Written by: Reef Rescue Network Coordinator: Hayley-Jo Carr
With an array of incredible partners within our new Perry Institute for Marine Science Reef Rescue Network we want to shine a spotlight on some of our partners so you can learn more about the amazing people we are working with and what inspires them. In this edition, we have a chat with the Executive Director of the Andros Conservancy & Trust, Tarran Simms.
Where are you from?
New Providence, Bahamas
How did your passion for the ocean begin? What age?
My passion for the ocean started at the age of 1 when I learned to swim. I was told that at 2 years old I was swimming independently. I spent most of my summers on the island of Ragged Island surrounded by water. I found the ocean calming and enjoyed snorkeling, fishing, and free diving. Later on, I got my open water dive certification and gained a higher level of respect for the marine environment. Today I am a PADI Divemaster, both my professional and recreational life address the issues of ocean conservation.
Above: Tarran Simms is the Executive for the Andros Conservancy & Trust on Andros Island, The Bahamas.
Have you seen a change in the coral reefs in The Bahamas already in your lifetime?
Over the years of interacting with the ocean, I have seen a change in the reefs that I frequent. From diseases to algae bloom, I have sadly seen the change in the coral ecosystem.
When did you start to notice that coral reefs were in trouble?
From my studies and interaction with the marine environment, I think I have always known that coral reefs were in trouble, but I think it really hit me when I worked as a dive master and looking at the vast degradation every day.
What is the worst negative effect you have seen that is detrimental to the ocean or coral reef?
I don’t think the negative effects on the reef is singular but rather plural. There is a multitude of negative effects that is placing the state of coral reefs in peril. Overfishing, climate change, and improper development are among some of the top causes, I believe, of coral reef degradation in The Bahamas.
What do you love the most about the ocean?
I believe that being from the Small Island States (SIS) I am inherently a citizen of the sea. We depend so heavily on the ocean in SIS from food to transportation, to recreation. There is a physical, emotional and mental connection to the ocean. What I love most about the ocean its multifaceted ability to provide and protect island nations.
Above: Tarran believes his love for the islands comes from spending many summers in the remote Bahamian island, Ragged Island. Living in a fishing community in Ragged Island connected him to the importance of the ocean to The Bahamian people.
Above: In his spare time, Tarran goes shark diving in Andros!
What is the goal of ANCAT and how did you start it?
Andros Conservancy & Trust (ANCAT) is an environmental nonprofit non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to preserving the natural resources of Andros Island, the Bahamas. Founded in 1999, among its key accomplishments was the 2002 formation of the 286,000-acre Central Andros National Park, in co-operation with the Bahamas National Trust, a division of the Bahamian government. Today ANCAT has taken on new mandates since the parks have been established. ANCAT’s four pillars are education, climate change, ecosystem management, and environmental education. Currently, the organization is in the process of being restructured to facilitate the activities of its new mandate.
What are you currently studying and how will this assist you in The Bahamas?
I am currently studying for a Master of Arts in Small Island Studies with a focus on climate change. My research focuses on the impact of climate change on the blue economy with emphasis on the impact of climate change on tourism. The Bahamas tourism industry depends heavily on the natural environment especially the ocean. Beaches and coral reefs play a big pull factor for visitors to The Bahamas. The decline of coral reefs will have a tremendous impact on the dive tourism industry and beach formations. This will have an adverse effect on the tourism industry of The Bahamas and can result in a decrease of visitor’s arrivals to The Bahamas.
How important do you think it is for different businesses and agencies to work together on marine conservation efforts?
It is highly important that we take a collective approach to push forward marine conservation efforts. The degradation of the ocean is not a result of one activity but rather a number of activities. In order to have an impactful marine conservation program, there must be an integrated approach to ensure that the result is substantial.
Tell us about your experience setting up your own coral nursery with The Reef Rescue Network.
The experience of setting up t e ANCAT coral nursery was amazing. There is so much strategic work that goes behind setting up a successful coral nursery. From finding an ideal location to sourcing the right species of coral was indeed enlightening. I felt a sense of fulfillment knowing that we were doing our part in helping to restore the ocean. Moreover, its great knowing that in years to come our work may be highly impactful to the local fisheries industry and local dive tourism industry.
Above: In May 2018, Tarran assisted with installing ANCAT’s coral nursery.
Above: Every few weeks Tarran and a team of divers monitor and maintain their 3-tree coral nursery.
Above: Tarran participated in a subsidiary body meeting for the international climate change negotiations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2018.
What did you enjoy most about becoming a Reef Rescue Diver?
(Besides getting certified by the great Hayley–Jo! Hahaha) I think what I enjoyed the most was the learning aspect of the program. A wealth of knowledge on the importance of Staghorn coral to our ocean was imparted and this has given me the ability to act as an ambassador for coral reef restoration. I am able to share my experience with others in hopes that they too will go on to help in the cause.
Why do you think having a coral nursery is important?
I believe that efforts such as the coral nursery are highly important especially in Small Island Developing States. Local communities in The Bahamas have a social, economic, and environmental connection with the ocean. Coral reefs facilitate tourism and fisheries activities especially for rural communities of The Bahamas. Turning a blind eye to the decline can have adverse impacts on the sustainable livelihoods of these communities, which will be fatal to the Bahamian economy. Furthermore, the ecosystem services that reefs provide are crucial to the survival of coastal communities in the rural areas of The Bahamas. By doing our part to help reverse the decline we give hope for the future of The Bahamas.
What are you wanting to do in the future for marine conservation?
I look to continue to work for ocean justice and influencing policy to help further protect the marine environment of The Bahamas. Furthermore, I look forward to using the coral nursery as a living lab for local Bahamians. This will help to educate and foster a sense of responsibility within local communities. I anticipate that these activities will help them to become the gatekeepers of the marine environment, which will lead to more robust and ambitious conservation efforts.
What message would you give to fellow Bahamians about marine conservation?
The Bahamas span 125,000 nautical miles in the Atlantic Ocean. The marine environment provides us with economic and social benefits. However, it can also provide us with great catastrophe if we don’t take care. It is imperative that we take a collaborative approach in implementing programs to mitigate the degradation to our oceans. We live from the ocean, without the marine environment our lives, social and economic, has been and will continue to be compromised. It is our duty a s citizens of Small Island States to protect our oceans.
We would like to thank Tarran Simms for participating in our interview and taking the time to talk with us about his experiences and thoughts on marine conservation in The Bahamas. We look forward to working with him more to further develop the ANCAT Coral Nursery off the coast of Andros.