Nutrient Monitoring program finalized

August 2008.
A second year of monitoring has now been completed in Bonaire and Curaçao. The results of the laboratory analysis of the N and P values and the Cholorophyll-a levels of the water samples are now all in, as well as the stable Nitrogen isotope ratio of the algae tissues that were collected. In the coming month these results will be analyzed and a final report will be produced, hopefully by October of this year. The intention is to present the final results and conclusions at the Gulf & Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) meeting on Guadeloupe in November this year as part of the special session of coastal impacts on marine resources. The yearly meetings of the GCFI are a platform not only for fisheries research but also for Marine Protected Area management research. A small working group of experts and interested scientists has been formed to discuss the possibilities during the workshop to develop this type of monitoring into a regional water quality monitoring effort.

The preliminary report on the first year of nutrient monitoring that was prepared by Mark Wieggers as part of his internship working for his master's degree at the University of Utrecht, has now finally been posted on this website and can be downloaded from the literature index or click on the link here:
download preliminary report, pdf 2MB




Coral Reefs of Bonaire and Curacao on the brink

Workshop in Bonaire presents preliminary results of one year of nutrient monitoring

The reefs of Curaçao and Bonaire are on the brink of going the same way as the reefs of Jamaica or Florida, where sea weeds have taken over and are replacing corals. A number of locations in Curaçao already have 50% or more of the bottom covered by so-called macro-algae or sea weeds, and point to land-based sources of pollution. These were some of the conclusions at a meeting in Bonaire where the preliminary results of a year long monitoring program on Bonaire and Curaçao were discussed. The program looked at nutrient concentrations and algae suspended in the water on the reefs of the two islands. It also looked at nitrogen isotope signatures in algae tissues indicating the relative importance of sewage as a source of nitrogen.

The nutrient monitoring project is an initiative of the NACRI, or Netherlands Antilles Coral Reef Initiative, and organized by the department of Nature and Environment of the Netherlands Antilles (MINA), and Stinapa Bonaire, together with Reef Care Curaçao, the Section Environmental Management in Bonaire (DROB-MNB), and the Agriculture and Fisheries Service (LVV) in Curaçao. The Bonaire meeting brought together many people involved in the monitoring work on both islands, as well as representatives of various island government services involved with water treatment and marine conservation. Also present were representatives of the Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA) in St.Lucia, which has recently joined the project, and representatives of St. Maarten and Martinique, who were also interested in this work.

The results presented at the meeting still need further analysis. However, it was clear that on average Curaçao had up to five times more seaweeds on the reef than Bonaire as well as having more phytoplankton (algae suspended in the water). In three places in Curaçao there were indications of nutrients originating from sewage, i.e., down current from the harbor mouth, outside the mouth of the Piscadera Bay, and inside the Spanish Water. The reefs of Curaçao are clearly more polluted than those of Bonaire.
However, disconcertingly high concentrations of ammonia were found in Bonaire, possibly linked with the extremely high nutrient concentrations found in the salt ponds. At the Lagun sampling site very high plankton values were found in the water, as well as a clear sewage signature in the seaweeds growing there. This may be due to leachate from the landfill reaching the water.

In general both Bonaire and Curacao are at or just above the nutrient thresholds that would lead to degradation of the coral reefs. The higher plankton and seaweed values in Curacao indicate higher land-based nutrient loads. Bonaire is not far behind however, and there is a clear and urgent need to prevent nutrient rich waste water from reaching the reefs in order to prevent further reef degradation; careful policy and management are required. Continued monitoring of nutrient levels and pollution indicators in the coastal waters, but also in the groundwater, on both islands, is of great importance for the future of our coral reefs.

The nutrient monitoring program was funded by the American National Fish and Wildlife Foundation the United Nations Environmental Program and the White Water to Blue water initiative, and made possible by the help of many dedicated volunteers and the support of the diveshops on both islands, Captain Don’s Habitat in Bonaire, and Habitat Curaçao.

The presentations given at the workshop in Bonire can be downloaded here:

  1. Nutrient Standards for Protection of Coral Reef Ecosystems - by Brian E. Lapointe, Ph. D. (pdf, 7.5 MB)
  2. Background: NACRI's coral reef monitoring program - by Paul Hoetjes (pdf, 400 KB)
  3. Nutrient Monitoring Program Bonaire - by Frank van Slobbe (pdf, 750 KB)
  4. Research & Monitoring in the Soufriere Marine Management Area, St. Lucia - by HazelAnn Prospere (pdf, 2.5 MB)
  5. Nutrient Monitoring Program - Methods used - by Mark Wieggers (pdf, 2 MB)
  6. Preliminary results from Bonaire and Curaçao - by Mark Wieggers (pdf, 470 KB)



Coral Reef Nutrient Monitoring Bonaire and Curaçao
First round successfully concluded.

Brian Lapointe and volunteers in Bonaire preparing for a dive at Angel City.

March 28, 2006. Last week the first round of nutrient monitoring on the reefs of Bonaire and Curaçao was concluded with a last dive at Watamula Reef in Curaçao. A total of twenty sites, ten in Bonaire and ten in Curaçao, were visited over a nineteen day period. On each site video transects were recorded, water samples taken, and various algae samples collected, both at 60 ft and at 20 ft depths. A total of eighty water samples and more than 220 algae samples were subsequently processed and carried to the US by Brian Lapointe to be analyzed in specialized labs.. The results of this analysis are expected in about a month time, when a start can be made with interpreting the data.

Meanwhile, some general preliminary impressions were formed with regard to nutrient impact on the reefs of Bonaire and Curaçao. First of all it became clear that there definitely is an impact of nutrient pollution on some of the reefs on both islands. Compared to many other places in the Caribbean, the reefs of Curacao and Bonaire still generally look to be in good condition, but signs of nutrient pollution were seen on both islands. On average the reefs in Bonaire were less impacted than those of Curacao, but both islands had some sites that are a cause for serious concern. One particular site in Bonaire showed blooms of various species of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) including the toxic Lyngbia (implicated in the development of disfiguring fibropapillomas in sea turtles), and elevated incidence of coral diseases and corals killed over the past few years. In Curaçao several sites such as Caracas Bay and Piscadera had many dead corals and presented luxurious growth of various macro-algae such as Lobophora, Halimeda, and Dictyota. Some sites in the vicinity of resort areas showed alarmingly luxurious growth of Dictyota and relatively high incidence of Black Band disease. Sites within the town area both in Bonaire and Curacao had clear nutrient indicator macro-algae growing on the rocks in the surf zone, and there is no question that they are being impacted by nutrient pollution, but the other sites will have to await the lab results before any clear conclusions can be drawn.

The specialized laboratory analysis will test for very low levels of dissolved inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus, and will provide a measure of the amount of phytoplankton (floating one-celled algae) in the water. The collected algae samples will yield ratios of nitrogen isotopes in the algae tissues, indicating the source(s) of the nitrogen. Natural sources of nitrogen, fertilizer nitrogen, and sewage nitrogen all have different signatures. When luxurious algae growth coincides with a signature of fertilizer or sewage nitrogen there is clear cause for concern.

Frank van Slobbe and Ramon de Leon
Frank van Slobbe and Ramon de Leon, coordinators of the Bonaire nutrient monitoring effort, familiarizing themselves with a Dissolved Oxygen meter.

Any conclusions, even after the lab results come in, must also take into the account the possible seasonality of nutrient sources, e.g. increased run-off or mixing of ground water with sea water because of the rainy season. That is why this is only the first round of monitoring. It will be repeated quarterly for a year. Over the past couple of weeks volunteers in Bonaire and Curaçao had the opportunity to observe how the sampling is done, how the water samples must be carefully filtered after the dive, avoiding any contamination, and how to distinguish various species of algae. They will now continue the monitoring every three months to produce a complete picture of the nutrient situation of the reefs from which clear conclusions and recommendations can be drawn.




To learn more about nutrients, macro algae and coral reefs you can download the following:

Presentation given by Dr. Brian Lapointe in Bonaire and Curacao (Powerpoint 8 MB)


Lapointe, Brian E. and Katie Thacker: “Community based Water Quality and Coral Reef Monitoring in the Negril Marine Park, Jamaica: Land-based nutrient inputs and their ecological consequences” (PDF, 5 MB)

Lapointe, Brian E. 1997: Nutrient thresholds for bottom-up control of macroalgal blooms on coral reefs in Jamaica and Southeast Florida









Major bleaching event in Dutch Windward islands

Completely bleached Diploria labyrinthiformis (top), and Montastrea faveolata (bottom), St. Maarten

December, 2005. A major bleaching event hit most of the Caribbean over the fourth quarter of 2005. As early as April warnings were sent out on the coral list about a potentially serious bleaching event this year, pointing out some anomalous developments in weather and upwelling patternes, and developing ocean surface temperature hotspots. How serious this bleaching event would turn out to be started to become apparent in July when reports from various parts of the Caribbean started to come in about corals starting to bleach in large numbers. The reports came from such widely separated areas as Florida, Panama, and Colombia, and were soon followed by reports from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and Trinidad & Tobago

The Reef Check teams of the Dutch Windward islands of St. Maarten, St. Eustatius (Statia) and Saba have now released a report on the bleaching. Below is a short summary.
Download full report (pdf, 450 KB)

Bleaching in the Windward islands was first noticed in August. In St. Maarten the first observations were on Aug. 17, at a depth of 15 m, with mostly fire corals (Millepora spp.) bleached (est. 70%). In Statia the first reports came in on Aug. 24, with mainly plate corals (Agaricia spp.) bleaching but at that time only below 26 m. In September bleaching was ubiquitous on all three islands, with an estimated 60-75 % of all coral species bleached in depths of 6-15 m in St. Maarten, and 70-80 % of all coral species bleached in Statia at a depth of 25 m, and bleaching reported from all depths. Saba reported a slightly different pattern, with bleaching apparently somewhat less at depths below 25 m. Saba also reported bleaching incidence in Agaricia spp. slightly less (50%) then in Montastrea cavernosa, and the brain corals (Colpophyllia natans and Diploria spp.), of which 80% were bleached completely, over more than 90% of their surface area. Giant barrelsponges (Xestospongia muta) were reported bleached around their bases, and sea-anemones (Condylactis gigantea) were also bleached bright white. Based on a single visit, bleaching appeared also to be serious on the Saba Bank.

Bleaching lasted well into November on all three islands, but recovery became apparent in Saba in early November with the bleached surface area of corals decreased to 67%, and significant recovery in the second half of November. St. Maarten also reported color returning to corals by November 20. Also reported however, was significant mortality, and in St. Maarten 30 % of the smaller corals are reported to have died.

Download complete bleaching report from the SSS islands (pdf, 450 KB)

Reef Check, which has started a Caribbean-wide effort to survey this bleaching event and its effects, has granted financial support for all three islands to continue monitoring the bleaching and its after-effects.

Meanwhile in Bonaire and Curacao

As one of the few places in the Caribbean, Bonaire and Curaçao (and probably Aruba, though no reports are available), and the northern Venezuelan coast in general, were spared the worst impact of this 2005 bleaching event. Bleaching did not start until around mid-October, and never became total. Coral colonies mostly only paled and did not become completely white. At the end of November - early December an average of 70 % of Montastrea annularis complex was pale or partially bleached, and 50-60 % of other head corals such as Siderastrea, Colpophyllia and Diploria labyrinthiformis (but Diploria strigosa showing very little bleaching). In deeper water 85% of Agaricia plate corals were pale or partially bleached. There was a lot of variance between different sites though, with bleaching ranging from 40-88% for M. annularis complex, and 30-65% for Colpophyllia natans in different sites. Similarly, in Bonaire bleaching appeared to be much less than in Curaçao, though this impression isbased on a single observation and no quantitative data are avaialable.

By mid-December water temperatures had dropped to 27º C, and corals are expected to recuperate quickly. No mortality attributable to cleaching was observed.






Bonaire National Marine Park has a new manager

August, 2004. Ramon de Leon has been named the new Manager of the Bonaire National Marine Park. The 42-year-old oceanographer has been working in Bonaire’s dive industry for six years and is a master in deep dives, Nitrox and mixed gas. From Uruguay, Mr. DeLeon previously worked at Toucan Diving and Photo Tours.

Director Elsmarie Beukenboom (l) presents STINAPA Bonaire's management team at the 2005 Nature Forum. From left to right: Elsmarie Beukenboom, Washington/Slagbaai Park manager Fernando Simal, office manager Kerenza Rannou , education officer Debby Wauben, and new Marine Park manager Ramon de Leon.







Meeting of ad hoc NACRI committee
Cancun, Mexico, June 13, 2002

On June 13, 2002, a small ad hoc NACRI committee, consisting of Kalli de Meyer (CORAL), Kay Lynn Plummer, manager of St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation (STENAPA), Fernando Simal, acting manager Bonaire National Marine Park Bonaire, Andre Feijs (board member Reef Care Curaçao), Mark Vermeij (Univ. Miami RSMAS), and Paul Hoetjes (MINA, acting NACRI coordinator), met in the margin of the ICRI Tropical Americas Regional Workshop in Cancun to discuss the status of the NACRI and the priority action points identified during the first NACRI meeting in Bonaire on February 9, 2001

The group concluded that a 2nd NACRI meeting is urgently necessary to discuss various priority action points in depth. NACRI meetings also provide the necessary feedback to keep the working groups going. Regular bulletins on the status and/or progress of NACRI and on the status of Antillean reefs should also be issued.

During the Bonaire meeting last year several working groups were formed to address each of the priority action points. After an initial enthusiastic start however, not much activity came out of these groups. A factor in this may have been the sophisticated electronic discussion board that was made available to the groups, but which proved to be somewhat to complicatd for many. It should be noted however that a simple straightforward way to communicate is also available by simply sending mail through the discussion group. Another cause for the inactivity is the fact that some members/coordinators left the islands. The lack of a 2nd NACRI meeting meant that this situation was not remedied.

Although NACRI as such has not yet made much progress due to the lack of funding, both for any projects and for a 2nd meeting, progress has been made by individual organizations/ agencies towards the priority action points identified at the Bonaire meeting. What is still needed is the coordination of all the efforts going on, and to consolidate NACRI as a united body that has more weight when calling for action or identifying priorities. To achieve this, everyone in the ad hoc group agreed that we need to continue to support NACRI.

Evaluating each of the priority action points identified by NACRI in February last year the ad hoc group came to the following conclusions:

During the ad hoc meeting Dr. Mark Vermeij, a marine biologist formerly active in the Reef Care monitoring program while working on his Ph.D. in Curaçao, and presently doing post-doc work at the Univ. of Miami Rosentiel School of Marine Science (RSMAS) for NOAA, offered to address any scientific questions MPA managers might have regarding monitoring or research. He indicated that there were a number of his colleagues at RSMAS where he is presently working, who would be happy to provide advice, and he could direct questions to the right experts.
This offer was gladly accepted, so NACRI now has a Scientific Advisory Group. Mark can be contacted at

Reef Care Curaçao offered to provide funding for a part time NACRI coordinator (10 hr/week). This generous offer was applauded by the committee, but it was concluded that before hiring anyone it must first be very clear what exactly the work is that needs to be done, and what it would require from the person that would be doing it, in order to find the right person for the job. It might be better to let the full NACRI meeting decide on something like this.

MINA will keep trying to organize the next NACRI meeting, now aiming for a date somewhere in October.

At the time of this writing the latest news is that Reef Care Curaçao together with Reef Relief in Florida and with the Kurá Hulanda Hotel in Curaçao, is planning a Caribbean Coral Reef Conference in Curaçao during the last week of October. A NACRI meeting will be scheduled in conjunction with that. PH.


Netherlands Antilles officially join ICRI

On February 19, 2002 the Netherlands Antilles offcially joined the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) partnership with a letter from the Minister of Public Health and Social Development sent to the ICRI secretariat. In this letter the Minister acknowledges the importance of the coral reef resources to the islands of the Netherlands Antilles, both economically and for their great biodiversity value, and the need to manage them in a sustainable way. The Minister further notes the government's support for NACRI and expresses the support of the Netherlands Antilles for the ICRI partnership, and appoints the department of Environment and Nature (MINA), presently acting as NACRI coordinator, as the focal point for ICRI.

The Dutch Minister of Nature Conservation, Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, had earlier sent a letter to the Netherlands Antilles indicating support for Kingdom membership of ICRI, and proposing, in recognition of the existence of the NACRI, that the Netherlands Antilles coordinate the participation of the Kingdom in the ICRI.









Five tools to raise tourists' awareness on coral reefs.

February 14, 2002

The United Nations Environment Programme has prepared five communication tools that can be used to educate tourists about the importance of protecting coral reefs during their holidays. The tools are available free of charge on CD ROM and can be used to print attractive and informative materials. They are intended primarily for tourists but can also be used for tourism industry employees and local residents.

The tools are designed to convey the message that each of us can contribute to the protection of coral reefs during our holidays and that any action counts. For more information on these tools and how to acquire them from UNEP, take a look at the UNEP brochure in pdf format [285 Kb]: five tools to communicate about coral reef protection










Conch Poacher caught in Statia

August 9, 2001

A fisherman in Statia who's been taking hundreds of conch every week has lately been getting even more because he lost his job. The Statia Marine Park manager tried talking to him on several occasions but with no luck. Yesterday, a police officer assisted the park manager on the marine park boat and the poacher was caught coming in with over 100 conch. The spot where he came up had a depth of 72 feet...inside the boundaries (The park boundaries are at the 100 ft depth contour). The poacher argued that there are no regulations against it (even though the police and the park manager had supplied him with a copy of the Marine Environment Ordinance the week before) but was quieted after being taken in. He was not arrested, but was told that if he's caught again, its 2 months in jail or Naf 5000.









UNEP – Caribbean Environment Programme
SPAW Sub-Programme

CaMPAM Network – Small Grants Fund

The United Nations Environmental Program, through its Regional Coordinating Unit for the Caribbean Environmental Program (UNEP-CAR/RCU) last year established a Small Grants Fund to further support the network of Wider Caribbean Marine Protected Area Managers (CaMPAM). The Fund was established as part of the SPAW subprogram of the Caribbean Environment Program or CEP.

Local MPA management organizations, whether they are NGO, governmental or private, can apply for project funding from this Small Grants Fund. Maximum grant size is $ 8000. For the period 2000-2003 focus areas are:

Priority will be given to MPAs that participate actively in the CaMPAM network, and located in countries that are Contracting Parties to the Cartagena Convention and its protocols (and are current in their contributions). Proposals that form part of a larger project or that receive co-financing from the local institution or other donors will likewise be given priority





ICRI lists NACRI as National Committee

June 4, 2001.
NACRI is now listed as a National Committee on the official website of the ICRI (International Coral Refe Initiative).
A "kiosk" has been set up for the NACRI with general information and a link to the NACRI website.

To take a look at the kiosk go to: and click on ICRI partners, then scroll down to ICRI National
Committees and click on NACRI.

So far the NACRI is one of only five National Committees, the others (at this writing still without a kiosk) are: USA, France, India
and Mexico.