Bonaire National Marine Park

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Chapter 2. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Present briefly the proposed area and its principal characteristics, and specify the objectives that motivated its creation :

The Bonaire National Marine Park was first established in 1979. It surrounds the island of Bonaire and includes the satellite island and the waters around Klein Bonaire. Bonaire lies in the Southern Caribbean approximately 100km (60 miles) north of Venezuela and 12’ north of the equator. Bonaire is unusual in that it is a true oceanic island, separated from the South American mainland by a deep water trench. Bonaire is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and is regarded by the European Union as an Overseas Territory. The marine park falls entirely within the territorial waters and jurisdiction of the Island of Bonaire and is protected by the Marine Environment Ordinance (A.B 1991 Nr.8). The marine park was declared a National Park by the Central Government of the Netherlands Antilles in November 1999. For issues related to World Heritage, Ramsar wetlands, threatened and endangered species, migratory species and marine pollution the Central Government Department of Nature and the Environment (MINA) also has jurisdiction.

The marine park includes 2,700 hectares of coral reef, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems and provides habitat for a diverse range of marine species including over 50 species of stony coral and more than 350 species of reef fish. Sea turtles nest on the shores of Klein Bonaire and forage in Lac, a semi enclosed seagrass and mangrove bay located on the islands windward shore. Bottlenose and Spinner dolphin as well as various species of whale can be found seasonally in the seas around Bonaire. Bonaire is regularly visited by migratory birds.

Bonaire has a well deserved international reputation for excellence in the field of SCUBA diving and is routinely listed in the top five destinations for the Caribbean.

The Bonaire National Marine Park consists of the waters around Bonaire from the high water mark to the 200’ (60m) depth contour, the island of Klein Bonaire and its surrounding waters and the mangrove, seagrass and coral reefs of Lac. The park is managed by a local non governmental, not for profit foundation, STINAPA Bonaire which has a co-management structure with stakeholders, conservationists and local interest groups represented on the Board. The day to day management is carried out under the supervision of a Director but the Marine Park manager, Chief Ranger and Rangers employed by STINAPA Bonaire.

Explain why the proposed area should be proposed for inclusion in the SPAW list

The marine park is managed predominately for biodiversity conservation, the promotion of sustainable use and for the protection of cultural and historical sites within the park with the aim of providing protection for the island’s unique marine resources whilst allowing appropriate recreational and commercial use to be made of the park.

In 1979 the Bonaire Marine Park was first set up with grant funding from the World Wildlife Fund, in the Netherlands, assistance from the Island Government and other funding sources. The responsibility for management was given to STINAPA Bonaire, an existing non governmental conservation organisation which was already managing the islands land park, the Washington Slagbaai National park which had been created a decade earlier. Over the next four years the Marine Park was actively managed, legislation was passed protecting the park, a system of dive moorings was established along the length of the leeward shore and a range of outreach materials were developed in addition to the very first Guide to the Bonaire Marine Park written by Tom van’t Hof (1982). However, failure to identify a sustainable source of funding for the park caused serious financial difficulties. Eventually, with funding for operational management, the Park became a ‘paper park’ — established on paper but without any active day to day management. For the coming six years the spirit of the Park was kept alive through the hard work of the dive industry and a few dedicated individuals.

By 1990 there was a real fear that the expanding dive industry and increasing tourist visitation were creating a serious threat to the health of Bonaire’s coral reefs. After serious concerns had been raised about the lack of formal management of the Marine Park, after a trebling in diver activity, and with increasing pressure on the island’s coastal resources, Dutch Government funding (Meerjaaren Plan Fondsen – MJP funds) was sought to reestablish, or ‘revitalize’, the Marine Park. This was successful and in April 1991 the marine park was revitalized and a new manager, Kalli De Meyer, was hired to work alongside Tom van’t Hof in order to re-establish the Bonaire Marine Park. The Dutch Government funding, which amounted to Naf 225,000 per annum for a maximum period of three years, was administered by DEPOS (Departement Ontwikkeling Samenwerking) on Curaçao and had a number of significant strings attached.

It obligated the Island Government of Bonaire to:

  • Ensure that the Marine Park became self financing within the term of the grant
  • Set up an appropriate management structure for the Marine Park

Both of these requirements were fulfilled. The Marine Park was re-established and the Island Government passed amendments to the Marine Environment Ordinance allowing an annual admission fee of US$ 10 per diver to be levied in order to offset operational expenses. In January 1992 admission fees were introduced and in the course of the first year over US$ 170,000 was raised, enough to cover salaries and operating costs. The Island Government gave management of the Marine Park to STINAPA Bonaire (Stichting Nationale Parken Nederlandse Antillean), a local NGO which was already had management of the island’s land park and created a ‘Begleidingscommissie’ made up of representatives of the tourism sector, conservation interests as well as local island interests to guide Park management.

Since the early 1990’s the Marine Park has gone from strength to strength. By the end of that decade it was considered a model marine park and was being copied as far a field as Bunaken, Indonesia. It was selected as a UNEP/ICRAN demonstration site for the Caribbean and ranked along side the Great Barrier Reef and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for the value of its conservation work. In November 1999 the Marine Park was formally declared a National Park by the Central Government of the Netherlands Antilles and the name was changed to Bonaire National Marine Park (BNMP).

According to you, to which Criteria it conforms (Guidelines and Criteria B Paragraph 2)

Representativeness
Diversity

Cultural and socio-economic criterias

Cultural and traditional use