Willemstad - The coral reefs around Curaçao have lost more than 50 percent of the living coral since 1982. This is shown by researchers from the Waitt Instute, who also found that the fish stock is extremely low in the waters of Banda’bou and Westpunt. Experts advise the government to designate so-called marine protected areas (MPAs), areas that are left completely untouched.
'The state of the coral reefs of Curaçao', is the title of the report of the Waitt Institute that promotes sustainable economic and cultural use of oceans. The research for this report was led by Andrew Estep of the Waitt Institute, Dr Stuart Sandin of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Mark Vermeij, director of the Carmabi Foundation.
The Waitt Institute enters alliances with governments that want to manage their national waters sustainably, using scientifically based and socially committed solutions.
In February 2015, the Curaçao government and the Waitt Institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding that resulted in the launch of Blue Halo Curaçao, a comprehensive project for the management of the Curaçao waters and coastal strip.
The condition of the coral reefs around Curacao varies widely. At the level of the middle and west of the island, there are large areas with less coral than the average in the Caribbean region. However, Curacao also has a considerable number of coral reefs with an abundance of living coral, and this means that Curacao, together with Bonaire, is one of the few areas in the Caribbean where there are still intact, healthy reefs.
Curaçao still has a unique asset compared to other islands in the Caribbean, but Curaçao’s reefs are certainly in decline. In the early 1980’s reef building corals made up 34% of Curaçao’s reefs. In 2010, that number had already dropped to 23.2%, indicating that coral cover had decreased by 42% in only three decades.
In 1982, coral cover was 34% on average and exceeding 75% in many areas along the south coast, but is now below 20% and in many locations below 10%. These findings indicate that between 1982 and 2015, Curaçao has lost over 50% of its living coral.
The researchers conclude that, given that tourism makes up 18% of Curaçao’s economic sector and much of the ocean-based tourism is dependent on the health and beauty of Curaçao’s marine resources, this figure highlights the critical need for a strong management system to ensure coral reef ecosystem health and recovery into the future.
,,One key way to protect and enhance these areas and other potential sites is to establish marine protected areas (MPAs) that are “no-take marine reserves”—
i.e. areas that prohibit the harvest of any species. A primary function of MPAs is to decrease the harvest of fish. Less fish harvest leads to increased abundance and size of fish. Larger fish have been proven to have exponentially more reproductive potential, meaning that with larger fish come more fish larvae.”
According to the research team the best sites to consider for establishing no-take reserves and other types of MPAs to maintain or enhance coral reef ecosystem health are Klein Curaçao, Oostpunt and Caracasbaai.
For the full report: