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BES Islands 2011

Sixth year No. 3


Saba, St Eustatius and Bonaire new Dutch municipalities EEZ: economic tool that helps ecology flourish Now there’s Dutch coral along with the heather and dunes

This edition was made possible by

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Photos: SHAPE, photographers for nature conservation

Change Magazine is a theme-based publication issued three to six times a year. Editor in chief Baud Schoenmaeckers Coordinating editor Maartje Smeets Editorial Board Representatives of the then Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality: Ton Akkerman, Robert Jan Croonen, Hayo Haanstra, Myronne Heckmann, Carel Heringa, Henk Groenewoud, Reinder Schaap, Mariska Bottema, Roelof Jan Donner, Cathrien de Pater. Contributors DaniĂŤlle van Gils, Antoinette Kleinhaarhuis, Ruud Koornstra, Anita Wouters.

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Translators Catharina de Kat-Reynen, Sara van Otterloo-Butler, Susan Parren-Gardner Design and layout Jacqueline Elich, Coen Mulder, Monique Willemse Lithography Nederlof, Heemstede Printer HENK Grafimedia Printrun 8.000 ex Change Magazine is distributed in controlled circulation. Free subscription via: This magazine is printed on FSC certified paper and packed in biodegradable plastic.

Publisher Synergos Communicatie PO Box 5171 2000 CD Haarlem The Netherlands +31 23-5442751 Recommending committee Dr Ton Akkerman (Ministry of Agriculture Quartermaster BES Islands), Prof. Frans Berkhout (Director, Institute for Environmental Studies, Amsterdam), Toon Bullens (Chair, Federation of Mutual Insurance Societies), Daan Dijk (Rabobank Nederland), Prof. Jan Willem Erisman (Unit manager, Biomass, Coal & Environment, Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands ECN), Johan van de Gronden (General Director, WWF

Netherlands), Hayo Haanstra (Climate policy coordinator, Ministry of Agriculture), Prof. Pim Martens (Director, ICIS-Maastricht University), Joop Oude Lohuis (Climate and Global Sustainability team leader, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, PBL), Prof. Pavel Kabat (Science Director, Dutch National Climate Research Programme), Annemarie van der Rest (Manager, Health, Safety and Environmental Affairs, Shell Nederland), Sandra Korthuis (Board member, Association of Netherlands Municipalities), Prof. Pier Vellinga (Chair, Climate for Knowledge Research Programme), Prof. AndrĂŠ van der Zande (Secretary General, Ministry of Agriculture), Prof Chris Zevenbergen (Director, Dura Vermeer Business Development BV). Coverphoto Henkjan Kievit


Biodiversity: so near and yet so far The Dutch Caribbean, a name that ignites the imagination. In October 2010 the BES islands, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, acquired the status of special municipalities of the Netherlands, and the former Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist. The islands are home to priceless ecological treasures, both under water and on land: turtles, lobsters, whales, dolphins, coral, flamingos, and a seemingly endless list of tropical plant species. In the year of biodiversity, the Netherlands has therefore acquired a greater responsibility for nature’s riches. In 2009, the former Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality started preparations for the transfer of these three Antillean islands to the Netherlands, in close cooperation with the local population. The Ministry of Agriculture quartermaster on the islands and his counterparts in The Hague have worked to ensure that the islands are included in Dutch nature management policy and that legislation was adjusted accordingly. The Minister now assumes responsibility, for example for trade permits for endangered species. A regional office for the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation of the islands was opened on Bonaire in October 2010. Protected areas, fisheries, biodiversity maintenance, research and monitoring will receive extra attention in the months to come.

On 1 September an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) came into effect for the former Netherlands Antilles. The zone covers an area stretching out 200 miles from the coast of the islands. It is home to rich biodiversity and is an important fishing area. Near the islands of St Eustatius and Saba lies the Saba Bank, with its impressive array of coral reefs. It is vital that the Ministry designates this as a specially protected area, so that the Coast Guard can divert the oil tankers that damage the coral and impede fishermen. This edition of Change magazine provides a glimpse into the wealth of biological riches that the BES islands possess. It also highlights the opportunities and threats that humans and wildlife face in this ‘new’ piece of the Netherlands. I hope that you are as excited as I am by Saba, St Eustatius and Bonaire, and that you enjoy reading about them. Anita Wouters Director General Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation

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8 A new chapter for Saba, St Eustatius and Bonaire

12 Nature in all its diversity From cloud forest to salt domes. The three islands differ as much from each other as the Wadden Sea does from Limburg.

What does the islands’ new status mean for their inhabitants and their relations with the Netherlands?

22 Fishermen on the islands await developments “You want to protect nature, but who’s going to protect the fishermen?”

28 The same dance to different rhythms

32 From heather and woods to mangrove and coral

36 Saba, the unspoiled Queen

“It will never become a case of economy versus ecology.”

What role do Dutch nature conservation organizations see for themselves on the islands?

No jet set, no fancy yacht harbour. The Unspoiled Queen is still almost untouched by the 21st century.

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editorial 3 Foreword 5 Editorial 6 Overview map of the Dutch Caribbean 8 New chapter for Saba, St Eustatius and Bonaire 11 Did you know that…? 12 Nature in all its diversity 16 St Eustatius: A diamond in the rough 20 How the Netherlands protects its coral 22 Fishermen on the islands: From self-regulation to international conventions 24 The coast guard can now more effectively control a larger area 26 International treaties protect all species 27 Opinion: Ruud Koornstra 28 The same dance to different rhythms 32 From heather and woods to mangrove and coral 36 Saba: The unspoiled Queen 40 Overview of organizations

An ecological goldmine Waving coral, tropical cloud forest, sea turtles and flamingos: all of this and more can now be found in the Netherlands. On 10-10-2010 Saba, St Eustatius and Bonaire officially became special municipalities of the Netherlands. We have devoted a special edition of Change Magazine to the unprecedented natural riches of these new island municipalities, and in particular the opportunity to bring a halt to the decline in biodiversity on the planet which they present us with.

ker moored offshore. Underwater coral has colonized shipwrecks, the oldest of which dates back to 1700. The youngest has only been there for four years. Statia offers a wealth of opportunities for sustainable development, but the work must be done carefully, and with respect for local knowledge.

My journey turns southwards, to the diving paradise of Bonaire, off the coast of Venezuela. With a population of about 13,000 it is the largest of the three islands and atFor this edition I made a special trip tracts the most tourists. While theto the islands in the Caribbean. Saba re’s always a cool breeze on the windwas my first stop. The brochures ward islands of Saba and Statia, Bodescribe the island as a ‘paradise of naire is hot and dry. The Washingunspoiled natural beauty’, and they ton Slagbaai National Park is home are not exaggerating. As I land at to desert, cactus, beach, salt fields, the world’s smallest international coral fossils, pools, basalt columns, airport, I catch a glimpse of a moun- an iguana forest and flamingos. The tain, its summit shrouded in mist, coast is lined with new villas and hothe domain of the mysterious cloud tels. The island needs well-thoughtforest. The island breathes tranquili- out policies if economic and ecologity. It is as though time has stood cal development are to be sustainastill: no jetsetters, no fancy yacht ble. marina. But appearances deceive. The 21st century has well and truly This edition throws a new light on arrived on Saba, and carefully mathe Dutch Caribbean. It examines naged progress is required if its pre- the fabulous natural wealth of the iscious nature is to be preserved for lands, bearing in mind that it is not the coming centuries. without reason that the UN declared 2010 the year of biodiversity. The St Eustatius, nicknamed Statia by Netherlands, together with its new the locals, is my next stop. The short municipalities now has an opportuflight is almost surrealistic: glimpnity to make a difference, by calling ses of giant trees in a volcano crater a halt to the decline in biodiversity. merge with views of a giant oil tanThe Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, as it then was, helped to produce this publication, and its successor, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, will make an important contribution to these developments in coming years.

Baud Schoenmaeckers Editor in chief

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The Netherlands gains three Caribbean municipalities Bonaire Surface Area: 38 km long, 4 to 11 km wide Population: 12. 900 Nature: Bonaire not only has a jungle and underwater nature, but it also has cactus forests. Sea turtles lay their eggs on protected beaches. Six areas have been designated as Important Bird Areas by Bird Life International. History: The Dutch conquered Bonaire in 1636. In the late seventeenth century, African slaves were brought to the island to work. In 1816 Bonaire became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Referendum: 60 percent of the population was in favour of joining the Netherlands.

Hans Leijnse

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Redactie redactie

Saba Surface Area: 13 square km Population: approximately 1500 Nature: A dormant volcano covered by cloud forest. There are a large number of underwater coral pillars. The Saba bank is an important marine ecosystem, which whales use as a birthing ground. History: Traces of Arawak and Caribbean Indians. The Dutch arrived in 1640. Between 1632 and 1816 the island was owned by 12 different powers. In 1816 it finally became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Referendum 2004: 86 percent of the population voted in favour of direct ties with the Netherlands.

St Eustatius Surface area: 32 square km Population: 3400 Nature: Beaches where sea turtles lay their eggs, marine parks with clumped coral. On the island the steppe gradually makes way for tropical forest with a unique ecosystem and rare plant species, such as the Statia Morning Glory. History: The Dutch occupied St Eustatius (Statia) in 1636. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was a large trading post with 20,000 inhabitants, but by the end of the eighteenth century it fell into decline. Referendum 2005: 75 percent of the population chose to remain part of the Dutch Antilles.

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by Maartje Smeets and Danielle van Gils

Henkjan Kievit

The Netherlands has three new stunning municipalities. On 10-10-2010 the Caribbean islands of Saba, St Eustatius and Bonaire received a new status that ties them more closely to the Netherlands. What does that mean for the islands, their inhabitants and their ties to the Netherlands?

A new chapter for Saba, Bonaire and St Eustatius The new status of the islands has considerable consequences for their inhabitants. Positive consequences, such as health insurance, but also consequences that are emotionally more difficult to deal with, such as more environmental and construction regulations. Some of the inhabitants did not vote in favour of the new status when the referendum was held. They were sceptical of the Dutch who, sometimes in remarkably large numbers, are present as administrators, as inhabitants or as businessmen.

Respect It’s up to the Dutch to earn the respect of the local population. The fact that working together does not always go smoothly

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was shown when a zoning plan for St Eustatius was created. A Dutch company was contracted to draw up the basic plan, but the locals opposed the result. As the Statian Charles ‘please, no surname’ said, “It would be a good idea to make the plan, not in a Dutch office, but on Statia itself together with the local population, administrators, environmental officers, fishermen and businessmen. Visit a local businessman; talk with the people at the tourist office, with teachers. Then the plan would have wide support and might succeed.” Charles said that he hoped his island “would be lifted up in the momentum of the changes ahead”. The importance of working together propperly and of support also became clear when creating the plan

for the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in which the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation plays an active role. The purpose of the EEZ is to stimulate the economy while also protecting biodiversity. (See also page 20, How the Netherlands protects its coral.)

Biodiversity Even though the inhabitants somewhat dread the almost clichéd Dutch mania for organization, it seems that the islands’ rich biodiversity both on the land and at sea would profit from more regulation. Environmentalists on the islands hope that the Netherlands will give them more support and financial means for research and monitoring. That would help them

Residents from a home for the elderly on Bonaire during an excursion to Washington Slagbaai National Park. photo Karen Winona van Dijk

learn more about their natural environment so that they are more capable of protecting it. Nature is invaluable for the islands. For example, eighty percent of Bonaire’s income comes from tourists who go there to dive. Nature protection serves a large economic importance. As government spokesman Glenn Thodé says of his Bonaire: “There will never be a situation of economy versus ecology because they’ll always go hand in hand. As authorities we will see to it that Bonaire retains its ecological values. Only then can we help the economy to prosper.”

(See also page 28, The same dance to different tunes.)

A sort of new municipalities Maarten Beks, senior policy officer at the Association of Netherlands Municipalities, visits the islands regularly to support the administrators in all the ongoing changes. Although the tie to the Netherlands has become closer, the islands as municipalities can’t be compared to municipalities in the Dutch polders. Beks: “Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire have been given the status of public authority. That means that they

15 December 1954: Queen Juliana signs the Statute for the Kingdom with Suriname and the Antilles in the Knights’ Hall in The Hague. / spaarnestad Photo/NFP

don’t have to fully comply with the Municipalities Act. This is only logical because the Act contains regulations about railway connections for example, which don’t apply to the islands. ’ In the past, Flevoland also had the status of public authority. This ‘new land’ gradually evolved into a province with its own municipalities, but Beks doesn’t expect this kind of development for the islands. “They’ll never become municipalities as we know them in the Netherlands. They just have too little administrative power

The history of the islands and the Netherlands On 15 December 1954 Queen Juliana signed the Statute for the Kingdom of the Netherlands. From that moment, the Kingdom consisted of three separate countries: Suriname, the Dutch Antilles and the Netherlands. In 1975 Suriname became independent, and eleven years later Aruba was give a ‘separate status’. Meanwhile, the relation between large Curacao and the small islands became lopsided, and the small islands felt that their voices didn’t count. This situation came to an end on 10 October 2010 when Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius became Dutch municipalities. St Maarten and Curacao are autonomous countries within the Kingdom.

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Karen Winona van Dijk

Laws and regulations With one or two differences, Dutch laws will gradually replace the laws of the Antilles. Social security payments, for example, will be lower than in the Netherlands. Inhabitants will be eligible to vote for the Dutch Lower Chamber and the European Parliament. The Netherlands will see to it that the islands comply with certain financial demands, and the Netherlands is responsible for the police and the judiciary on the three islands. The communal Court of Justice of the Dutch Antilles and Aruba will continue to exist under a new name and will administer justice on the islands. By the Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba Public Authorities Act (WolBES), the islands became special Dutch municipalities. The Act defines, for example, the administrative system, the composition and powers of authorities and the supervision of the public authorities. The new political relation became effective on 10 October 2010. Young people on Bonaire enjoy jumping from the high cliffs.

helmet because this is stipulated by Dutch traffic regulations. But it will also be possible to regulate the disposal of poisonous liquids or asbestos. The necessary steps are already being taken in the areas of spatial planning and waste disposal. On Saba, St Eustatius and Bonaire, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and the island inhabitants are looking for ways to improve waste disposal. Cleaning up the existing dumping grounds and setting up a good system to separate waste are also items on the agenda.

and capacity. Plus the context is also completely different, and the distance between local and other levels of administration is so great. You can’t just drive from Saba to The Hague if you want to discuss something with a civil servant.” St Eustatius, Bonaire and Saba fall directly under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. So they have nothing to do with a province, which carries out regional activities such as road repair. They don’t have any neighbouring municipalities with whom they can deal with problems and they lack supporting bodies such as the Water Boards. In short, the islands still have a very unique position.

Be wary of one-way traffic According to Beks, Dutch civil servants should be wary about creating a system of one-way traffic, which could strengthen the local fear of foreigners and their mania for organization. He is optimistic that the collaboration will be productive. “Once

Not interchangeable “We have to remember that the islands differ a lot from one another”, says Beks. “People seem to think that this is a row of interchangeable, adjacent islands with attractive sandy beaches. But nothing could be less true. There are huge cultural differences. The inhabitants are also afraid of being grouped under the heading ‘BES islands’. By listening closely to the inhabitants of each individual island, we can prevent this from happening.”

eilanden2011 10-10-2010 10 BES islands ChangeChange

Karen Winona van Dijk

The question of what changes the inhabitants will experience as a result of the new status remains open. Beks expects that more money will be made available for things like education, health care, nature protection and waste disposal. But more money also means more rules. For example, people who ride scooters or motorcycles on the islands will have to wear a

Kevin Paula, a young Bonairean, looks at the brochure of STINAPA, the National Parks Foundation.

You can’t just drive from Saba to The Hague if you want to discuss something with a civil servant contacts have been made between Dutch civil servants and the authorities or businessmen on the islands, they are enduring. People stay in touch, even if one is back in the Netherlands again and the other still on St Eustatius or Saba.” Beks warnes against arrogance on the part of the Dutch. “We have to remember that, as Dutch civil servants, we can learn a lot from the administrative culture on the islands. Policy makers and administrators often return from the Caribbean full of enthusiasm when they see how the contacts between the island authorities and the inhabitants are. In Nieuwegein, for example, no one takes any notice if the alderman walks down the street. On Bonaire, everyone stops to say hello to the deputy (the equivalent of the Dutch alderman).’ The short distance between citizen and administrator isn’t the only good example for Dutchmen. Beks thinks that the Dutch can also learn something from the island mentality. “The course of events on the islands shows that you don’t have to draw up rules and regulations for everything to ensure that things go well. Sometimes it’s better to operate in more freedom so that there’s room for flexibility and improvisation.”n

Saba is the only place in the Netherlands where people can

world-champion wind-

be buried in the garden? The island was excepted from the

surfer – on Bonaire; St

Burial and Cremation Act; Long ago people from Saba re-

Eustatius is the only

turned to the island to be buried; Since 10/10/10 inhabitants

place on earth where

of Curacao have to follow an official citizenship course; The

you can find the St Eus-

Netherlands has acquired a new unique gecko – recently

tatius Morning Glory – a

discovered on Saba; Eight new species of animals were dis-

rare plant that blossoms

covered on the Saba Bank this year; Saba has the most cli-

briefly every morning;

mate zones per km2 in the world: steppe/

The fishermen from Urk have colleagues

savannah, primary lower forest, second-

overseas – but they don’t have to worry

ary higher forest, cloud forest; The Neth-

about competition from them; The Neth-

erlands has the smallest international air-

erlands has its own lobster fishing fleet

port in the world – Saba; The Netherlands

on Saba and St Eustatius; The Dutch

has acquired new neighbours: the United

volcanoes on St Eustatius and Saba are

States, France and Venezuela; Among the

still active – but they’ve been dormant

1600 inhabitants of Saba, the most com-

for more than a century; Amsterdam has

mon religions per head of the population are Methodists,

relinquished the throne: the second largest Dutch harbour

Seventh Day Adventists, Hindus, Muslims and Roman Cath-

(in tonnage terms) is on St Eustatius; The Netherlands has a

olics; In addition to scrapple and

new national hero: Simon Bolivar freed Bolivia with the help

blood pudding, the Netherlands

of our Caribbean countrymen;

can add a new dish to its national

St Eustatius is the country

cuisine: the Saba pot, with pig’s

that has changed ‘owners’

head and organs as the basic in-

most often – between 1636

gredients; The polling station in

and 1816, 22 countries ‘took

The Hague has outposts more

care of’ the ‘Historical Gem

than 7000 km away; You can go from Amsterdam to Bonaire

of the Caribbean’; The world’s

(7800 km) faster than from Saba to Bonaire (1200 km); The

fourth best location for div-

Netherlands has such an effective GKMB division (Yellow

ing is now in the Netherlands

Fever and Mosquito Protection) that there are no mosquitoes

– Saba; About 200 treaties

on Saba; The largest tree in the Netherlands, the kapok tree,

have to be adjusted now that

is on St Eustatius; The number of nature parks in the Neth-

the Dutch Antilles no longer exist (since 10-10-10) and the

erlands has tripled with the new status of the BES islands;

BES islands have become Dutch municipalities; The world’s

The Netherlands now

first underwater photos were taken on Bonaire (1939) and

has to deal with invasive

the first underwater cameras were also developed here;

species from oil tankers’

The first mooring buoys for divers on Bonaire were de-

drainage water; In addi-

signed by Captain Don and are now used throughout the

tion to heath, woods and

world; The smallest bird in the Netherlands, the Antillean

dunes, the Netherlands

crested hummingbird, lives in St Eustatius National Park.

now also has tropical rainforest and coral; The Netherlands boasts a Change BES islands 2011 11

Three islands, three entities, one nature management organization

Nature in all its diversity From cloud forest and salt domes to coral pillars. Each of the three islands of Saba, St Eustatius and Bonaire not only has its own population, culture, language and administration, but the differences in their natural environments are just as big as those between the Wadden Sea and the hills of Limburg. by Baud Schoenmaeckers and Maartje Smeets

The diversity of natural wealth is as large as the cultural and administrative differences among the three islands. “But there is good collaboration in the area of nature management”, says Kalli De Meyer, the director of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA). “A good example for the administrative bodies of the islands”, she adds with a wink. DCNA is the umbrella organization of nature parks on the former Antilles and Aruba and it supports park management, promotes sustainable policy, and educates and instructs. Queen Beatrix is the patroness of the organization, which has been a beneficiary of the Postal Code Lottery since 2008.

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No hands-off policy The nature parks on the three islands form a large source of income. More (nature) tourism results in more money, but the room for expansion is limited. De Meyer: “Tourists should be able to use the parks because that brings in money. But having more tourists puts more pressure on nature. We’re continually looking for a good balance. Operations have to be sustainable now so that we can still reap nature’s fruits in the long run.” Without dramatizing, she explains: “Coral has made room for hotels. Wastewater used to be discharged without being processed. Add to that a rise in the water temperature, and the coral become

sick or die. Once destroyed, they never return. The rainforest on St Eustatius where so many trees have been cut down – gone forever. So it’s important to safeguard the value of nature not only to retain biodiversity but also from an economic perspective.” Economic growth has left its traces behind on Bonaire. De Meyer: “The sand from the dunes on Bonaire was once used for construction. A natural coastal defence, a dike made of coral, was dug up and the material was ground into sand for construction. Of course it must be possible to build, but import the construction materials. That’s

Dos Winkel

The northern coast of Lac Bay, part of the Bonaire National Marine Park. Lac is a shallow bay with mangrove forests, creeks, a barrier reef and fields of sea grass where sea turtles feed. The Ministry of Economics, Agriculture and Innovation is studying how much this

more expensive now, but letting irreplaceable nature disappear will create higher hidden costs in the future.”

Link A legal framework and administrative regulations are essential for sustainable nature management and exploitation. “That’s why we’re happy that the Island Regulation on Nature Management has been effective since 1 September 2010 and that the Spatial Development Plan will soon be adopted by the administration of Bonaire,” says Elsmarie Beukenboom, the director of the Bonaire National Parks Foundation, STINAPA. “Management and

area can bear now that tourism, erosion, sedimentation and cattle are increasing. A recovery plan for the mangrove forests is being created together with STINAPA. The WWF has allocated money to appoint a ‘mangrove manager’.

protection are closely related. I think that the activities for users should take priority since they’re paying customers.” Because of a shortage of people and money, Beukenboom cannot do much in the area of nature preservation. Regulations have to be adjusted. “Bats live in our caves. The bats are protected, but the caves aren’t. If the Spatial Development Plan is passed, I hope that both will be given ‘protected’ status. The bat is very important to the island because it is the only way in which cactuses are dispersed, and cactus are essential to the food chain. I’m not saying that tourists should no longer be allowed into the caves, but I want to know what the effects are.

Of course it’s more expensive to import construction materials, but letting irreplaceable nature disappear will create higher hidden costs in the future Change BES islands 2011 13

Policy can be made on the basis of scientific information. That applies to the management of the parks, both on land and underwater, on all three of the islands.”

Climate change The effects of climate change are already being felt. Both Bonaire and Statia have low-lying areas that cannot cope with the expected rise of the sea level from 0.18 to 0.59 m in the next century. According to Beukenboom, the rise is already visible on Bonaire; for the past few years, the road in the southern part of the island is under water for three months a year. “In the past, the road used to be flooded by rainwater, but now it’s salty seawater. The coral dike that once protected the southern area has disappeared. The land is low lying and its natural protection has vanished.” On both Bonaire and St Eustatius, the groundwater and many underwater springs are becoming saltier because of the rising sea level.

Policy of adaptation The expected extremes in precipitation and drought have immediate negative effects on water supplies and water quality. Since 2002 it has been warmer and drier on the islands. This in turn influences the

A dangerous beauty: the lionfish The lionfish, commonly referred to as the coral devil, comes from the Indian Ocean. It’s an invasive species that is threatening the biodiversity of the coral reefs. The lionfish has no natural enemies in this area. Each month the fish lay about 30,000 eggs, which are quickly carried further by the currents in the Caribbean. They eat large numbers of coral fish, which is decimating the rest of the fish population. And because of the ideal living conditions, the lionfish grows faster in Caribbean waters than its prey does. DCNA has asked people to catch and kill the fish and to report any sightings of the fish. A thorough approach to the problem is being put together.

growth of the mountain vegetation on Saba and Statia. Trees are impeded in their natural cooling process, which forms an immediate threat to the cloud forest on Saba. Changes in temperature and humidity will cause a number of tree types to die simply because they can’t grow any further. The number of storms and their inten-

sity is expected to increase by 66 percent. Coastal erosion, the sea’s encroachment on coral reefs and the disappearance of coastal ecosystems, mangrove forests and beaches where threatened sea turtles lay their eggs are the result. This threatens the revenues from tourism, which are so very important to the island inhabitants.

Biodiversity on three islands Coral


Hans Leijnse

The slopes of the 887-meter-high Mount Scenery are richly covered with ferns, lemon and banana trees, palms and orchids. The savannah at the bottom of the slopes ends in a tropical rainforest at the top. Nature on Saba is perhaps the best preserved on earth. The island has no beaches, but the underwater world is breathtaking. With thirty inspected diving locations Saba is one of the world’s top diving locations. The water is crystal clear, which gives a magnificent view of the various sorts of coral, the colourful sponges and the magical ‘pinnacles’ that rise like thin needles. This is the habitat of the stingray, the turtle and the nurse shark. Especially unique are the warm water springs, the mysterious lava tunnels and the lava rocks of the Ladder Labyrinth.

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The IPCC’s predicted rise in water temperature between 1.4 and 3.2 degrees Celsius this century will increase the number of coral diseases, and coral will become bleached and die. Although not a lot is known about it yet, it is believed that there is a relation between coral bleaching and the acidification of seawater. Because of the increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, the oceans are absorbing more CO2.

Brown pelican

The rise in water temperature also leads to a decrease in oxygen in some parts of the ocean, which in turn leads to fish dying. Alterra, part of Wageningen University and Research centre, has been commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation to study the effects of climate change on the islands. In a preliminary publication, Alterra says that the islands can make adjustments in the areas of land use, zoning and nature management. “We can’t do anything about the causes of climate change, but we can make our islands robust,” says De Meyer. One measure leads to fast results and serves more than one goal. Beukenboom: “Round up all of the wandering livestock on the islands and provide feed for the animals. The lack of feed is the reason that the animals wander freely on the islands. If we have a water purification plant, we can produce the necessary feed for livestock.” (See also page 32, From heath and forest to mangrove and coral.)

It’s important to view the developments on the islands in relation to one another. By using local expertise and opportunities, the new Dutch municipalities can grow in a sustainable fashion. n

Elsmarie Beukenboom

Kalli de Meyer

The islands will become greener again if the grazing livestock are less free to roam. The microclimate will change and trees

St Eustatius

Miro Zumrik

will have the chance to grow. Groundwater will be better retained and erosion will decrease. Agriculture will have a sounder base upon which it can develop and the livestock will no longer eat up the mangrove forests, which form natural protection against the encroaching sea.

St Eustatius is richly diverse both on land and underwater. Whereas Saba’s underwater world is characterized by pillar coral, Statia has clumped coral. Sea turtles feed on the meadows of sea grass, and the threatened queen conch is another member of Statia’s marine world. Birds like the brown pelican nest on the island. At the bottom of the volcanic crater there are threatened animals and plants such as the red-bellied racer snake and the Lesser Antillean iguana. The Statia Morning Glory, once thought to have disappeared, can also be found on the island.

Henkjan Kievit

Climate change is already being felt: in recent years the main road between the harbour and Salina Vlijt has been under water for three months a year


Mangrove forest

With its mangrove forests and salt domes, Bonaire is completely different from the other two islands. This island has dry areas where many sorts of cactus feel at home. The bats that live in the caves disperse the cactus. The pink flamingo is an important symbol of the island, but parakeets and parrots are also common. Divers stare in wonder at the colourful coral reefs, and some of the beaches are nesting areas for sea turtles.

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St Eustatius: Facts & figures Surface area: 8 kilometres long, 3 kilometres wide Population: 3400 Location: 150 miles from Puerto Rico, 38 miles south of St Maarten, 17 miles southwest of Saba Distance from the Netherlands: 6.963 km Flying time to St Maarten: 15 minutes Discovered by: Columbus in 1493 Occupied: Has changed ownership 22 times Became Dutch territory: first time 1636 Golden age: 17th and 18th centuries, 20,000 inhabitants, most important centre of trade in the Caribbean Nickname: The Golden Rock First: foreign nation to be recognized by the US, 16 November, 1776 Number of religions: 10

Green iguana

16 BES islands 2011 Change

St Eustatius

Hans Leijnse

Christian Konig

A diamond in the rough A diving paradise bordered by fascinating nature reserves. A crater one can walk on with trees as tall as sequoias. St Eustatius, affectionately called Statia, is just what the brochure claims: ‘The Caribbean’s hidden treasure’. With such incredibly diverse nature, the Netherlands has gained a diamond in the rough – one that can be polished into a glittering jewel. by Baud Schoenmaeckers

The DHC 6 of the Caribbean airline Winair is flying at an altitude of 3600 metres. Landing has begun and the top speed of 133 knots rapidly declines to under 30. With 22 passengers on board, the twoengine propeller plane is completely full. Where the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean come together, the water turns a deep blue, a panorama of lyrical beauty. That is, until one spots an oil tanker at anchor and a series of oil storage tanks. Welcome to St Eustatius. The oil industry is the odd man out within the magnificent nature of Statia. “But it’s also important for the island”, says Kate Walker. Since May 2010 Walker has been the director of STENAPA: St Eustatius National Parks. This organization manages 33 square kilometres of nature and sea on and around the island. Oil storage is the most important economic activity on St Eustatius and generates more money for the local economy than tourism does. The largest private employer is Statia Terminals, an oil terminal owned by the American company NuStar, and NuStar supports education and provides its employees with educational opportunities. Walker: “I’m happy that they’re here, but it’s . . . how shall I put it, strange in such pristine natural surroundings. You go swimming

eye to eye with a sea turtle and, when you resurface, you’re looking at the hull of an oil tanker.”

Mooring fees The island authorities have commissioned STENAPA to manage the parks on land and under water. Some of the costs involved are paid by NuStar. The ships on the coast pay the island authorities mooring fees based on their tonnage, and part of this money goes to STENAPA. Because of some uncertainty about the agreement between NuStar and the authorities, STENAPA has been struggling with insufficient funds. NuStar has agreed to help find a solution and made a positive step on 6 September by donating ten thousand dollars for operational matters. Walker was extremely pleased by this: “The biggest deficit is in the daily management of the organization and the parks.”

Other sources of income are divers, pleasure yachts and hikers. According to Walker, there aren’t that many tourists. “But we did sell 800 hiking passes and 950 diving passes last year.” Since 1998 the area known as Quill has enjoyed the status of a national park. Other parts of the island are on the list of protected areas that fall under the responsibility of the island authorities. There are now ongoing discussions about the development of Venus Bay. The present authorities want to build tourist accommodations and there are rumours about a golf course. Dutch policy makers are in favour of developing Statia. However, they don’t think that a golf course would be the right move because of the unique endemic species found at the location in question. The construction would harm the environment and the course itself would hinder passage to the park Boven. Moreover, a golf course prob-

Kate Walker: You go swimming eye to eye with a sea turtle and, when you resurface, you’re looking at the hull of an oil tanker Change BES islands 2011 17

Jessica Berkel: Many people think that the nature they had as a child will also be there for their children and grandchildren no matter how it’s treated

ably wouldn’t generate much income for the island since there’s really not a market for golfers on Statia.

Ecological wonder of nature Ecotourism is the path that Statia should follow, an opinion that is shared not only by Dutch policy makers and STENAPA but also by NuStar and most of the island’s 3400 inhabitants. Statia has special trees, snakes, sea turtles, birds, whales and fish. It is surrounded by coral reefs and meadows of sea grass on which the sea turtle feeds. On the island desert-like areas with cactus gradually make way for rainforest and primeval forest. The entire picture answers to the cliché of a tropical island paradise. There are complete ecosystems and habitats where the most exceptional sorts of plants and animals can be found. Threatened species such as the red-bellied racer snake, the lesser Antillean iguana, the giant queen conch shell and the brown pelican feel at home here. ‘Or species that were believed to have become extinct, such as the Statia morning glory,” adds Walker. This is the most rare plant in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In the last inventory of the parks, held a few years ago, 14 species were found that are on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) world list of plants and animals threatened with extinction and 108 on the CITES list (See also page 26 International treaties safeguard biodiversity.) The number of threatened species will increase once the park manager has enough funds for a new inventory. Walker: “Once we have enough money we can also set up a good monitoring system. If we want to be able to continue to manage the park, we have to have a good idea of the present situation: how many species are there on and around the island? What are the threats, where do they come from and how can we protect nature from them?”

18 BES islands 2011 Change

Roaming cattle and choking plants Two of the threats referred to by Walker are immediately visible: roaming livestock and an invasive climbing plant with the lovely name of Coralita. The wandering goats, sheep, cows and donkeys have to be fenced in because they’re eating the island bare. The animals have owners and everyone knows who they are, but, as soon as damage occurs, no one is prepared to accept responsibility. “Most of the animals are poorly cared for and walk around aimlessly looking for food,” says Gay Soetekouw. She has lived on Statia for over twenty years, writes about the history of the island and sets historical walking tracks. The roaming animals are a plague even though they could be an excellent source of income. The provide meat, milk and hides, products that Statia itself imports. There’s an unused slaughterhouse on the island that could be renovated and coldstorage facilities and a veterinarian service are needed before the island can be self sufficient in the supply of meat and milk.

Disappearing vegetation and erosion The roaming livestock eat the existing vegetation. Young plants never have the chance to reach maturity. Native plants are disappearing and erosion is increasing. If a plant survives being attacked by a goat, it will be choked by the Coralita vine. The disappearance of native vegetation makes it difficult for iguanas and various sorts of birds to find food. In the end, this is a threat to the nature parks as a whole. “It’s high time, also for politicians, to take action”, says Soetekouw. The problem isn’t easy to solve. Soetekouw: “Coralita likes to grow in fences. If you’ve managed to keep your livestock out of your yard with a fence, then the fence is covered in Coralita. Just one storm can blow down such a top-heavy fence, and then the livestock are free once again to

Historical awareness The island inhabitants are proud of their history and (very often) descent from slaves. In the 17th and 18th centuries Statia was the most important centre of trade in the region. It was a time of prosperity for the island’s 20,000 inhabitants. In 1756 it became a free port (free passage) and replaced Curacao as the principal slave trading post. At the height of its fortunes at the end of the 18th century, the island was called The Golden Rock. Remains of this period can still be found at sea – the hulls of sunken ships attract divers. Also, a group of archaeologists that is permanently based on the island itself has unearthed tens of thousands of objects. Partly because of this past there is now a widespread attitude of ‘I couldn’t care less’ and ‘why should I care, I’m happy with what I have’.

eat whatever hasn’t already been eaten.” Coralita or Mexican creeper is an invasive species from Mexico and Central America. The plant is grown there for its luxurious, nectar-filled flowers and its roots, which grow deep under the ground, expand rapidly and taste like peanuts. The plant grows quickly on Statia and threatens all other species, indigenous or exotic. It is internationally recognized as a pest but there is still no adequate method of combating it.

Irrigation Because of the processes described above, the fertile volcanic soil runs off. An effective system of irrigation would help restore agriculture to the level that it once had.

The need for this is becoming increasingly critical. As a result of erosion, the soil can no long retain water and the fertile top layer is disappearing. One possibility would be to repair the network of cisterns, underground water tanks. Constructing a water supply system is also an option, but a costly one. It would be easier to clean the existing cisterns and to set up a system to guarantee water quality. Soetekouw advises Dutch people to listen to the people of Statia and to read up on the history of the island and its inhabitants. “Take what is good about Statia, with respect for and knowledge of the culture, and combine this with Dutch expertise. Don’t apply a purely Dutch approach. A lot can be gained from the mutual differences in culture.” She hopes that the expected influx of Dutch people won’t adversely affect the mentality of the people of Statia. “Their hospitality, warmth, satisfaction, solidarity. The Dutch should take care not to arouse aversion to themselves. Some of the people on Statia already think that the Dutch ‘are grabbing all of the jobs’.” The optimistic Soetekouw has another piece of advice for the Netherlands. “There are undoubtedly many priorities, but put education at the top. From now on: good education that is structured and that cannot be walked away from. This has been lacking for the past ten or fifteen years, and

that’s a terrible pity because knowledge is progress.”

Rangers Education and awareness are and will remain spearheads for STENAPA’s work. On this subject the manager of the marine park, Jessica Berkel, says: “Many people think that the nature they had as a child will also be there for their children and grandchildren no matter how it’s treated. Of course that isn’t true. That’s why STENAPA makes educational programmes and tries to show the value of nature management for the island. We have a junior ranger programme for children. We take them on walks and let them study the sea. And we give informative talks at schools, we distribute folders and we hang up posters at the airport.”


around Statia has an economic price tag of between eight and twelve million dollars. This was determined through talks with owners of hotels and shops and with local fishermen. By attaching a price tag to the reef, STENAPA hopes to be better able to manage activities and to convince policy makers of the importance of preserving the reef as a source of income. The existing accommodation needs to be renovated and the most important boulevard needs repair. If money could be found, the renovation of the centuries-old warehouses on the boulevard could restore the island’s former glory. (See box Historical awareness). n

Statia will have to make a large effort to really get ecotourism going. That means no more litter and becoming more aware of the value of the surroundings. An American researcher has calculated that, in addition to its priceless natural value, the reef

St Eustatius National Parks Visitor Centre Gallows Bay, St Eustatius Tel: +599-318-2884

Turtle Bay shows the result of this approach. This year the beach was home to 51 nests of turtles: 39 green turtles and 11 leatherback turtles. Cars aren’t allowed on the beach, digging is prohibited and dogs have to be on a leash.

Gay Soetekouw: Plants and animals that were believed to have long become extinct feel at home on Statia

Change BES islands 2011 19

Exclusive Economic Zone

How the Netherlands protects its coral How should the Netherlands treat its recently acquired scenic marine beauty, with its hundred of kilometres of coral where fishermen earn a living? The Exclusive Economic Zone serves as both an economic tool and a way of protecting biodiversity. by baud schoenmaeckers There was never an EEZ, an Exclusive Economic Zone (see insert, page 21) in the area of the former Netherlands Antilles. “But this is both necessary and a wish voiced by the islands”, says Ton Akkerman of the Ministry of Economics, Agriculture and Innovation. The EEZ has been set up to guarantee the sustainable development of the marine areas around the new Dutch municipalities of Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius (Statia). This is necessary because these islands have given the Netherlands the task of managing some of the world’s most beautiful but vulnerable nature areas; marine parks where thousands of species of fish, crabs and crustaceans find their food amid colourfully swaying coral. Activities clash in this area (see map, page 21) with its rich biodiversity: people fish, recreational activities take place, the corals are the spawning grounds for various kinds

of fish and oil tankers anchor here. The results are pollution, destruction and wildlife extinction. Together with policy officer Hayo Haanstra of the Ministry of Economics, Agriculture and Innovation, Akkerman visited the islands in August to present the EEZ’s management plan and to receive input for the next version. Haanstra: “We explain, talk to those directly involved, to the authorities, the fishermen, the managers and nature managers.” Akkerman adds: “And most importantly, we listen. We take back the inhabitants’ remarks, ideas, concerns and uncertainties.” The definitive management plan is one in which all parties are in agreement. “We’re always talking about it, but I think that here we’re actually creating a broad basis of support for this plan,” Akkerman continues. “You have to see this as a

process that will give the Saba Bank the status of Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) in the short run – a specially protected vulnerable marine area.” (See insert, page 21.)

Saba Bank and the year of biodiversity The management plan sets the framework, the goals, the policy priorities and the strategies to sustainably manage the Saba Bank and the areas around Statia and Bonaire. It also serves as an avenue for administration, personnel and finances and it offers concrete points of action. Haanstra: “The plan perfectly matches our biodiversity policy, our role as a party in the Convention on Biodiversity and our contribution to the United Nations’ year of biodiversity, which is this year. This gives us an instrument to fight against the global decline and destruction of biodiversity, at least at this location.”

Saba Bank

Hans Leijnse

The main player in the EEZ is the Saba Bank, an undersea atoll. The Bank lies six kilometres south of Saba (see map). The total surface area of this underwater plateau is 2200 km2. The water is only 20 to 40 metres deep and the abundant coral is the spawning ground for thousands of kinds of fish – and thus a fisherman’s paradise. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the waters have been fished mostly by fishermen from Saba. The area received international attention only in the 1970s when many of the countries in the Caribbean began to set up an EEZ and inspect their waters. Because the Saba Bank didn’t fall under an EEZ, unlimited fishing remained possible. In 1993 the Netherlands Antilles signed an Exclusive Fishing Zone (EFZ) that gave them jurisdiction over the territorial waters up to twelve sea miles from the coast. This protected

20 BES islands 2011 Change

only twenty percent of the Saba Bank. Since 1 September of this year, the EEZ applies to the three islands, and an area of up to two hundred sea miles offshore is now inspected. This was necessary, since by early 1994 it had become evident that too much fishing was being done at the Bank. From that moment on, fishermen were not allowed to catch more than 200,000 kilotons of queen conch, the sea snail. This had been agreed upon in the CITES convention (the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species). But the fishing continued, also by large foreign trawlers with dragnets, and the queen conch is now an endangered species. The limited number of studies done have shown that no new fishing permits should be issued until a good system of monitoring has been set up and there is more capacity to enforce the existing regulations.

The BES municipalities sign the EEZ The Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist on 10 October 2010 (see page 6). Each island now has another political status, and Bonaire, Statia and Saba have become Dutch municipalities with a Special Island Status (BES). On 10 October they signed various agreements with the Netherlands. One of them is the management plan for an Exclusive Economic Zone, an EEZ. An EEZ is an area of up to 200 sea miles (370.4 km) from the coast of a country. Within this zone, the country in question has a number of rights, such as the right to exploit the raw materials, the right to fish and the right to do scientific research. A country that sets up an EEZ is responsible for managing nature in this area. The EEZ falls under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The EEZ is an expansion of the Exclusive Fishery Zone (EFZ) dating from 1993 and is an initiative of the Antilles, Aruba and the Netherlands. The Ministry of Economics, Agriculture and Innovation supports and finances the plan and has devoted a large amount of time and money to gaining support for the plan. An important aspect of the EEZ is the zoning, which are illustrated on the maps on this page. The management plan can be downloaded via BES/EEZ

Part of the plan and an important topic of discussion during the visit made by Haanstra and Akkerman is the creation of a Marine Resources Committee, the MRC, that will supervise the process, ensure the implementation of the management plan and allocate funds. Fishermen are also on the committee, those of Statia have appointed their own representative, on Bonaire three fishermen were elected, and the fishermen of Saba are still in discussion. Is it ypically Dutch to set up a committee? Akkerman: “The answer would be yes if you put together a social club. But as the authorities on Saba made clear, ‘that’s not what we want’. There is a need for regulation and that’s going to happen. But then together with the parties concerned and not top-down.” Haanstra adds: “You can’t do everything with the financial means which are available now. The committee will draw up priorities. The first of these is getting the PSSA status for the Saba Bank, and this is immediately followed by monitoring and research, further developing fishing and educating the fishermen. This committee is the link between the plans on paper and their implementation.” n

Ton Akkerman Quartermaster, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation

Hayo Haanstra Policy officer, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation

Change BES islands 2011 21

Fishermen on the islands awaiting developments

From self-regulation to international conventions Fishing is an important source of income for the islands but the sector is also in critical need of regulations. The fishermen are learning to cope with the new reality. by Baud Schoenmaeckers

Tempers are heated among the forty fishermen from Bonaire. They’ve come together at a courtyard on the Bulevar Julio A. Abraham in Kralendijk to hear about the management plan for the Exclusive Economic Zone (See page 20). Words like ‘registration’ and ‘permit’ are frequently heard. “We don’t agree with that”, one of the fishermen calls out. “We have nothing to do with permits and we want to keep it that way.” Others support him: “You’re only interested in knowing exactly where and when we caught how much fish so that you can tax us.” And the entire discussion is held in Papiamento. Deputy Reynolds ‘Nolly’ Oleana acts as an interpreter for the Dutch authorities who have come to explain the plan. “The plan being presented here isn’t about taxes.”

Baud Schoenmaeckers

The EEZ has been in effect since 1 September, and the fishermen consider this to be a fait accompli. “Now we can’t do anything about it.” The EEZ ‘representatives’ Hayo Haanstra (policy maker at the Ministry of Economics, Agriculture and Innovation) and Ton Akkerman (quartermaster at the same Ministry) listen more than they speak. They explain that this legal framework has created only the hull; in order to make the ship seaworthy, everyone has to work together on its construction. This means that the management plan has to be developed further. “And permits are necessary in order to give nature the chance to recover so that there will still be enough fish in twenty years’ time and your children will also be able to fish”, Oleana translates.

Fisherman from Statia 22 BES islands 2011 Change

The fishermen’s reply is immediate and clear. “You want to protect nature, but

Meanwhile on St Eustatius, twelve fishermen arrive at the same time in the meeting room of the administrative office. They’ve elected Reynando Redan to represent the group. ‘The fishermen want to know exactly what the EEZ means for their work. What standard will be set for the holes in the nets that they use? How should they deal with the twelve-mile zone? And the area just beyond that? Where can they get the necessary permits? Can they or can’t they continue to fish for lobster on the Saba Bank?’ The management plan will contain many answers to those questions. People seem relaxed, and the fishermen have positive expectations. “Change always leads to tension. But the fishermen have a positive attitude to the EEZ and to the fact that St Eustatius is going to be a Dutch municipality”, Redan explains.

Organic fishing around Saba A meeting of fishermen has also been held on Saba. “All of the fishermen were present. And that’s unusual because this group of professionals isn’t a very cohesive one”, says Travis Johnson, the harbour master on Saba. “The next step is unanimously elected representation – people on Saba want that.” Johnson was referring to the special combination of factors on Saba: lobster fishing, a few major fishermen and the Saba Bank (See insert on page 20). “And just like on the other islands, we have to make a distinction between recreational and economic fishing. This makes this group of professionals less cohesive since interests

Hans Leijnse

who’s going to protect the fishermen?” Hurricane Omar (2008) is also referred to. “Landings were destroyed and they still haven’t been repaired.” The topics have nothing at all to do with the EEZ. “The fishermen are using moments like this to voice their grievances and to share their problems with the authorities – with me”, Oleana explains. He’s not concerned about the result of the meeting because he’s familiar with how the islanders behave. And that becomes obvious when, after an hour and a half, three fishermen are chosen from the group to represent the rest in the EEZ committee.

can conflict. And that makes it difficult to grant permits.” Saba has only a few commercial fishermen. But if there are ten boats with five hundred lobster traps, then five thousand of these traps are spread across the sea bottom and on the coral. These traps capture all of the fish on the coral and they destroy the reefs as they’re dragged along the bottom. Fisherman Nicholas Johnson points to a trap: “I want sustainable fishing, so I make the lids of my traps from biodegradable material. That way, the lobster and the other fish can escape if I lose my trap.” The reason that traps get lost is shipping. Many of the passing cargo and oil ships as well as those at anchor fail to see the buoys that mark the traps and they sail over them. The buoy begins to bounce up and down wildly, the chain between the buoy and the trap breaks and the traps become ghost hunters for years and years. Nicholas: “The trapped fish become bait for other fish and lobster that, in turn, also become entrapped bait. A trap can remain intact for years.” A lot of fishermen know that things should be done differently, but the cost of using other material makes them hesitant to take the step. As a result of the EEZ, they’ll have to invest in animal-friendly ways of fishing and they’ll have to conform to stricter rules – if only because the EEZ is connected to a large number of international conventions and the fines for violations are high. Travis: “The changes will certainly benefit the fish stock. But it has to be said: most fishermen follow their own rules. Lobsters with eggs are put back in the water, as are lobsters

“You want to protect nature but who’s going to protect the fishermen?”

that are too small. And there is continual discussion with the restaurant owners on St Maarten, the major buyers, about the desire for smaller lobsters. Small lobsters fit on a dinner plate. That’s wonderful for the guests but disastrous for the lobster stock since small lobsters are still young and haven’t had the chance to multiply.” Travis Johnson is a bit anxious about the changes ahead: “I hope that the Dutch will listen to the fishermen’s experiences because they can learn from them. And I’ll have to learn about new laws and rules so I can communicate them to the fishermen. I’m happy about the new rules and the limits that the EEZ has placed on fishing in our waters. Then the next priority is the possibility of enforcing the rules. We need to set up a 24-hour patrol, but we don’t have the people or the material for that now.” n

Hayo Haanstra Ton Akkerman

Change BES islands 2011 23

EEZ gives Coast Guard greater scope

The Coast Guard can now more effectively control a larger area Ships that drop anchor in protected coral reefs or otherwise break the law in waters around the BES islands have been forewarned: with introduction of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) the Coast Guard now patrols a larger area and is more effective in catching offenders by our editors

The SuperRhibs (Super Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats) can operate at a maximum speed of 42 knots along the coast of Curacao. They are twelve metres long – big enough to hold six people and suitable for patrolling coastal waters and carrying out boarding operations, in which they come up alongside and board boats for inspection. The Coast Guard has twelve of these SuperRhibs, which can operate far out to sea, for long periods and under poor weather conditions. They are ideal for carrying out the Coast Guard’s tasks, which involve not only saving lives but also the control of drugs, weapons, illegal immigration and fishing, and environmental pollution at sea. Through implementation of the EEZ, the Coast Guard now rules over a much larger area, in which it is responsible for surveillance, detection of illegal activity and detaining violators of environmental and fishing regulations. Very soon anchoring will be prohibited in the Saba Bank, and this ban may slowly be expanded to include all shipping traffic. The role of the Coast Guard is crucial. Without enforcement, implementation of the EEZ and international agreements such as the SPAW protocol and CITES treaty will have little effect (see page 26 for more information on international agreements).

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24-hour patrols In addition to the twelve SuperRhibs, the Coast Guard has three 41-metre cutters, four inshore vessels (for operating close to shore), one helicopter and two patrol planes. The Coast Guard works closely with the Navy, whose station ship with an onboard helicopter is available for the Coast Guard’s use 92 operation days per year. The Coast Guard also has support centres on Curacao, Aruba and St. Maarten, where the ships are moored. A base for the flying units is located in Hato (Curacao). On 13 September at 15:57 a tanker was sailing 5 miles off the coast of St Eustatius at a speed of 0.2 knots. There was no shipping activity at that time around Saba and Bonaire. This information is available 24-hours per day thanks to the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which became mandatory in 2004 for ships with a minimum volume of 299 GT (about 900 m3). To trace the smaller ships not required to use AIS, a radar system is needed. This is already available for the Leeward Islands, but not (yet) for the Windward Islands.

Focus on the environment The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation commissioned Imares, an institute of Wageningen University and

Research centre, to put together an implementation strategy for the EEZ. This plan includes a pivotal role for the Coast Guard and reflects a noticeable shift in priorities towards nature and the environment. This shift stems from an increase in both commercial shipping and recreational boating in the area, which can lead to increased environmental pollution. According to statistics, violations related to fishing have decreased in recent years, while those related to pollution and damage of the marine environment have increased. Regulations related to fishing, permits, protected species and illegal fishing materials will be strictly enforced. To protect the marine environment, extra attention will be paid to spearfishing and boats anchored in coral reefs. Patrols will also be on the lookout for anyone collecting or trading in protected species. The Ministry hopes these measures will lead to better protection of the biodiversity of the waters around the islands. n

Coast Guard Tel: +59994637700

No change in course for for the Coast Guard The Coast Guard of all the islands, both Windward and Leeward, is a partnership between the former Dutch Antilles, Aruba and the Netherlands – KWNA&A. The countries are jointly responsible for financial, legal and general policy related to the Coast Guard. The organization operates from Curacao, where its management, staff and Rescue and Coordination Centre (RCC) are located. The political changes of 10 October have had few consequences for the Coast Guard, because its

mandate remains the same. It continues to be responsible for protecting the waters around the six islands, an area that has become larger through implementation of the EEZ. The Coast Guard works closely with customs authorities, the police, military police and the Navy. It employs 240 people. Graduates of professional Coast Guard training receive the title of special agent of the police. The Ministry of Defence is the ministry responsible for the Coast Guard. photos: baud Schoenmaeckers

Change BES islands 2011 25

Photos: SHAPE, photographers for nature conservation

A colourful parrot fish and tall stacks of paper

International treaties protect all species Nature on the three islands is spectacular. But it is also vulnerable, and many of the islands’ plants and animals can be sold for big money on the market. International agreements have been made to protect these species and ecosystems. by Danielle van Gils and Baud Schoenmaeckers

The most important biodiversity agreements for the BES islands are all part of the Cartagena Convention, including the SPAW Protocol, CITES Convention, Ramsar treaty, Bonn Convention on Migratory Species, the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC) and the Biodiversity Convention. We describe three of these below.


Hayo Haanstra

The Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol is part of the Cartagena Convention, a treaty for the protection and development of the marine environment in the greater Caribbean region. The objective of the SPAW Protocol is to protect vulnerable and rare ecosystems and habitats – and thereby also the endangered animal and plant species living within these areas.

“The SPAW Protocol requires countries to identify and protect their special areas and species”, says Paul Hoetjes, marine biologist and policy maker for Nature Management and Conservancy. Since 10 October 2010 he has been working on this task for the Bonaire office of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation. “The Saba Bank is one such area. We have been working for years to give it this special status, and it now looks likely to be happening soon. This will give us an additional protected area.” Under the SPAW Protocol, the Saba Bank will become a Protected Marine Area. Hoetjes: “The very first regulation that will apply to the area is that ships may not anchor there, because this damages the coral. More regulations could be introduced, but you can’t unilaterally stop shipping in those waters. A ban on anchoring is possible, but to prohibit ships from passing through you have to submit the Saba Bank as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) to the International Maritime Organization (IMO).”


Anchoring is already prohibited within the 12-mile zone, but not yet beyond this line. Hoetjes: “If the national government designates the whole Saba Bank as a protected area, the international shipping industry will be informed. This would include notification that it would no longer be permissible to anchor within this area. Three to six months later the Coast Guard could start enforcing the regulation and fining offenders.” Introduction of the Exclusive Economic Zone has sped up this process. Saba Bank received the status of protected area in September. The request for PSSA status has already been sent to the IMO for consideration.

The red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicates which species need protection. It evaluates each species’ risk of becoming extinct and the seriousness of the threat. The list includes a number of species that live on or around the BES islands, such as the humpback whale, staghorn coral, tiger shark and leatherback turtle. The list can be found on n

Piles of empty queen conch shells. The snail is eaten on all the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles as a substitute for expensive meat. DCNA and SINAPA are investigating options for sustainable use of the queen conch. The species is currently not threatened with extinction, but it is included on the CITES to prevent this from happening.

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The Ramsar treaty protects wetlands throughout the world because of their ecological importance for water regulation and as a habitat for unique plant and animal species and for birds. Of the three islands, only Bonaire has Ramsar areas: Lac, saliña Slagbaai, Gotomeer, Pekelmeer and Klein Bonaire.

CITES The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the CITES Convention, regulates the international trade in endangered wild fauna and flora. It deals mainly with the ban on collection, trade and transport or possession of internationally protected plant and animal species or products made from them. Many of the species included on the CITES list can be found on the BES islands. There are currently more than 200 globally endangered species present on the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles.

Red list of the IUCN

Paul Hoetjes

opinion Heaven can wait – this is paradise One of the most exciting periods in our history was the Golden Age – a time when the young Republic of the United Netherlands was booming at an unprecedented, and since then unparalleled, rate. This affluence was gained in part by less-than-respectable means – war, slavery, piracy and land grabbing – but the country flourished nonetheless. Foreign countries praised the orderliness of our beautiful cities, the religious and intellectual tolerance, our establishment of orphanages and hospitals and the low incidence of crime. Art, science and philosophy were remarkable. The Netherlands was a hot spot for innovation and ingenuity, for special talent and entrepreneurship. The Netherlands has become what it is today thanks in part to its Golden Age. I see a direct link to my good fortune today, many centuries later. I am privileged to spend my summer holidays in the sunniest municipality of the Netherlands – Bonaire, more than 7000 kilometres from the Dutch coast. On this beautiful island of less than 300 km2 (almost three times the size of the Dutch island Terschelling) with just about 13,000 inhabitants, friendly people treat their environment with care. Local and Dutch organizations, such as the National Postal Code Lottery and the WWF, have worked together with the Bonaireans on the development of this Caribbean island. On 10 October 2010 Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius became special municipalities of the Netherlands. And Bonaire is indeed special. The island can become a textbook example in the world of sustainability. Much remains to be done, but the arrival last year of a container ship in the port of Kralendijk marked the beginning of a new era with respect to the island’s energy supply. I watched as twelve wind turbines in various pieces were loaded onto the dock. And last month I was there to witness the inauguration of this new energy

production project, consisting of 13 wind turbines and a diesel (eventually biodiesel) plant. In combination with perfect local management, this plant will produce Bonaire’s entire supply of electricity. The plant started with a sustainability of 45 percent. Once it switches over to biodiesel, its sustainability will be 100 percent. This means Bonaire is the first Caribbean island to use only sustainable electricity. It is also the first time in history that this combination of sustainable energy technologies is being applied on such a large scale. With the inauguration of this installation, Bonaire has come one giant step closer to achieving its dream of becoming the first place on earth to be entirely independent of fossil fuels. The next steps are to make all cars electric, step up decentralized production of solar energy, work on energy efficiency and process waste into usable products. These sustainable developments will be realized, and they will lead to more jobs, a higher standard of living and more enjoyment for the island. My line of work is sustainability. For nine years, as an entrepreneur using our simple approach. I have been demonstrating that you can spark revolutions with sustainability as a connecting force. The struggle for “freedom” was a motivating factor behind the revolt that marked the start of the Golden Age. The Republic became a hot spot for technological power, fuelled by inventions such as street lighting, windmills, locks, and industrial renewal in energy and production. Such hot spots have a special, almost magical, influence on fundamental or paradigm-altering events. The Netherlands is still the market leader in technological renewal – with Bonaire we can demonstrate that it really works. I am convinced that Bonaire can become a magical hot spot of renewal in the global quest for energy freedom, or in other words: Power to the People.

Ruud Koornstra, entrepreneur in sustainability and partner of Tendris.



“Bonaire can become a textbook example of sustainability”

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Henk Kamp, Former Kingdom Representative and current Minister of Social Affairs, talks with Lt Governor Glenn Thodé

The same dance to different rhythms The Dutch approach to problem solving is as distant from the Bonairean approach as the two places are distant from each other physically. But the Dutch polder and the Dutch Caribbean have a promising, albeit longdistance, relationship. Lt Governor Glenn Thodé in discussion with the former Kingdom Representative and current Minister of Social Affairs Henk Kamp about opportunities, respect and progress. Text and photos Baud Schoenmaeckers

At the time of this interview in August 2010, Henk Kamp was Representative of the Dutch government in the BES islands. In October he became Minister of Social Affairs in the cabinet of Mark Rutte.

The stately office of the Bonaire Island Government on the Plaza Wilhelmina looks welcoming, as it stands along the canal where large cruise ships bask lazily in the sun. When these drop off their precious “cargo”, thousands of tourists overrun the picturesque town of Kralendijk – previously known as Koralendijk or a dike

28 BES islands 2011 Change

built on coral. The tourist industry is Bonaire’s largest source of income. Growth is needed to satisfy the increasing demand. How much growth can Bonaire take on without destroying its vulnerable environment? Glenn Thodé: “It will never become a case of economy versus ecology; the two will always go hand in hand on Bonaire. As administrators we will ensure that Bonaire retains its ecological value. That is the only way to help the economy move forward sustainably. The government makes regulations and policy designed to protect the vulnerable environment, and NGOs such as STINAPA ensure that this protection is well managed.”

“I agree that ecology and economy are not opposites”, says Henk Kamp. “But in the short term there will be some friction. The island is working on zoning plans that include projects for wastewater treatment and better waste processing. If you are used to dumping waste without many restrictions or costs, discharging wastewater into the sea and putting up a building wherever you like, then I can imagine that as an entrepreneur you might now feel a bit hemmed in. But regulation is needed to preserve biodiversity in the long term. So we have to make sure that entrepreneurs stay on board despite this friction.” The number of people on Bonaire is increasing, there is more activity, the pressure is building… Thodé: “Growth has always come in waves on Bonaire. The population is now increasing because of the stream of newcomers resulting from the political changes. In the past physical growth was absorbed almost naturally. This capacity to absorb has declined because tourism has grown and a lot of construction has taken place in recent years. This increasing pressure on our island is being felt by the population and sometimes feels threatening. Nevertheless, I want us to continue actively involving everyone in our society in all developments – entrepreneurs, teachers, NGOs – the whole population. We started on the path to sustainable growth in Bonaire already 40 years ago. The

Glenn ThodĂŠ (left) and Henk Kamp meet regularly to discuss joint policy for Bonaire

Change BES islands 2011 29

current flurry of activity makes it look like this is a new effort, but that is not the case. We will continue along this path and adjust our course as necessary to ensure balance – in nature, culture and progress. This means that we have to learn to interact differently with our surroundings and limit or redesign some activities – and this will be met with some resistance.” Kamp: “This will demand the best of us. We, the Dutch, have to come across with a long-term vision that clearly demonstrates the necessity of regulation. Like us, the Bonairean Governing Council wants to see controlled growth in tourism, but no disruption in the character of the island, its nature or the composition of its population. There is currently a lot of new construction taking place, because previously granted permits are being implemented.”

services, fire fighting, taxation. But we remain aware of our place, as a European country located more than 7800 km away. We have to define our position in relation to the local government; just as Bonaire has to define its position in relation to us. We are searching, but in a constructive way. We consult with each other weekly and meet monthly with the Governing Council.” Thodé: I know a nice example of control. We were not very disciplined when it comes to budgeting. The Netherlands and Bonaire agreed that a Board of Financial Supervision would assist us in this regard and see how we can use our resources more effectively. This is a type of control, but we decided together what form it would take on. And that stimulates us to take action. Just as we will work together to address the focal areas that the islands and the Netherlands have jointly established: security, education, health care and social security for young people and families.”

Since 1 September a few important implementation decrees related to the nature management ordinance have come into effect. These provide legal protection for nature and the environment on Bonaire. A Spatial Development Plan will also soon be adopted by the Island Government.

What is the most difficult aspect of the cooperation? Thodé: “Communicating as one to the population. Sending the right joint message; making it clear how we are the same and how we differ. The government of the Netherlands wants to explain what it does in a way that reflects its own reality. But that reality does not always apply here, especially when it comes to important issues such as the consequences of the transition, the Board of Financial Supervision and the four focal areas. These things could be communicated in a different way that would be more geared toward the population here. A frequently asked question is “What does this mean for me, or for my grandmother and grandfather?” This too is part of the process. We still have to find each other in the dance we are performing together to different rhythms. The rhythm of the Netherlands sometimes resembles that of “house” music, with many beats per minute. We still have a calm bachata rhythm – based on our experience, our culture and Caribbean customs.”

We remain aware of our place, as a European country located more than 7800 km away

An analysis of these plans has shown that if all existing building permits are implemented growth will be enormous. Thodé poetically adds that Bonaire has for years been sitting on a trotting horse. “We now have to prevent the horse from breaking into an uncontrolled gallop. We have to hold on to the reins and see what we can or cannot still allow, using a model that shows what the effects of growth will be. Only then will growth be manageable.”

With the image of holding the reins you create a nice link to the subject of the Netherlands’ control and influence Thodé: “The control is comparable to that of the Antillean government’s. But the influence is greater because the Netherlands is physically more present – there are more Dutch civil servants on the island. The Antillean government was more distant. Control can also stimulate action. I notice that the Netherlands wants to be more supportive and often is – and if we find that the reins should be looser, we will discuss it.” Kamp: “The influence is definitely strong. All of our ministries are represented here, and 96 projects are currently in progress on all fronts – education, social

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This touches on the point of cultural differences Kamp: “They are large. The Netherlands is used to working according to a plan, progressing one stage at a time from analysis, through to planning, division of tasks and implementation. On Bonaire improvisation and feeling play a larger role; more time is invested in finding common ground, building a relationship and convincing each other. I don’t think our approach is always wrong, but theirs isn’t either. The trick is now to meet each other half way.”

“I would like to see the two governments on this island melt together into one humane government”, says Thodé, “not one of calculations, dossiers and numbers. A government that encompasses the best of both worlds, in which the two methods are merged. The Dutch approach is rational and systematic. Here we look at what the problems are and we talk to all

parties. Then you follow your heart and gut feeling and choose the solution that suits both sides the best. What I have noticed is that neither approach is optimal. If we can combine them in a way that creates more harmony between approach and culture, we will have a government that can make the best choices for Bonaire and its inhabitants.” Kamp: “Bonaire is in the fortunate position of dealing with a Dutch government that is one entity and that has one contact point: the Kingdom Representative. Municipalities in the Netherlands have to deal with all of the ministries, with their separate policies and activities that do not always line up. Here the ministries work closely together, and are even housed in one building together in the National Office for the Caribbean Netherlands (RCN), formerly known as the Regional Service Center. They all confer with each other three times per week.” Sounds good – but from Bonaire’s perspective possibly like an administrative invasion Thodé: “Not an invasion, but definitely a flood of Dutch people! When the RCN opened, it felt as if we were being bombarded with focal areas. “Which priorities do we have to focus our attention on?” Don’t forget that our administrative body has fewer employees than the Dutch government has here. If people feel that an approach is not in line with Bonaire’s own approach, they will resist. But if they are stimulated and can participate in the discussion they will see the approach more as a form of support. The resistance will dissipate when people see that they can do more with the capacities they have.”

This intensive interaction with the central government is new for Bonaire. The relationship between the Netherlands Antilles and Bonaire had federal aspects, which enabled the island to operate with a great deal of independence. This was experienced as autonomy, and a group opposed to the changes now sees the increased interference of the Dutch government as a threat to this autonomy. People are asking themselves “What does it mean for me, that the Netherlands is now looking over my shoulder?” According to Thodé, a change in attitude is already noticeable: what was originally seen as interference is now increasingly seen as an attempt to join forces and provide mutual support. Kamp: “If we didn’t approach things in the direct Dutch way, it would lead to dissatisfaction. Expectations would be created that cannot quickly be met. When we came here in January 2009 there was a poor jail with 26 inmates, now there is a better facility for 75 inmates. This represents greater security for Bonaire. First aid has also been improved. We are working on a central reporting system for all social services. Medical insurance is currently problematic, but will

be available to everyone as of January 2011. We have given extra priority to a number of issues, and this will eventually benefit the people of Bonaire. I understand the resistance, but appreciation for these changes will grow as soon as the benefits start to be felt.” What does the average Bonairean think of 10-10-10, the magical date? Thodé: “There is no average Bonairean. Some are strongly against the transition and some who are strongly in favour look farther ahead and see how things can eventually become better. Media coverage has focused primarily on those who are opposed.”

A frequently asked question is “What does this mean for me, or for my grandmother and grandfather?”

Kamp believes that the feelings of those who are opposed have to be taken seriously. Administrators have to make it very clear that not all of the Netherlands’ laws and regulations will be applied to the BES islands. The system is still based on the Antillean laws, which will remain in effect in adjusted form. Separate laws for the Caribbean Netherlands have also been established, such as taxation laws that are appropriate for the local context.

What two pieces of advice would you give each other? Thodé: “Number one: Be more open to the Bonaireans. The fact that we have joined the Netherlands means our relationship is based on solidarity and equality. If Dutch administrators are open to this, we will be able to work together to create a humane government that understands the wishes of the Bonaireans. My second piece of advice is: “Make sure all the Dutch who are sent here or are involved in making regulations first visit the islands and talk to the people living here. Then they can form an image of the framework and context in which the regulations have to be applied. There are people in the Netherlands who speak on behalf of the islands, but I don’t see them enough here. They don’t understand the atmosphere or conditions here. They have no idea how the society works.” Kamp: “Number one: Stay critical of the Netherlands, because the Dutch do not have a monopoly on wisdom. And number two: Stay positive. We, the Dutch civil servants working on the island have a positive attitude, have a lot to offer and see many opportunities. The Netherlands has a well-functioning government – but keep us on our toes, and stay constructively critical.” n

For more information Government on Bonaire: Kingdom Representative: Websites:

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From heather and woods to mangrove and coral A mangrove forest is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Dutch nature reserves. And yet, Dutch conservation organizations will soon be concerned with exotic landscapes and ecosystems. What role do they see for themselves on the islands? by Maartje Smeets

32 BES islands 2011 Change

Mangrove forest photo Henkjan Kievit

Underwater environment, Saba photo Hans Leijnse

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Nature conservation groups in the Netherlands, such as the World Wildlife Fund, Staatsbosbeheer (commissioned by the state to manage nature reserves) and the Netherlands Society for the Protection of Birds are closely involved in nature conservation projects in the Dutch Caribbean. Of the approximately 50,000 species of birds in the Kingdom, one quarter (10,00015,000) can be found on Saba, St Eustatius and Bonaire. Some special ecosystems are endangered, such as the mangrove forests. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation has made renewal of these forests a priority. Wageningen University and Research centre was commissioned together with the Bonairean nature foundation STINAPA to conduct a study on this topic. This led to the replanting of mangrove forests on two test sites. Bert Denneman of the Netherlands Society for the Protection of Birds calls the islands the “biodiversity treasury in the Kingdom of the Netherlands”. “Especially for this reason, Dutch organizations have a responsibility to help nature survive there. Birds are an important indicator of how well the natural environment is doing. So we support local environmentalists through courses in bird monitoring and other educational programmes.” Thanks to the efforts of the Society in cooperation with its international umbrella organization Birdlife, six areas in Bonaire have been labelled “Important Bird Areas”, where building is restricted. The Society has donated 200,000 euros in the past for

34 BES islands 2011 Change

programmes on the islands and asked its members in anticipation of 10-10-2010 to donate once again. As a lobbying organization, it goes directly to the islands’ administrations to address certain issues, such as planned construction on brooding areas. But more often it remains in the background, lobbying in Dutch boardrooms on behalf of the Dutch Caribbean and supporting local environmentalists. “We don’t want to direct things from the Netherlands that local people can organize much better themselves.”

Nature as a source of income Staatsbosbeheer works according to this same principle. “It would not do justice to the development of nature conservation on the islands if we sent someone over there to start running things”, says Jan Blok of Staatsbosbeheer. “Despite a shortage of funds, local conservationists have made enormous strides in the past years with respect to knowledge and expertise with the help of Dutch and international research institutes.” For example, Staatsbosbeheer lends support in the establishment of management plans or exploitation of nature reserves. Blok: “We don’t know everything about the ecosystems over there, but we do know how to integrate nature and recreation and how to generate income. The latter is especially important for preserving nature on the islands.” With this dire need for income in mind, a plan was developed on Bonaire to charge a fee not only to divers but to all recreational

users of the water in nature reserves. Raising awareness to generate support is therefore important for both tourists and local residents. The WWF has been working for years to advance information dissemination and education on Bonaire, for example by training rangers and continually reminding the island government of the importance of communicating the message of nature conservation to residents and tourists.

Preventing unbalanced development Willem Ferwerda from the Dutch branch of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) is pleased with all the attention being directed to the BES islands. At the same time, he warns against unbalanced development in relation to Curacao, Aruba and St Maarten. “The DCNA (Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) and IUCN NL recommended that the Netherlands enter into a binding agreement with these three islands regarding nature conservation, partly because of its huge economic importance. We have to ensure that attention to these other three islands does not slip away because they have a different status on paper.” Even though all of the islands remain equally important to IUCN NL after 10-10-10, Ferwerda does expect the BES islands to profit from their new status. Thanks in part to European regulations, the Netherlands is farther along than the former Antilles when it comes to regulations for nature conservation. The lines between policy makers here in the Netherlands and there

Conservation is no longer enough: the environment now needs sustainable policy on all fronts Emergency plan

on the BES islands will become shorter and the islands will have access to more pots of money.” IUCN NL, which helped establish DCNA, has served as a link between the various local and Dutch conservationists since 2004. “A good framework is now in place that facilitates better cooperation. If there’s anything I would like to pass on to the Dutch conservationists it is that we have to listen to and learn from local expertise. Nature will be best served if we work together on the basis of mutual understanding.”

Sewer as the lifeline for nature Whereas nature conservation is well known on the islands, environmental management is unheard of, such as separate waste collection and sewage. Wastewater is still discharged untreated into cesspools and runs straight into the sea via the groundwater. In this way many nutrients enter the water, negatively impacting the coral, which is so valuable for the tourism industry. According to Peter Montanus, policy advisor for the Environment and Nature Policy department of the Island Territory of Bonaire, studies have shown that a critical point has been reached for the coral around Bonaire. “There are fewer large fish and the coral is becoming bleached. If the level of nutrients in the water continues to rise through wastewater discharge, the coral will begin to die off.” Although this problem has been known for some time, the decision-making process regarding sewer systems has been slow.

For this reason, an emergency plan has been written by Bonaire’s Environment and Nature Policy department together with the manager of the Bonaire National Marine Park (STINAPA). This plan entails implementation of a temporary wastewater treatment facility, pending completion of a larger sewer project. The Dutch government has made funds available for the temporary installation. As part of the plan, septic tanks and cesspools along the coast will be pumped dry by trucks that will bring the contaminated water to the temporary installation. The costs, over a half million dollars, will be covered according to “the polluter pays” principle. Pioneer Jozef Van Brussel, of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment in Bonaire, believes resistance to paying for sustainable wastewater purification will subside once the additional benefits become clear to entrepreneurs and residents: the treatment plant will not only prevent contaminated water from entering the sea, but it will make purified water available that can be used for the production of animal feed. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation is working with the island on this project. The production of animal feed will make it possible to create fenced areas where goats can be fed, so that they no longer need to roam freely, eating away vegetation and thereby contributing to erosion. The clean water that remains after purification is also suitable for horticulture.

Model municipalities Peter Montanus is especially optimistic about the new status of the islands and the opportunities this offers. “These can become sustainable model municipalities of the Netherlands. With the investment of a few hundred thousand euros, miracles can be achieved. The island residents have been living in harmony with nature for centuries. They will certainly welcome efforts to preserve this harmony and where necessary restore it.” n

Montanus (left) and Van Brussel

Management and control A general outline for spatial planning in Bonaire has been established. This includes construction of 3600 homes for 25,000 residents. Thanks to the new environmental regulations, parks on the island have also been given protected status, something which until now had only been granted to the marine sanctuaries. From now on, not only divers but all recreational users of the water will help pay for nature conservation. Hotels along the coast will in large part pay for the sewer costs. With respect to energy, Bonaire hopes to satisfy 40 to 50 percent of its needs through the generation of wind energy. Windmills have therefore been installed next to the power plant, which now operates mostly on heating oil. Communication, information dissemination and education are essential to create widespread support for these environmental measures amongst residents, entrepreneurs and tourists. Peter Montanus Jozef van Brussel

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Unspoiled speck of green in the ocean

Saba, the Unspoiled Queen Windward, volcanic, wild, mysterious and clean. An emerald of 13 square kilometres, a green speck in an aquamarine sea. The Unspoiled Queen is still untouched by the 21st century. It is not inhabited, but it is populated. And this means it is high time for regulation. by Baud Schoenmaeckers

Mount Scenery 36 BES islands 2011 Change

/ photo Christian Konig

Landing at the world’s smallest international airport is quite an adventure. The summit of the Netherlands’ highest mountain, Mount Scenery (872 metres), is mysteriously veiled in clouds but still visible from a distance. Approaching the island your eyes are pulled downward to a strip of asphalt on a flattened bump in the landscape. To reach the runway, the 22-passenger, twin-engine plane flies low alongside rugged cliffs. If the wind is not right, the plane cannot land. Soon another stretch of asphalt will be added to solve this problem. But the airport will not be made bigger, even though Saba is working hard to make an increase in tourism possible.

Street view, windward side, Saba

/ photo saba tourist bureau

No casinos or fast-food stands

Building on cliffs


With 27 diving spots in its exceptional marine environment, Saba is in the top five of the world’s best diving locations. For hikers, there are 28 trails through five unspoiled vegetation zones – from cloud forest to steppe-like bush. “Saba is focused on quality not quantity”, says Glenn Holm, director of the tourism bureau. There is no mass tourism, there are no boulevards or casinos. We are one with nature and that gives us plenty of opportunities.” But this purity is vulnerable. Holm: “A paradise is attractive. Current regulation prohibits building anything taller than 500 metres, but what if you want to build something smaller than that? This is why the Spatial Development Plan has to be adopted quickly.

Sabavilla began enthusiastically on a project encompassing 24 luxurious villas. “One was built fifteen years ago and it has been for sale ever since. Saba is not an island for the rich. The jet set can’t land their airplanes or moor their yachts here. Plus, it is expensive to build and the landscape doesn’t help: it is rocky and steep.”

Research is needed to understand climate change, and Saba will have to adapt substantially to its consequences. Much is known about what climate change will mean for small island nations in general, but not for Saba in particular. The island has a high elevation and is therefore not directly threatened by the increasing sea level; but the impact is already noticeable: bleached and dying coral, unexplained dying off of fish, warmer seawater, shifting vegetation zones, extremes in temperature and rainfall. The increasing number and intensity of hurricanes is also causing more damage to the coral.

Contributing to Holm’s concern is the fact that 90 percent of the land on Saba is privately owned. Money can buy anything, and a zoning plan is a sensitive topic for private landowners who see it as a curtailment. But fragmented ownership can also work the other way around. Tom van ’t Hof, the founder of nature conservation on Saba, explains: “A few years ago a project developer came up with plans to construct a golf course, yacht harbour, country club and beach on an area of rolling hills that stretches to the coast. Many people liked the idea, but one of the family members who owned the property didn’t want to sell so the plan was shelved. It could have turned out differently. That’s why it is so important that regulations are established and why I am glad with the changes of 1010-10.”

Tom van ’t Hof was asked in 1986 by the Saba governing council to make a plan for the promotion of dive tourism on the island. “One condition was that the ecological balance in the marine environment would not be disturbed. I was very impressed: for once a forward-looking politician.” In 1987 Van ’t Hof became the first director of the Saba Conservation Foundation, which manages both the park on land and in the ocean. Twenty-five years later the Saba Marine Park was declared a national park. The current director of the foundation is Kai Wulff: “The pressure on the sea is building. The number of fishermen may be small, but a few of them are large in scale, and it is not clear how they impact the fish population: how many fish are left, what is the by-catch, which species are left? We don’t have the right up-to-date data; and no monitoring is taking place. So we can’t manage the catch based on accurate data, and very little is being regulated.” These issues are high on Wulff’s priority list. “With the right tools we could ensure sustainable fishing, which would benefit the fish population, biodiversity and tourism.”

To come up with a strategic adaptation plan, more research-based data is needed. Wulff would therefore like to have a laboratory for land- and sea-based research. “We don’t know which species we currently have! I hope the Netherlands will support us with expertise, educational opportunities and money, of course. We have to make sure that we don’t reinvent the wheel.” The transition following 10-10-10 offers opportunities. In accordance with international law, an Exclusive Economic Zone has been established, whereby an area stretching 200 miles off the coast has come under Dutch control and management. A management plan for this marine area has been set up that includes monitoring and research.

Outside scrutiny works best Many fishermen adhere to self-established rules. However there are also laws, but

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Columns and cloud forest The volcanic island of Saba lies mostly underwater. The volcanic underground in the sea is a food source for pinnacles. These are columns thickly covered in coral, sponges, shells and other organisms. The density and number of these pinnacles around Saba is exceptional. New fish species were recently discovered in the Saba Bank marine area, as well as new coral ecosystems dominated by unique algae communities. The Saba Bank is assumed to be both a birthing area and ‘nursery’ for whales. Within the framework of international treaties, such as the EEZ, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation has made 100,000 euros available for a surveillance boat to help protect the Saba Bank. Above water Mount Scenery dominates the scenery of the island. Parts of the cloud forest near the top of the mountain are unique in the world. The unusual conditions have brought forth a large number of special plant and animal species. One road crosses the island from the airport to the harbour. For their water supply, the people of Saba make use of desalinated seawater as well as underground cisterns that catch rainwater.

violations are difficult to prosecute. “The people know each other. They are friends or family. This makes it difficult to enforce the rules and hand out penalties. Once Saba is a Dutch municipality this will change, especially if people are brought in for this purpose from elsewhere. Outside scrutiny works best. There is some informal cooperation among and with the fishermen. Wulff: “They inform us if there is a tanker in the area or fishermen from other islands. We then contact the Coast Guard. Other than that there is little solidarity among them.” For this reason Wulff was recently asked by the fishermen to represent them in the process of implementing the EEZ (see page 20). A lot can be achieved through regulations. But this doesn’t apply to the lionfish. Wulff: “That animal is disastrous for the local fishermen and for the fish population: crab, wawoe, red snapper and the reef fish.

The cloud forest on Mount Scenery 38 BES islands 2011 Change

/ phOTO Henkjan Kievit

All of these species suffer from the presence of the lionfish.” The animal is difficult to combat. More than 80 percent of its eggs hatch, it has no natural enemies and it eats everything. Reports of lionfish sightings are coming in from all of the islands. Eradication is not possible. Wulff: “The only thing we can do to keep the numbers in check is to catch as many of them as possible. Divers have been specially trained for this and a campaign called “Wanted” has been initiated in all of the parks. But even catching them isn’t easy. The fish has 18 spines with which it can cause painful stings that can also lead to breathing problems in humans. This carnivorous animal can grow to 40 cm long and live for 15 years. Diving schools are also worried because if nothing is done, there will be no other fish left to look at. Van ’t Hof has a more relaxed attitude when it comes to the lionfish problem: “From an evolutionary perspective, enemies will show up. Who are we, by the way, to say that this fish doesn’t belong here? We still know so little about the ocean.” The lionfish has in any case one thing working against it: it tastes good.

Intruders Climate change, travellers, tankers that discharge water – all of these offer ways for non-native species to invade Saba and its waters. “On land we have the suffocating Coralita plant, snake species that did not originate here, plants we have never seen before and of course the goats”, says Kai Wulff. Although some goats apear indigenous since they have been here on the islands for decades. Just like on the other islands, solving the problem appears to be a purely political issue, reflected in the commonly heard slogan: ‘one goat, one vote’. Wulff: “This is not a problem for conservationists to solve, but we are active in the discussion and can report that the goats are a threat to our biodiversity. And that brings us to our most important source of income: tourism.” Here too, enforcing regulations is a problem because of the close ties among the islanders, who would gladly look the other way when it comes to violations committed by a friend or family member.

Sorting At the harbour an excavation is underway. Stones are being pulverized into unique black sand. “The best sand in the Carib-

Diving off Saba

/ phOTO hans leijnse

Saba is not an island for the jet set. A jet can’t land here and there is no fancy harbour.

bean”, according to one of the workers. Strolling away from the harbour one soon arrives at the rubbish tip. “I know something is being done about this”, says Wulff, “but at the moment it is terrible. There is no sorting of waste, so everything is simply dumped here. Even oil, which can be brought to the electricity company GeBe for recycling. But not everyone knows that.” The black clouds of smoke emitting from the row of pipes along the pier give away the secret of what GeBe runs its generators on. Just like on St Eustatius and Bonaire, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment is working on a master plan for the collection, sorting and processing of waste. On the way back we drive to The Ladder: an historical staircase that the people of Saba used to haul goods from the ships to the towns located far above. The engine of the Winair airplane rumbles softly. Twentytwo people depart from the smallest airport in the world. n

St Eustatius National Parks Visitor Centre Gallows Bay, St Eustatius Phone +599-717-5010

Tom van’t Hof

Kai Wulff

Glenn Holm

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Overview of organizations Government

Nature management


Lt Governor Bonaire Glenn ThodĂŠ

Dutch Carribean Nature Alliance Address: Kaya Grandi #20 Kralendijk, Bonaire + 599.717.5010 +599.790.5010

St Eustatius Tourism Development Foundation Address: Fort Oranje, Oranjestad St Eustatius +599.318.2433 +599.318.2107

Lt Governor Saba Christopher Johnson Lt Governor St Eustatius Gerald Berkel National Office for the Caribbean Netherlands (Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland) Address: Kaya International z/n, Kralendijk, Bonaire PO Box 357 +599.715.8336 Quartermaster Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation Ton Akkerman +599.715.83333 Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation Hayo Haanstra Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) Maarten Beks Public Body Bonaire Department Environment and Nature Peter Montanus Address: Kaya Amsterdam 23 Kralendijk, Bonaire +599 717 8130 40 BES islands 2011 Change

Stinapa Bonaire Address: Barcadera z/n, Bonaire PO Box 368 +599.717.8444 +599.786.8444 Saba Conservation Foundation Address: PO Box 18 The Bottom, Saba +599.416.3295 Stenapa St Eustatius Address: St Eustatius National Parks Foundaiton Gallow Bay, St Eustatius +599.318.2884

Cabinet of the Plenipotentiary Minister of Curacao Address: Badhuisweg 175 2597 JP Den Haag The Netherlands Saba Tourist Bureau Address: PO Box 527 Windwardside, Saba +599.416.2231 +599.416.2322 Tourism Corporation Bonaire European representative: BASIS Communicatie Address: Wagenweg 252 PO Box 472 2000 AL Haarlem The Netherlands +31.23.5430704

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