
The proposed pier would disrupt the movements of important marine species and possibly eliminate bonefish, grouper, and snapper migrations around Lighthouse Point to spawning sites on the Exuma Sound shoreline with harmful economic impacts on the bonefishing industry.
Peter Mumby, a signatory of the letter and researcher at The University of Queensland, added:
“The area identified for the proposed cruise terminal includes sensitive coral reef habitats and has significant cultural value. These will be lost through development. If the terminal has to go ahead it should be targeted towards somewhere less sensitive and important.”
The letter concludes with a call on Disney to work with Bahamian citizen groups to locate a different site for their cruise port and to further the precedent of choosing and rehabilitating an already degraded site for any new cruise ship port. The letter advocates for a more sustainable development alternative for Lighthouse Point.
Last week, the “Last Chance For Lighthouse Point” campaign announced the resumption of its advocacy efforts, which were paused when Hurricane Dorian struck on September 1st. Some 120,000 people have already signed a change.org petition asking Disney to save Lighthouse Point, not destroy it.
“We really appreciate the courage and determination of these scientists and experts who have been willing to speak out against the Lighthouse Point project,” said Phoebe Shaw, Director of the “Last Chance” campaign. “We hope people will take the time to read their measured arguments against this destructive project and join us in asking Disney to change course here. Working together, we can instead make Lighthouse Point a beacon of hope for the future.”
The letter was just sent to Disney officials on Friday. The letter is still open to other scientists and researchers who share these concerns about the proposed cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point.
*Photo by Shane Gross, @shanegrossphoto