Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
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In 1953, Daniel Beard, a superintendent of Everglades National Park, proposed setting aside part of the Exuma Cays as a park. His idea was received enthusiastically, received support from the Nassau newspapers. In 1955 a formal proposal was submitted and on February 13, 1956 the Governor of the Bahamas confirmed that 22 miles of Exumas had been set aside providing some organization would undertake to give concrete recommendations to the Bahmamian Government. This organization would also be responsible for financial support of the park. Carleton Ray, an assistant director of the New York Aquarium, headed up a survey of the Exuma Cays. They asked for and received a one-year extension. It was recommended that the Bahamas National Trust be established to oversee the proposed park. The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park was finally established in 1958 with the Bahamas National Trust overseeing it.
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park's headquarters are on the island of Warderick Wells. The island is a popular spot for cruising sailboats and yachts to stop and spend the night in one of three anchorages. There are several nature trails on the island, including one to Boo Boo Hill that offers a spectacular view of the island, anchorage and Exuma Sound.
The hutia is the only terrestrial mammal native to the Bahamas. There are a number of seabirds that nest in the park, including Audubon's shearwater, white-tailed tropicbird, brown noddy and six species of terns (bridled, least, roseate, royal, sandwich and sooty). The rock iguana nests on several islands in the Exumas.
Overfishing has caused many commercial species to show large declines, but the Exuma Land and Sea Park still has a healthy breeding population of conch, grouper and lobster. In 1985, the Bahamas National Trust took a bold conservation stance: the Exuma Park was made a protected replenishment zone. All fishing is prohibited within the boundaries of the park. Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus), also known as fishhawks, are the only creatures allowed to fish in the park. The benefits of this initiative are far-reaching. There is evidence that more marine species are reaching adulthood and are restocking areas outside the park boundaries.