[Coral-List] Coral Conservation versus Public Relations

Erik Gauger erik at notesfromtheroad.com
Tue Mar 14 12:49:15 EST 2006

Re: FW: Coral Reef goes to CourtTo everybody interested in the Guana Cay
golf course development, I just wanted to give you all an update. Discovery
Land Company, a California golf development company,  is building a
dastardly golf course and marina on Guana Cay, a small islet in the Northern
Bahamas. Currently, all development potentially dangerous to the coral reef
is still halted as a judge in the Bahamas Supreme Court deliberates over the
fate of the island, its reef and mangroves.

I am writing because I know several of you are interested in how the
politics of saving coral reefs can play out. This is an extremely unusual
case, because the Prime Minister of a country and a foreign developer are
being held accountable to the environment in a court of law. It is a case
that more conservationists should follow, as hopefully in the end the
precedent is that more countries will tie sustainability to the court system
when public outcry fails.   Hopefully, all of you will see this case as a
potential precedent for saving coral reefs in your own countries and

However, the way news and public relations works in small island communities
is incredibly strange. In this case, Discovery Land Company wrote a press
release to the major newspapers in the Bahamas  just yesterday . Both the
Bahama Journal and the Nassau Guardian printed the press release as if it
were straight news.

Incredibly, the Bahama Journal printed this statement: "Save Guana Cay
protesters are a conspiracy of liars feigning concern for the environment to
further their own selfish economic motives." Now, we know that hundreds of
you back the science of the Guana Cay locals. We also know that the Sierra
Club, Global Coral, Greenpeace, Mangrove Action Network, Global Response and
others back the position of the locals.   Are all of us liars with selfish

Additionally, Mike Risk, a coral reef ecologist, conducted an assessment of
Discovery Land Company's EIA and believes the developer will destroy the
reef in a matter of years. James Cervino and field assistants did additional
testing of the corals and examined the Discovery Land Company's plan. His
research also indicates this plan is dangerous to Guana Cay's  coral

Despite all this, it is incredible how the media is still able to say that
all of us who have genuine concerns about Guana Cay are 'a conspiracy of
liars...' The Sierra Club and other groups have repeatedly asked the
developer to address various environmental deficiencies - they have never
done so. Despite this, how can they get something like that published as if
it were true?

The San Francisco Chronicle, after visiting Guana Cay, wrote to me and said,
"The developers had told me that it was only a small minority of people on
the island who oppose the project, but I didn't find that to be true. I
talked with a lot of people, stopping people randomly as I moved around the
island, and nearly all of them were opposed."

Despite one of the largest newspapers in the world finding this claim to be
totally false, Discovery Land Company is able to continually tell us
otherwise - and people believe it. In an email, Livingston Marshall,
representing the developer, said that there were only two people in the
world that are opposed the development.   If you visit Guana Cay, you will
find opposition to the project to be about 98%  Despite this, Discovery Land
Company writes in their press release that it is an "extremely small number
of Guana Cay residents" who oppose the development.

The developer's press release stated   that the people who oppose the
development are "propagating false and erroneous information." But after
hundreds of conversations with coral reef ecologists and conservationists, I
understand the Guana Cay locals' position to be the consensus position
among coral reef ecologists - and that's a rare statement to make! It would
seem that the developer would have a high burden of proof to argue their way
out of all of this. But Kathleen Sullivan-Sealey and others paid by the
developer, have made no public statements attempting to debate the
scientific consensus. How are they able to get away with this, and still get
a press release like that published? Why is  it so difficult for genuine
reef conservation to persevere against public relations campaigns?

Erik Gauger
 current press on the subject is available here:
The locals website is here:

More information about the Coral-List mailing list