Coral reefs are found off all five main islands in the Netherlands Antilles. In fact, all five islands boast marine parks that encompass a significant fraction of those coral reefs. But recent events, including major groundings by rice freighters and cruise ships in the last three years, coastal development and dredging, wastewater pollution, and increasing incidence of disease, highlight the need for national government coordination and protection of these coral reefs. As the global deterioration of coral reefs is brought closer to home by recent news of the death of some of the reefs off Belize and elsewhere, due to bleaching, the need for a national initiative in line with international efforts is ever more apparent.

NACRI came into being at the Netherlands Antilles National Nature Forum in 2000, where all organizations and agencies involved with nature conservation in the islands of the Netherlands Antilles met and decided (among other things) that the coral reefs needed special attention. It responds to the call to action from the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), to form regional and national initiatives to preserve the coral reefs.

Netherlands Antilles Combine Forces to Preserve Coral Reefs

Like the ICRI, the NACRI brings together a broad range of organizations and groups: nature conservation organizations that manage the marine parks of the islands, government agencies involved with nature conservation, research institutes, non-governmental pressure groups concerned about coral reefs, but also businesses that exist by the grace of the coral reefs and their branch organizations, such as the Curaçao Dive Operators’ Association (CDOA) and the Bonairean Council of Underwater Resort Operators (CURO)

On February 9, 2001, all these organizations, agencies, and businesses involved with coral reefs, from all of the islands of the Netherlands Antilles, met in Bonaire during a workshop convened in order to draft an action plan to preserve the coral reefs of the Netherlands Antilles. In total, some 40 people were present at the workshop.

The purpose of the workshop was to set priorities for coral reef conservation in all the islands of the Netherlands Antilles and formulate actions based on these priorities. Presentations by the different islands soon made it clear that the priorities in the different islands are largely the same. A representative of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), from the Caribbean regional coordinating unit of the UN Environment Programme, affirmed once more the seriousness of the state of the coral reefs and the need for national, regional, and international concerted action. The Netherlands Antilles can be proud that they now form part of a still select group of countries that have embarked upon a national coral reef initiative. Of great significance was the fact that Mr. L. Abraham, Minister of Public Health and Environment, opened the meeting, and in his welcoming remarks assured the participants of his government’s commitment to NACRI and to the sustainable management and protection of the coral reefs as an important resource for the islands and people of the Netherlands Antilles

The main priorities for coral reef conservation identified by the NACRI consist first and foremost of the need to persuade and mobilize the local population of the islands for the coral reefs. Of great importance also is the need to support the local Marine Protected Areas or Parks. It is also very necessary to improve regulations and legislation to protect the coral reefs, and of course to enforce them. Another very important need is to prevent marine pollution from land-based sources and activities, especially those caused by wastewater and by coastal construction and development activities. Finally, it is necessary to monitor the state of the reefs and to coordinate monitoring programs on the different islands. Of course, to address many of these priorities, funding will also be necessary.

Based on these priorities the NACRI workshop issued a declaration, summing up all the actions the workshop resolved to undertake. These actions are varied, ranging from the introduction of new fish trap designs to media campaigns to persuade people of the importance of the coral reefs; from the training of Marine Park personnel to introducing coral reefs into the school curricula; from information campaigns for fishermen to lobbying for improved legislation.
The final declaration issued by all the organizations and groups gathered at this NACRI workshop, also strongly encourages the governments of the islands, in particular of Curaçao and St. Maarten, to enact Island Marine Environment Ordinances and Nature Policy Plans as soon as possible.
The NACRI declaration finally encourages the central government of the Netherlands Antilles to implement and ratify the Protocol on land Based Sources and Activities of Pollution of the Cartagena Convention.

During the workshop, ten working groups were established to start work immediately on implementing the proposed actions. It was decided that henceforth NACRI will meet semi-annually to report on the progress of implementing the actions and to reassess the status of the priorities. Right after the conclusion of the workshop, this website was set up to facilitate quick and efficient communication among the NACRI participants, as well as to provide information to others.

Final Declaration of the NACRI Workshop
Bonaire, February 9th, 2001

The Netherlands’ Antilles Coral Reef Initiative (NACRI) participants, all stakeholders in the health and preservation of coral reefs, originating from Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten, gathered in Bonaire on February 9, 2001,

Being concerned with the state of coral reefs and related ecosystems worldwide, and

Being particularly alarmed by the continuing rapid deterioration of coral reefs in the Netherlands Antilles,

Recognizing our islands’ strong economic dependency on these fragile marine resources, as well as their ecological/biological value,

Aware of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), and the principles of sustainable development as articulated in Agenda 21 of the UNCED conference in Rio de Janeiro, 1992,

Considering the weak public support and funding for coral reef preservation, the increasing activities in the coastal zones that negatively impact the coral reefs, and the inadequate legislation and enforcement of regulations aimed at preserving the coral reefs,

Have identified a preliminary list of priorities, resulting in the following proposed short-term actions: Establish a working group to coordinate all coral reef monitoring activities and prepare an annual report organize an information program for local fishermen, presented by a fisherman from St. Lucia, to illustrate the effectiveness of a no-fishing reserve on fish populations outside the reserve area introduce innovations in fish trap design develop strategies toward sustainable fisheriesFormulate and implement a media campaign targeting:

  • sewage problems on all islands
  • the importance of coral reefs to the islands
  • The importance of the Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) of the Neth. Antilles
  • Informing people on yachts and other vessels on MARPOL

Establish a funding committee establish a legislative committeeTrain MPA staff, stakeholders and educators encourage and assist the Education Department in incorporating environmental programs, and specifically coral reef programs, into the formal curriculum of all schools encourage all other islands to embrace standards of construction affecting the marine environment as having been formulated on Bonaire. (Code of conduct for construction of piers, docks, etc. )

Have assigned these tasks to various working groups,

Resolve to meet semi-annually to discuss the results of these working groups in the implementation of the above actions, and to reassess the priorities and resulting actions,

Strongly encourage the Island Governments, in particular of Curaçao and St. Maarten, to enact Marine Environment Ordinances and Nature Policy Plans,

Encourage the central government to ratify and implement the Protocol on “Land-Based Sources and Activities of Marine Pollution” of the Cartagena Convention,

Call on the government and the people of the Netherlands Antilles to support the islands’ Marine Protected Areas.

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