"In nature everything is connected, everything is interwoven, everything changes with everything, everything merges from one into another.”

– Gotthold Lessing

Our blue planet, the only body in the universe known to harbor life. And blue is the perfect way to describe it. The ocean covers approximately 70% of the surface of Earth and contains 97% of Earth’s water and while sometimes referred to oceans, it is really only one body of water, interconnected across the globe. This interconnectedness is representative of nature as a whole.

A system in equilibrium. We don’t exist in isolation. We are connected.

Each actor in this system matters. From tiny, almost invisible, plankton providing us with more than half of the oxygen we breathe to the blue whale, sequestering 30 tons of carbon during their lifetime and taking it to the bottom of the ocean when they die.

Similarly, the conservation efforts of The Islands of the Bahamas have an impact on the world ocean, on the planet and humanity. From banning single use plastics to protecting sharks, this small nation has driven actions that benefit us all.

We hope you enjoy this immersive journey showcasing some of the environments and animals benefiting as a result, no matter where they exist on the planet.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents


What are mangroves? Mangroves are tropical trees that thrive in conditions most timber could never tolerate — salty, coastal waters, and the interminable ebb and flow of the tide. With the ability to store vast amounts of carbon, mangrove forests are key weapons in the fight against climate change, but there are many more benefits to mangroves, some of which are covered below:

  • Because they put down roots along coastlines, mangroves act as a natural storm barrier. They help prevent storm surges and lock in coastlines, preventing erosion. Every 330 feet of mangrove forest can reduce wave height by up to 66%.

  •  Mangroves create economic benefits. They provide at least US $1.6 billion each year in ecosystem services and support coastal livelihoods worldwide.

  • Mangroves have the capacity to take far more carbon out of the atmosphere than terrestrial forests; a patch of mangroves could absorb as much as 10 times the carbon of a similarly sized patch of terrestrial forest.

  • New life saving medicines may originate from mangrove forests. Mangroves host marine microorganisms that are resistant to extreme conditions. These microorganisms are being studied for their antimicrobial, antioxidant, anticancer and antidiabetic properties.

Can you spot these animals?

White Heron

The mangroves from South Florida to the Islands of the Bahamas provide a habitat for many bird species. The shallow waters and exposed mudflats of the mangroves make this habitat ideal for probing shoreline birds such as plovers and sandpipers. Long-legged wading birds utilize these and deeper waters along mangrove-lined waterways. Herons, egrets, bitterns, spoonbills, limpkins, and ibis are among the wading birds that visit mangroves in search of food.

Rock Iguanas

Northern Bahamian rock iguanas were once widespread but are now limited to the coastal habitats of Andros Island and the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas. These prehistoric looking black iguanas are at home in the mangrove wetlands, feeding among the stilt roots of red mangroves during low tide. At high tide they head up to the beaches or neighboring pine forests, while juveniles will bask in the upper branches of the mangrove forest.

Fiddler Crabs

Fiddler crabs are intertidal animals that live in mangrove forests. They can occur in huge numbers, with thousands of individuals living in small, adjacent territories. Each individual has its own burrow and a small area of surface sediment around it. The burrow is extremely important as a refuge, source of water and protection from predators. Fiddler crabs’ burrowing activity also benefits the forest, promoting the cycling of nutrients.

Bahamas Boa

Several species of snake live in the mangroves. The most famous is unfortunately also the most damaging to the environment: The Burmese python. Non-native Burmese pythons have established a breeding population in South Florida and are one of the most concerning invasive species in Everglades National Park. Pythons compete with native wildlife for food, which includes mammals, birds, and other reptiles. Severe mammal declines in Everglades National Park have been linked to Burmese pythons and marsh rabbits, cottontail rabbits, and foxes effectively disappeared.

Mangrove Owl

The mangroves are also home to owls, a species of bird that leverages depends on stealth and surprise. The coloration of an owl’s plumage plays a key role in its ability to sit still and blend into the environment, making it nearly invisible to prey. Owls tend to mimic the coloration and sometimes the texture patterns of their surroundings. Usually, the only tell-tale sign of a perched owl is its vocalizations or its vividly colored eyes.


At the interface of land and sea, mangroves comprise a wide array of unique habitats and support diverse terrestrial, estuarine, and marine species. They offer critical nursing environments for juveniles of thousands of fish species, from 1-inch gobies to 10-foot sharks. Two thirds of the fish we eat spend part of their life in mangroves. Some animals live directly on the roots, including snails, barnacles and oysters. Mangroves are prime nesting and resting sites for hundreds of shorebirds and migratory bird species, including kingfishers, herons, and egrets. Other examples include:

  • Either directly or indirectly, an estimated 80% of global fish catch is in some way dependent on mangrove forests. Whether they are spawning grounds for ocean bound fish, or habitat for shrimp, mangroves are an important part of the global food supply.

  • Most young lemon sharks stay in one small area of mangroves for the first three years of their life. They never willingly stray too far. If you move a newborn lemon shark and take it way up the coastline and release it in a completely new area, it will swim right back to its home.

  • Mangrove trees’ thickets of stilt-like roots protect coastal land from erosion and help mitigate the damage of tsunamis and hurricanes. They may also serve as a haven for corals protecting them from warming waters and bleaching events.

  • Several critically endangered species live in the mangroves, from dugongs to pygmy three-toed sloths, Bengal tigers and certain otter species. The survival of these species is dependent on our protection of mangrove ecosystems.

Can you spot these animals?

Epaulette Shark

This shark prefers to spend most of its time in the warm, relatively shallow water of coral reef areas, usually over sandy bottoms. It is not unusual to observe an epaulette shark in a tide pool hunting for food. Its slender body permits easy navigation in and around the intricacies of coral reefs. This small, attractively marked shark is a rather interesting animal. It swims, but most of its movement is accomplished by “walking” with the use of several of its fins.

Blue Spotted Stingray

Stingrays are an important species for marine ecosystems as they are modifying physical and biological habitats through their foraging and predation. They belong to the same family as sharks, yet the main predators of stingrays are sharks. Stingrays have venomous spines on their tails and should be treated with caution. However, there have been only 17 recorded deaths caused by stingrays worldwide… ever! To put this into perspective: In the US alone about 20 people per year are killed by cows.

Cuban Crocodile

The Cuban crocodile was once spread across the Caribbean with fossil remains being found in The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, and the Cayman Islands. Today it is present only in Cuba and considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Another keystone species, these ancient reptiles help marine ecosystems by keeping the numbers of smaller animals in check and removing weak and old prey.


Manatees are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows. Manatees are more closely related to the elephant than they are to other marine creatures. They are thought to have inspired mermaid legends. During his first journey to the Americas, Christopher Columbus caught a glimpse of three mermaids, writing that “they are not so beautiful as they are said to be, for their faces had some masculine traits.” Sadly, populations are decreasing and manatees’ curious nature has led to violent collisions with propeller-driven boats and ships.

Lemon shark

Recognizable by the distinct yellow hue of its skin, the lemon shark occupies coral keys and mangrove forests. This shark’s stocky build and other physical features make it a powerful predator underwater, but it is also a common target of commercial fishers looking to sell and trade the shark’s fins and meat. Lemon sharks are social creatures that form groups primarily based on similar size. The sharks demonstrate the ability to form social bonds, cooperate, and learn from each other. Interestingly, lemon sharks give birth to live young. Pups remain in the nursery for several years, sheltered from larger predators, and feed on nutrients from nearby mangroves.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies may appear mindlessly fluttering around, but they are on an epic, purposeful journey to keep their species alive that they will die trying to complete. Venturing between Canada and Mexico, no single butterfly makes the entire migration on their own. It takes 3-5 generations. That means it’s a family team effort to make it from the fir forests of Mexico, up to Canada, and all the way back to Mexico. The best part? Even though the “great grandchild” usually completes the final leg of their epic migration, a creature that’s never even been in that country, they can somehow return to the same tree where their great grandparents lived!


Oceans feed us, regulate our climate, and generate most of the oxygen we breathe. They also serve as the foundation for much of the world’s economy, supporting sectors from tourism to fisheries to international shipping. Coral reefs are especially important. They protect coastlines from storms and erosion, provide jobs for local communities, and offer opportunities for recreation. They are also a source of food and new medicines. Over half a billion people depend on reefs for food, income, and protection.

Two major threats are plastic pollution and overfishing. Luckily, we can all do our part to minimize their impact.

Plastic Pollution

At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Plastic debris is currently the most abundant type of litter in the ocean, making up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. Plastic is found on the shorelines of every continent, with more plastic waste found near popular tourist destinations and densely populated areas.

Microplastics have been found in tap water, beer, salt and are present in all samples collected in the world’s oceans, including the Arctic. Several chemicals used in the production of plastic materials are known to be carcinogenic and to interfere with the body’s endocrine system, causing developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune disorders in both humans and wildlife. Recently, microplastics were even found in human placentas.

Toxic contaminants also accumulate on the surface of plastic. When marine organisms ingest plastic debris, these contaminants enter their digestive systems, and over time accumulate in the food web. The transfer of contaminants between marine species and humans through consumption of seafood has been identified as a health hazard, and research is ongoing.

What is the one thing you can do to support?

Invest in products that can be reused multiple times in order to avoid purchasing single-use plastics. Instead of using Ziploc bags, bring your lunch to work in a Tupperware container. As opposed to purchasing large quantities of plastic water bottles, buy a reusable bottle that can be refilled throughout the day.


Fishing is one of the most significant drivers of declines in ocean wildlife populations. Catching fish is not inherently bad for the ocean, except for when vessels catch fish faster than stocks can replenish, a practice called overfishing. The damage done by overfishing goes beyond the marine environment. Billions of people rely on fish for protein, and fishing is the principal livelihood for millions of people around the world.

The number of overfished stocks globally has tripled in half a century and today fully one-third of the world’s assessed fisheries are currently pushed beyond their biological limits. Overfishing is closely tied to bycatch—the capture of unwanted sea life while fishing for a different species. This, too, is a serious marine threat that causes the needless loss of billions of fish, along with hundreds of thousands of sea turtles and cetaceans.

Certain fishing practices are especially bad. Bottom trawling destroys far more ocean habitat than any other fishing practice across the globe. In this fishing method, large weighted nets are dragged across the ocean floor, clear-cutting a swath of habitat in their wake. Some of these scars will take centuries to heal, if ever.

What is the one thing you can do to support?

Choose only certified sustainable seafood and consider species that are overpopulated or invasive such as purple sea urchin and lionfish respectively. Be aware that certain seafood is fished almost exclusively using destructive fishing practices such as scallop where fisheries leverage bottom trawling. Even here sustainable alternatives, such as diver scallops, exist.


Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Coral polyps, the animals primarily responsible for building reefs, can take many forms: large reef building colonies, graceful flowing fans, and even small, solitary organisms. Thousands of species of corals have been discovered; some live in warm, shallow, tropical seas and others in the cold, dark depths of the ocean. Coral reefs protect coastlines from storms and erosion, provide jobs for local communities, and offer opportunities for recreation. They are also are a source of food and new medicines. Over half a billion people depend on reefs for food, income, and protection. Fishing, diving, and snorkeling on and near reefs add hundreds of millions of dollars to local businesses. These ecosystems are culturally important to indigenous people around the world. Some interesting facts:

  • Known as “rainforests of the sea,” coral reefs cover less than 1% of the ocean but are home to almost 25% of all known marine species making reefs one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.

  • Coral reefs worldwide are generating $300-400 billion a year in food and livelihoods from tourism, fisheries, and medicines.

  • Corals are not plants. They’re actually animals and are relatives of jellyfish and anemones. Yet, most rely on photosynthesis to survive working in a symbiotic relationship with microscopic algae.

  • Corals are superb fighters. They fend off encroaching corals by stinging them with their tentacles and by ejecting their stomachs to digest them. When two different corals meet, there’s often a cleared band between the two where they’ve killed each other off.

Can you spot these animals?


Parrotfish are colorful, tropical creatures that spend about 90% of their day eating algae off coral reefs. This almost-constant eating performs the essential task of cleaning the reefs which helps the corals stay healthy and thriving. The parrotfishes’ digestive system, which includes more teeth inside their throats, breaks down coral bits into the white sands that make South Pacific beaches famous. On average, a single green humphead parrotfish can produce 200lb of sand each year. The famous white-sand beaches of Hawaii, for example, actually come from the poop of parrotfish.

Whale Shark

Whale sharks are the largest shark, and indeed largest of any fishes alive today. The maximum size of whale sharks is not known, but could be as large as 60 feet and they travel large distances to find enough food to sustain their huge size. Whale sharks are filter feeders and can neither bite nor chew. Although its mouth can stretch to four feet wide, a whale shark’s teeth are so tiny that they can only eat small shrimp, fish and plankton by using their gill rakers as a suction filter. They can process more than 1,800 gallons of water an hour through their gills.

Moray Eel

With over 200 distinct species, moray eels are found across the world in both marine and freshwater environments. Though some species live in rivers and colder, temperate, marine waters, most moray eel species thrive on the world’s coral reefs. A moray eel appears dangerous because it continually exposes its mouth and teeth. This action, however, is not a hostile gesture, but simply the way an eel breathes. Moray eels will team up with other fish to hunt the reef. The moray can move easily through the inside of the reef, driving scared fish right into the grouper. At the same time, fish focused on avoiding the grouper make easy prey for the moray.

Reef Shark

Reef sharks help maintain healthy marine ecosystems by balancing food webs through controlling prey populations. Sharks also ensure there are healthy prey populations by targeting sick or injured individuals. This helps maintain the overall health of species throughout the ecosystems. Sharks also affect the behavior and distribution of their prey species through fear. When sharks are present, turtles move around more and graze over a larger area of seagrass rather than overgrazing a single area. Coral reefs can also benefit from shark defense. The loss of sharks from coral reef habitats has seen a rise in the number of smaller species that feed on herbivorous fish. As a result, herbivorous numbers are dwindling, and without enough herbivores feeding on algae, algae will easily overgrow the coral reef.


Great barracudas are among some of the fastest fish in the sea. The long and thin body of the barracuda is designed for speed, and their top speed has been estimated at 36 mph. Great barracudas are naturally inquisitive. Because they hunt mainly by sight, barracudas sometimes attempt to steal fish from spear fishers or approach divers, mistaking the glint of a diving knife as a shiny fish. Despite this behavior, barracudas rarely attack humans unprovoked. People around the world regularly catch and eat barracuda, but larger species are not safe for human consumption because their bodies collect toxins from their prey.

Manta Ray

The giant manta ray is the world’s largest ray with a wingspan of up to 29 feet. They are filter feeders and eat large quantities of zooplankton. Giant manta rays are slow-growing, migratory animals with small, highly fragmented populations that are sparsely distributed across the world. Manta Rays belong to a group of fish that are in a “constant state of perpetual motion”. This means that mantas never stop swimming, and they need to stay on the move to survive. The main threat to the giant manta ray is commercial fishing, with the species both targeted and caught as bycatch in a number of global fisheries throughout its range. In 2018, NOAA Fisheries listed the species as threatened.

Sea Turtle

Sea turtles are marine reptiles with streamlined bodies and large flippers that are well-adapted to life in the ocean. Although sea turtles live most of their lives in the ocean, adult females lay their eggs on land. They migrate hundreds to thousands of miles every year between feeding grounds and nesting beaches. One species, leatherback turtles, are among the most highly migratory animals on earth, traveling as many as 10,000 miles or more each year. Sea turtles are known to use the earth’s magnetic fields to nest on Florida’s Gulf beaches within about 40 to 50 miles of where they were born decades earlier.

Pygmy Seahorse

As their name suggests, pygmy seahorses are tiny fish that are nearly indistinguishable from their habitats due to their size and extreme camouflage. The pygmy seahorse grows to only one inch in length and matches the gorgonian coral that it lives on. The pygmy seahorse is so successful at hiding that it was not found until its home was being studied in a lab. Many people may not consider seahorses ‘fish’ at first, due to their unique anatomical shape and lack of scales, but they are indeed.


We have better maps of Mars than we do of the ocean floor. In fact, according to NOAA more than 80% of our ocean is unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored. The deep sea is unimaginably deep. The distance from the ocean’s surface to the bottom of the Challenger Deep is almost 7 miles. If Mount Everest was put into this chasm, it would still be more than a mile from breaking the surface of the water. Located near Guam, the Mariana Trench is the deepest known submarine trench. It is also the deepest known location on Earth itself.

Estimates now suggest that a significant proportion of Earth’s biodiversity, around one million species, resides in the ocean, with the majority still undiscovered in the deep sea. And the species we have discovered are truly unique. Some examples below:

  • In the deep sea, bioluminescence is extremely common, and because the deep sea is so vast, bioluminescence may be the most common form of communication on the planet.

  • In order not to get crushed, deep sea fish don’t have a swim bladder. Moreover, since high pressure can also destroy the very structure of molecules, deep sea creatures have “piezolytes” – small, organic molecules which stop the other molecules in the creatures’ bodies, such as membranes and proteins, from being crushed by the pressure.

  • Deep-sea species tend to be slow growing, late maturing and low in reproductive capacity. Many deep-water fish species live 30 years or more. Some, such as orange roughy, can live up to 150 years.

  • With the absence of sunlight and photosynthesis, many creatures that live in the deep sea turn to chemosynthesis. Here, organisms use energy released by chemical reactions to make a sugar, all without the need for sunlight.

However, this unknown marine ecosystem is already under threat. Especially deep sea mining may prove highly destructive to the deep ocean. Here, mining interests plan to use large, robotic machines to excavate the ocean floor in a way that’s similar to strip-mining on land. This process would wreak enormous damage. Massive machines digging, dredging, and vacuuming up the ocean floor would create huge sediment plumes deep in the ocean that will drift on currents, smothering marine life, including species not yet discovered. Surface-level processing ships would dump tailings—the waste materials left after the target mineral is extracted from ore—back into the ocean, killing plant and animal life as it drifts through the water column, releasing acidic and toxic sediment hazardous to fish and those who consume it.

What is the one thing you can do to support?

Engage with electric auto makers. Visit the ‘Race to the Top’ web app ranking and challenge electric vehicle manufacturers to stand against a potential deep sea mining industry. You can find the ranking HERE.


Have you heard of the ‘Martini Effect’? No, we are not talking about having that extra drink you are regretting the next day. The Martini Effect refers to narcosis while diving. It is a reversible alteration in consciousness that occurs while diving at depth. It is caused by the anesthetic effect of certain gases at high pressure.

Some of the effects include:

  • Slowed Mental Ability: When nitrogen narcosis strikes, nitrogen can start acting like an anesthetic and reduce mental powers. This is a real problem since diving is a multitasking activity that involves monitoring and dealing with many things at the same time.

  • Numbness: Also similar to intoxication, narcosis can cause feelings of numbness. This can be dangerous as it can also reduce a diver’s perception of discomfort, particularly when the water gets too cold.

  • Euphoria: Divers have been known to do some pretty amusing things while experiencing nitrogen narcosis. They typically act as if they were drunk.

  • Hallucinations: In more severe cases, some divers have reported hallucinations which can lead to significant harm for themselves and their dive buddies.

However, the ocean also holds the cures to some of the world’s most devastating diseases.

It’s an unlikely spot to be at the forefront of cutting-edge medical research, but scientists say the oceans could hold the key to finding the next generation of life-saving drugs. Scientists say unusual compounds and gene sequences in some marine creatures and plants could lead to anything from much-needed new antibiotics to cancer drugs.

Some chemicals produced by marine animals that may be useful in treating human diseases include:

  • Ecteinascidin: Extracted from tunicates; being tested in humans for treatment of breast and ovarian cancers and other solid tumors.

  • Discodermalide: Extracted from deep-sea sponges belonging to the genus Discodermia; anti-tumor agent.

  • Bryostatin: Extracted from the bryozoan, Bugula neritina; potential treatment for leukemia and melanoma

  • w-conotoxin MVIIA: Extracted from the cone snail, Conus magnus; potent pain-killer.

A striking feature of this list is that all of the organisms (except the cone snail) non-moving invertebrates. To date, this has been true of most marine invertebrates that produce pharmacologically active substances. Several reasons have been suggested to explain why sessile marine animals are particularly productive of potent chemicals. One possibility is that they use these chemicals to repel predators, because they can’t move to escape. Another possibility is that since many of these species are filter feeders, they may use powerful chemicals to repel parasites or as antibiotics against disease-causing organisms.

Competition for space may explain why some of these invertebrates produce anti-cancer agents. If two species are competing for the same piece of bottom space, it would be helpful to produce a substance that would attack rapidly dividing cells of the competing organism. Since cancer cells often divide more rapidly than normal cells, the same substance might have anti-cancer properties.


Back to the surface, at night, in the mangroves. A perfect opportunity to showcase how even the most unexpected animals can have a major impact on all of us.

Can you spot these animals?


Despite their relative simplicity, these organisms that have lived in the ccean for over 500 million years (outdating dinosaurs by over 200million years) survive extremely well in almost all areas of the world. They have long been described as ‘arguably the most important predators in the seas’, competing with adult fish for food, or by preying on eggs and larvae to reduce survivorship and recruitment of fish stocks, but the research suggests they might be much more beneficial to marine life than previously thought.

Jellyfish play an important role in controlling populations of zooplankton through their high feeding rates. In doing so, Jellyfish also create competition for other zooplankton feeders. This helps to prevent any single species from outcompeting all other individuals that feed on a similar diet, which could otherwise significantly reduce biodiversity. Jellyfish are an important food source for other marine organisms including sea turtles, sunfish and spade fish. Furthermore, studies have also suggested that after dying, jellyfish act as an important food source to organisms living in the deep depths of the ocean.

Jellyfish also provide habitat and space for developing larval and juvenile fish. The fish use their jellyfish hosts as means of protection from predators and for feeding opportunities, helping to reduce fish mortality and increase recruitment.

Fish found living with Jellyfish also benefit from the available food sources that are also associated with the symbiotic relationship. These relationships with developing individuals are significantly important for enhancing the recruitment of certain species of fish to an adult life stage, many of which are of commercial value. One study found that 2/3rd of fish who formed symbiotic relationships with one species of jellyfish were commercially valuable and many of which were still in recovery from previous depletion of stocks.


Lightening bug flashes are part of a complex system of insect courting. Typically, male fireflies use distinctive patterns of flashing while in flight to send signals to females down on the ground. The males flash in unison as a way for the female to be certain she is responding to one of her kind. There are other firefly species flashing at night, and some of them are predatory, so she must be able to recognize males of her species. There are around 2,000 different species of fireflies making synchronicity vital for survival.

The most amazing part however is how fireflies have impacted us all. Nearly 100% of a firefly’s glowing energy is given off as light. Why does this matter? Because originally in a standard lightbulb, 10% of the energy is light while the other 90% is given off as heat. Consequently, scientists applied a jagged overlayer on top of a standard LED bulb with light-sensitive material and then used a laser to create the triangular factory roof profile. This increased light extraction in LED lights by more than 50%.

With nature holding so much knowledge we must do our best to preserve the one planet we have. Something as small as a firefly can impact energy usage around the globe. Plankton gives us every second breath. Conservation efforts by a small nation like The Islands of the Bahamas led to the discovery of the world’s largest seagrass meadow. Similarly, you are not too small to have an impact. Your actions matter. Let’s come together and make each action count.

Sources: Aquarium of the Pacific, BBC, Biology Dictionary, Biomimicry Institute, Britannica, Calacademy, Critical Reviews in Biotechnology, Conservation Reefcause, Department of the Interior, Global Citizen, IUCN, KAUST, Mangrove Action Project, MedicalNewsToday, National Geographic, National Library of Medicine, Nature, NOAA, Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, Oceanographic Magazine, One Earth, PADI, PEW Charitable Trust, Pollinator.org, Sharkinsider, Smithonian, Surfrider, The Atlantic, Tidal Gardens, United Nations FOA, Weforum, WWF