Bonaire has a long history of marine conservation. Beginning with turtle protection in 1961, the prohibition of spear fishing in 1971, and protection for coral, dead or alive, in 1975. The driving forces behind the creation of a Marine Park on Bonaire included Bonaire devotees Captain Don Stewart and late Carel Steensma and The Netherlands Antilles National Parks Foundation. The Bonaire National Marine Park was established in 1979.
The Marine Park includes all the waters surrounding Bonaire and Klein Bonaire, from the high-tide mark to 60 meters (200 feet) of depth. This is an area of about 27 km² (6672 acres) and includes the coral reef, sea grass and mangroves. Lac and Klein Bonaire are both a RAMSAR site and therefore internationally recognized as important wetlands areas.
As an International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN) demonstration site, the Marine Park is a model of its kind in the Caribbean, protecting and caring for the marine environment while maximizing safe levels for recreation and commercial use (Management Plan).