STINAPA collects CWC data every three months to better asses year-round waterbird populations and trends.
Erosion is a big problem on Bonaire due to lack of vegetation, overgrazing by free roaming goats and donkeys.
It is possible to plan and implement a control program if enough resources are available to the management body of the invaded area.
Cargill decided to build an artificial island to attract the Least Terns and establish a tern-friendly nesting site.
Organized by Birds Caribbean (birdscaribbean.org), the Caribbean Waterbird Census (CWC) Program was set up to study, monitor and conserve birds and their associated habitats. Home to over 185 species of waterbirds (which include shorebirds, seabirds, wading birds, marshbirds and waterfowl), the Caribbean is an important areas for birds, many of which are endemic species, globally threatened species and migratory species. STINAPA is just one partner among many Caribbean organizations, communities and individuals collecting CWC data.
Areas that are monitored for CWC are mainly wetlands, including mangrove swamps, salt ponds, sandy beached, and mud and tidal flats. These are the areas where waterbirds live and are highly valuable to people because they support the economy and tourism by providing natural flood control, protection from storms, and a sustainable food supply. Managing for healthy wetlands helps both birds and people.
Goals of CWC:
To learn more about the distribution, status, and abundance of waterbirds in the Caribbean in order to improve science-based conservation planning and management of these birds and their habitats.
To increase awareness, build capacity, and engage non-governmental organizations, government agencies, communities, and volunteers in wetland monitoring and conservation.
To identify and ensure that as many important wetland sites as possible are conserved and monitored.
Because many of the Caribbean’s original wetlands have been destroyed, and those that remain are increasingly encroached upon by development, it is increasingly important to protect these habitats. In addition to habitat loss, waterbird populations are also subject to other threats including hunting, egg and chick harvest, and predation by introduced invasive species such as rats, cats and mongoose. Global climate change may also bring more frequent storms and a rise in sea level which may also threaten waterbird populations. Collecting data will help us to understand the health of waterbird populations and their habitats, which will benefit both birds and people.
Although Birds Caribbean organizes one region-wide count during a 3-week period from January 14th to February 3rd (providing a “snapshot” of waterbird population numbers and habitat use throughout the Caribbean), STINAPA collects CWC data every three months to better assess year-round waterbird populations and trends. Our biologists, rangers and staff monitor all of the salinas in the Washington Slagbaai National Park (Bartol, Slagbaai, Matijs, Funchi and Wayaka) as well as several salinas on the northern end of Bonaire (Gotomeer, Tam and Frans).
Lac is the largest bay in the Dutch Caribbean and is not only a critical habitat for Bonaire and the region, but also a RAMSAR site, recognized globally as wetlands of special significance. Lac is a nursery for reef fish and a feeding area for green sea turtle. Also it is an important resting and nesting place for numerous birds and marine invertebrates, including the Queen Conch or Karko.
Earlier in Lac’s history this shellfish was found in large quantities, but due to overfishing the population has diminished drastically. Therefore STINAPA started an outreach campaign focusing on the Queen Conch which engages every sector of the local community from schools and daycare centers to churches and the business sector. The slogan of the project was as follows: “Ban trese karko bek, Laga nan na pas pa mañan nos tin mas!” roughly translates to “Bring our conch back; Leave them alone so we can have more tomorrow!”
Since the end of the project, monitoring of the Karko in Lac has continued by STINAPA staff. More information here
Please download the project report here.
The project Ecologist Herstel Lac en Zuidelijk Kustgebied is a project that will be executed by DRO and STINAPA. DRO will be responsible for the infrastructural works and STINAPA for the eco-restoration of the bay area.
At the east coast of Bonaire is Lac Bay, a non estuarine lagoon surrounded by mangroves. Shallow, with a fringing reef, extensive seagrass beds and a maze of tidal creeks in the mangroves, Lac Bay is a perfect nursery for many reef fish, a juvenile habitat for conch (locally called “karko”), and a feeding ground for the green turtle. Clear blue waters and a prevailing eastern wind make it a popular area for recreation. It is actually the site where Bonairean youngsters started windsurfing to eventually become world champions.
Lac Bay is part of Bonaire’s National Marine Park. It is also one of its five Ramsar wetland sites and an important and bird area (IBA).
The land side of the bay has a mangrove wood. This mangrove area is the largest in the formerly Dutch Antilles. The dominant mangrove species is the red mangrove. Its prop roots form a substratum for many different species: bivalves, tunicates, sponges, hydroids and many more. These roots – full of live – are often very colorful and many tourists enjoy snorkeling through the channels in the mangroves to explore them. The area between the roots shelters many juvenile species of reef fish, some of them endangered like the rainbow parrotfish, Scarus guacamaia. More to the land side, we find the black mangrove, Avicennia germinans, with is roots sticking out of the mud and the white mangrove, Laguncularia racemosa. A little bit more on dry soil is the buttonwood, Conocarpus erectus, that with the wind can form the most interesting forms.
The ability of the mangroves to florish in a salty, often inundated environment has been studied extensively. But there is a limit to these abilities. The black mangrove needs an environment that falls partially dry on a regular basis. Extended periods of high salinity are harmfull and stunt the growth, and the trees will eventually die.
Large amounts of sediments from the catchment area north of Lac Bay have made the outer area of Lac Bay extremely shallow. The surface to volume ratio is high and evaporation too. The tendency of the red mangrove is to occupy all open shallow spaces and thus effectively block fresh seawater reaching the back area. As Bonaire has a dry climate, the fresh water influx in that area is negligible and salinities three times seawater have been measured.
Erosion is a big problem on Bonaire due to lack of vegetation and overgrazing by free roaming goats and donkeys. Addressing this is very important, but not within the scope of this project. What can be done though is preventing more sediments entering the area and improving the water circulation. A sediment trap will be built in the area where most surface water runoff occurs. This is a one time construction which has to be maintained: ‘trapped sediments’ need to be removed on a regular basis.
The current tidal creeks in the mangroves need to be widened to avoid the encroachment of new plants in open areas where they obstruct a free waterflow.
In the last decades many foreign species of fish have been introduced by humans to the Caribbean region, mainly as a consequence of the pet trade for aquaria in the United States and particularly in the State of Florida. Among all of these species, only the Indo-Pacific Lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles) have succeeded in establishing local populations and expanding their range along the East coast of North America and the Caribbean Sea in only one decade. This outstanding capacity of colonization is what makes this exotic species also an invasive one. Lionfish are one of the top predators in the coral reef systems they inhabit. Therefore, the colonization of the Caribbean region by Lionfish is largely associated with a loss in native biodiversity, mainly fish and crustaceans. It has been demonstrated that, due to their pronounced voracity, Lionfish can reduce native fish recruitment in coral reefs by 79% in some environments in a few weeks. (Albins and Hixon, 2008; Green et al, 2012).
Once established on a large regional scale, it is virtually impossible to eradicate Lionfish populations. However, it is possible to plan and implement a control program if enough resources are available to the management body of the invaded area. In Bonaire and Curacao, Lionfish were reported in October 2009 within only one day difference between both islands. Within six months, they had spread along the entire perimeter of the islands.
Aware of the imminent invasion, the Bonaire National Marine Park started working on a plan to control the Lionfish population months before its arrival. In April 2009, the BNMP organized informative workshops for the public and started conversations with the Government. In September 2010, less than a year after the first sighting, the new spearfishing legislation was passed. Dive staff, visitors and local residents were involved since day one and, as soon as the first individual was sighted, the Lionfish Control Plan was put into action. Training workshops were organized, Lionfish became a topic in all dive orientations and more than 300 ELF tools were distributed to properly trained volunteers. Lionfish hunters have become quite skilled in targeting the invasive species.
Watch this video of a lion fish kill:
If you are interested in obtaining an ELF permit, please email the form below , including a copy of your nature fee receipt as well as a copy of your local lionfish hunting certification.
The Malmok area in the north of the Washington Slagbaai National Park has a long habitation history from the earliest Amerindian times, through the European occupation and into the twentieth century when a research station and lighthouse were built there. It also played a particularly important role as a habitation site for enslaved people during the colonial period. Archaeological remains from these various periods are still found everywhere in the Malmok area.
The insights derived from this project serve as a basis for creating awareness about important archaeological sites in the park and will serve as a template for future projects.
This project was fully funded by the Prins Bernhard Cultuur Fonds Caribisch Gebied
INVENTORY ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE MALMOK
During an archaeological survey, all archaeological sites in the Malmok area were mapped. This information was used to create an interactive experience in the Visitor Center at the park’s entrance. The information will be displayed in a virtual tour which visitors can use to explore the area and which will give them information about archaeologically and historically interesting facts at Malmok. With this knowledge, they can then proceed to visit the site itself. In this way, the cultural heritage of the park will be promoted and information about it made available to a large audience.
The virtual tour of Malmok: http://stinapabonaire.org/virtual-tour
In addition, the remainder of the funds were re-allocated to include production of a dual language sign placed at the location of Malmok. This sign in Papiamentu and English reflects the findings of this project and gives visitors information about what they are looking at on-site. This will enhance visitor’s experience and teach them about the history, both cultural and geological, of the most northern part of Bonaire.
Tsunamis and Hurricanes on Bonaire
Rocks deposited by Tsunami
The Caribbean’s geological and tectonic setting causes the archipelago’s islands to be vulnerable to various types of coastal hazards, the most devastating of which are hurricane swells and tsunamis. Tsunamis are most often the result of the movements of tectonic plates in the northern and eastern Caribbean and near the Venezuelan coast. Even though Bonaire is situated just south of the hurricane belt, hurricanes passing far north of the island can generate powerful wave action on its shores. Events on one side of the Caribbean can thus have an effect on areas on the other side, hundreds of kilometers away.
Indications of past tsunamis can be found along Bonaire’s shores. A study conducted in 2012 found evidence of a tsunami at Boka Bartol, just a kilometer west of where you are now. Here, geologists investigated several sediment cores and found a layer of sediment that could only have been deposited in a tsunami event. By analyzing carbon isotopes in shells contained in the layer, it was determined that this tsunami occurred around 3200 years ago. This event coincides with the arrival of the first people on Bonaire at around the same time, and may have had a profound impact on the lives of the newly arrived settlers as they were living near the coast.
At Malmok, evidence of tsunamis and hurricanes can be seen throughout the landscape as well. The large rocks on your left side, some weighing thousands of pounds, were deposited by extreme wave events: a tsunami or hurricane swell. Waves struck with such an immense force that loose chunks of limestone that had broken off from the cliffs were pushed up by the water and ended up at their present location. When this happened is unknown; researchers have found evidence of several tsunamis on Bonaire, from 4,300 years ago to as recent as the fifteenth century. Hurricanes occur in the Caribbean nearly every year, but they only affect Bonaire a few times per century. Evidently, people living near Bonaire’s coasts had to adapt to the forces of mother nature to survive.
In this area, there is ample evidence of prehistoric habitation. Archaeological research has indicated that at Put Bronswinkel, located a few kilometers south, there used to be an Amerindian settlement. Exactly when this site was inhabited is not known, but stylistic analysis of the ceramics found indicates it must have been between AD 800 and AD 1400. Unlike in earlier times when people relied heavily on hunting, fishing, and gathering edible plants for their subsistence, during this time people were more intensively practicing agriculture. They were growing a variety of crops, of which maize and manioc seem to have been the most important ones.
At Malmok, many remains of Amerindian material culture can be found. The amount and variety of artifacts indicate that this area never housed a large settlement, but that smaller, temporary camps characterized the type of habitation here. People would come here to extract resources, most likely to fish, for periods of several days or even weeks.
Amerindian habitation sites generally have 2 components: an area where dwellings were located, and a refuse dump. These were usually situated close to each other. Amerindian dwellings could range from small huts to large communal houses. As these were made entirely of perishable materials, the only things that are left behind are discolorations in the subsoil that mark the locations of post holes. The red area is the refuse dump or ‘midden’. This was the area where people dumped discarded items. Many of these were also made of perishable materials, which have not survived. Non-perishable materials are all that is left. These include ceramics, coral tools, small flint tools, and many shells of various types. Through detailed analysis of these artifacts, we can learn a great deal about the people that once lived here. For example, clay analysis can determine whether ceramics were imported or produced locally. The presence of tools made of staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), which was used for grating cassava, indicates that the people living here were not just relying on hunting, fishing and gathering food, but also practiced horticulture. A variety of shells found at the midden, including queen conch (Lobatus gigas), West Indian topshell (cittarium pica), and the land snail cerion uva (Cerion uva bonairensis), point to a diverse diet adopted by the people living here.
The colonial period
In this area, there is also evidence of human activity during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Scattered remains of ceramic mineral water bottles and cups, and glass gin and wine bottles, are present throughout the area. While these are not necessarily signs of human habitation at Malmok during the colonial period and contemporary maps do not indicate a settlement here at this time, they do indicate that people used to spend some time here.
In 1906, a lighthouse was built at Malmok. This was not the only lighthouse on Bonaire; there was also one at the island’s southernmost point near the salt pans, and only a few years later another one was built at the island’s easternmost point at Spelonk.
Malmok’s lighthouse was never lit, as it quickly became apparent that due to its unfavorable location too close to the sea, waves would damage the buildings. In 1927, a new lighthouse was built on Seru Bentana (the hill that is visible to the east) making the never-used lighthouse at Malmok completely obsolete. The new lighthouse was a lot taller and situated on higher ground, which made it much better visible for people at sea.
Unlike other lighthouses on Bonaire, the one at Malmok could not be accessed from the inside. There used to be a metal platform on the higher part of the structure that was accessed by a ladder from the outside. Some remains of this platform can still be seen, although most has fallen down and is scattered around the lighthouse as small metal fragments.
The Watchman’s House
The house next to the lighthouse was supposed to be used by the watchman. This house is fairly small compared to those at the other lighthouses. Next to the house is a peculiar building without any doors or windows. This was the cistern, where rainwater was stored. As the area at Malmok is very dry, the only way to get fresh water at this location is by collecting rainwater on the roof and channeling it into a cistern. Not only the roof of the house collected rainwater, the slanting roof of the cistern did so as well. One simply had to climb up a ladder to get water with a bucket. Normally, cisterns were built in the ground, but because of the hard limestone surface, this would have cost too much effort.
The lighthouse, cistern, and watchman’s house were built by people from Rincon in a typical Bonairean fashion. The structures are composed of limestone blocks, which are held together and plastered on the outside by lime mortar. Lime mortar was made by putting limestone, coral rubble, and shells in an oven and heating them up until they became brittle. After cooling, they were crushed into a fine powder. This powder was mixed with sand and water and made the perfect mortar.
The three lighthouses were aimed at increasing safety for sailors approaching Bonaire from the east, who could often not see the island at night. In the past, this resulted in many ships wrecking on Bonaire’s eastern shores. Historical records indicate that over 150 ships have wrecked around Bonaire since its discovery by Europeans in 1499.
In the 1960s a pre-fab research station was erected at Malmok. The station consisted of a building with a lab and living accommodations for scientists conducting research on birds and vegetation.
Modern use of the landscape
Large rocks have been made into a shelter as evidenced by the small stone walls on the side. This is probably a place where fishermen set up camp. Here you can find trash left behind by them, which includes bottles and bottle caps, fish bones, cans, shoes, and various other metal and plastic items. This trash will eventually become an archaeological site, and may be studied by archaeologist in a few hundred years just like archaeologists today are studying objects discarded by people hundreds or even thousands of years ago in order to reconstruct their activities.
In the spring of 2013, STINAPA Bonaire was contacted by bird-watchers noticing probable disturbance to Least Terns nests by trucks in the Cargill area. After some meetings between Cargill, STINAPA, IMARES, RCN and DROB, Cargill decided to build an artificial island to attract the Least Terns and establish a tern-friendly nesting site.
By means of national ordinance of July 20, 1926 (PB 1926, No. 60) and September 28, 1931 (PB 1931, No 59) all species in question are legally protected in the Dutch Caribbean (former Netherlands Antilles). The Cayenne Tern was added to the list of protected species in 1955 (PB 1955, No. 86) while all other terns breeding on these islands were added in 1960 (PB 1960, No. 102) (Timmers, 1979).
During the 2014 nesting season, data was collected at nesting sites in the entire Cargill area, including the artificial island that was created by Cargill under the guidance of IMARES with the intention of attracting nesting birds to it by using decoys (fig.1), in order to avoid nesting in the operational areas of the salt production. Data was collected in numbers (nesting pairs, nests, eggs, chicks, predators, disturbance events, etc.) and also in images using trap cameras. With the numbers we attempt to estimate nest, eggs and chick survival rates and overall nesting success per species. With the cameras we determine the main causes of disturbance and estimate the impact of each one on egg failure and/or chick mortality. With this information, we also provide management recommendations to improve the nesting conditions.
During the 2015 nesting season this data collection included a new artificial island and some of the natural places change due the colonies changing in each season.
Birds Caribbean article about Bonaire’s birds:
STINAPA Bonaire is working together with the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, Holland and the other Dutch islands to put an end to the slaughter of sharks in the Dutch Caribbean. With funding from the National Postcode Lotterij, STINAPA will work with local communities, fishermen and scientists to create support for shark conservation, ban commercial and targeted fishing of sharks, and establish a shark and ray sanctuary. Sharks are apex predators and are important to our oceans because they keep ecosystems in balance and keep fish healthy by feeding on the weak, old, and sick fish. Because sharks and rays have been overfished worldwide, many species are now threatened with extinction. We must act quickly to protect these important ocean predators.
STINAPA’s first year of the Save Our Shark program (August 2015 – July 2016) is focused on reaching local communities through education and outreach. STINAPA launched the Save Our Sharks campaign in August 2015 with a Shark Week that involved educational programs with youth groups and at resorts, the showing of the shark conservation movie, ‘Shark Water’, and two festivals involving games and contests for children. During this first year STINAPA has been and will continue to educate local people through school visits, adult educational programs, newsletters and local festivals to promote awareness of how important sharks are to the oceans and the peril sharks face.
The second year of the program (August 2016 – July 2017) will focus on forging ties with local fishermen. Soon after the project began in the summer of 2015, Bonaire became part of the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary. All sharks and rays in Bonaire’s waters are now protected. No fisherman or foreign fishing fleet can target sharks in our Economic Exclusive Zone, which is great news for sharks and rays, but local fishermen have many questions about how to deal with the new protection status of these fish. For these reasons, it is essential for STINAPA Bonaire to become partners with the local fishermen and aid them in whatever way necessary with these new laws. Fishermen exchanges will be organized where our fishermen will be given the chance to learn from visiting fishermen and researchers how important sharks and rays are to our waters and how to release sharks when hooked. New fishing gear will be encouraged and available including circle hooks and shark dehookers. Visiting fishermen will also offer training sessions on how to catch, tag and release sharks and rays. If our fishermen choose to become involved in a Dutch Caribbean wide tag and release monitoring program, they will be able to earn alternative income while protecting sharks and adding to the scientific knowledge of sharks in our near-shore waters. Since sharks are difficult animals to learn about, this tagging program will provide us with information about shark species, numbers and migratory patterns, which will help us to understand and protect these important animals.
The third year of the program (August 2017 – July 2018) is geared towards doing research on sharks and rays in Bonaire’s nearshore waters. STINAPA will be working together with IMARES to learn about the sharks found in our waters by using sBRUV (stereo Baited Remote Underwater Video) equipment and establishing a shark and ray sighting network. Data (videos) of sharks and rays will be collected in different locations at different times to find out which species of sharks frequent our waters and give us an idea of numbers of sharks as well. STINAPA will also encourage fishermen and SCUBA divers to send shark and ray sighting information to STINAPA. We are already busy collecting sighting information and are planning a Dutch Caribbean wide sighting network. Sighting data will also be used to learn about the species of sharks and rays that frequent our waters and possible migratory patterns.
By the end of the Save Our Sharks program, Bonaire and the rest of the Dutch Caribbean will have a public that is aware of the importance and protection of sharks, fishermen will understand the new legislation and will be on-board with shark and ray conservation, and we will have a much better understanding of the species of sharks and rays found in the waters of the Dutch Caribbean.