BREEF: Educating for the Future of the Oceans
This past December, Zsolt Agárdy was a benefactor at the bi-annual fundraising event of the BREEF foundation making a significant contribution to the organization. If you’ve ever been to the Bahamas, you understand how vital its marine environment is not only within the ecosystem, but for all Bahamian culture. BREEF, or the Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Fund, aspires to educate people about the value of the Bahamian marine environment and the need to conserve it for the future.
The marine health of the islands sustains life itself in the Bahamas. As leaders in marine conservation, BREEF understands a complex network of environmental, economic, and cultural relationships. The organization was founded almost single-handedly in 1993 by the late Sir Nicholas Nuttall in order to address the conservation of Bahamian waters. He instituted an annual summer workshop to train educators; this workshop has become the flagship program of its kind in the country. Conservation only succeeds if younger generations understand the importance of their actions in the natural environment. BREEF acknowledges this, and the organization has a proud legacy of fostering environmental stewardship in communities. For students in the K-12 curriculum, BREEF ensures that its workshops meet national science and social science requirements by working in conjunction with public educators and industry partners.
BREEF strives to retain children’s relationship after high school and through their professional careers. One program they have to achieve this goal is the BESS Program (Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars), in which pre-university students spend an academic semester at The Cape Eleuthera Island School before a four-month paid internship with BREEF.
Zsolt Agárdy can’t escape the wonders of the ocean when boating around the Bahamas. Here are some reef sharks he encountered while boating with Ania and friends. There are a high population of these sharks in Caribbean waters. This contributes to a profitable but problematic tourism event in the region; organized “shark feeds.” This involves groups of reef sharks, that are baited to swim toward groups of divers and swim around in a spectacular frenzy. A single living Caribbean reef shark has a valued up to US$40,000 for these events, leading to a profit of nearly 6 million US dollars per year!
BREEF does more than educate students in school; it’s outreach extends to all members in the community. Last year, they unveiled a magnificent underwater “living” art gallery, the first of its kind, named, Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden. Not only does it provide a natural habitat for marine creatures, but it celebrates the harmony of the ocean floor with works from world-renowned artists.
So how can you get involved? All donations go to further fueling BREEF’s conservation, education, and relief efforts. Just last month, Louis Bacon’s Moore Bahamas Foundation announced a substantial share of its $250,000 will go towards the support of schools affected by Hurricane Joaquin.