Bonaire National Marine Park – MANAGEMENT
The mission of the Bonaire National Marine Park (BNMP) is to protect and manage the island’s natural, cultural and historical resources, while allowing ecologically sustainable use, for the benefit of future generations.
The size of the Marine Park in itself presents a challenge. It includes all the waters surrounding Bonaire and Klein Bonaire, from the high-tide mark to 60 meters (200 feet) of depth. This includes Lac and Lagun, the harbor, as well as the two marinas. The BNMP has also been responsible for the island of Klein Bonaire since 2001.
The primary challenge of managing the Bonaire National Marine Park, though, is dealing with the varied groups and individuals who use the Park, and enabling their sustainable use of natural resources. BNMP staffers work with government departments, divers, boaters, fishermen, businesspeople, homeowners, contractors and other diverse groups who have, in some cases, nothing in common but their relationship to the Marine Park.
The BNMP has existed since 1979. It has had consistent management since 1991. The challenges to managing the ecosystems that form the BNMP are dramatically increasing as the economy of Bonaire has grown in the past years. The Management Plan (preamble & contents, part 1, part 2, part 3 & 4) was developed for the purpose of guiding BNMP staff through the difficult and at times even frustrating moments, of managing a park with such a wide variety of users and individuals, each with their own agenda. It helps the management to stay focused.
Our main categories of Management responsibility include:
- Law enforcement
- Research and monitoring
One of our main responsibilities is law enforcement. Most of the time we have two rangers on a shore patrol and/or two on a boat patrol. We are very grateful to the people of Bonaire who have the courage and desire to protect their environment; we are often alerted about poachers of conch, illegal construction in the coastal zone, people spear fishing or having a net in an illegal area, etc. In the past we needed the police to assist us in dealing with infringements. Today most of the rangers employed at STINAPA have special police powers and we can write out citations for the offenders ourselves. We have created several methods, including brochures and websites, to inform Park visitors of our rules, regulations and codes of conduct in the protected areas.
We use cars and boats for law enforcement patrolling, and also for the maintenance of shoreline site information and moorings. We take good care of this equipment to make it last! We provide our personnel with training in servicing car engines and outboard boat motors to keep the cost of operations down and save money for use in other areas.
Research and monitoring
The introduction of the Nature Fee will allow us to purchase the appropriate equipment to begin some basic monitoring, of factors such as water temperature, water quality and nutrients. We are very thankful to the researchers and volunteers who have assisted us over the past years and, we hope, will continue working with us into the future. We are looking forward to being able to hire more rangers to enable us to increase the areas we monitor.
Hiring more rangers was more difficult than we expected, since there is no establishment on Bonaire that prepares youngsters for the profession. In order to meet this need, STINAPA started a Ranger Training Program in 2003. We provide employees with training in many areas, including: auto and outboard motor engine mechanics, boat handling, public speaking, VHF radio operation, marine ecology information, SCUBA diving, and the basics of computer use. This training program is also being offered to high school students enrolled in the after school program at Jong Bonaire. We call it the Junior Ranger Program. Our objective is that when these teenagers finish high school they seek the profession of STINAPA Ranger, or they follow advanced studies in a nature and environment-related science.
It is very important that the users of the natural resources of Bonaire, locals and visitors alike, receive information and education on the need for nature protection. STINAPA’s Education Department, led by our Education Coordinator, works with schoolteachers and classes to provide the children of Bonaire with a solid understanding of our wonderful natural environment. Our Education Department, aided by our Communications Coordinator, also makes environmental information available to adults. For the visitors we have produced brochures with all relevant information on the parks.
In 2007 an island-wide communication campaign, funded by World Wildlife Funds-Netherlands, was initiated. It has the slogan; “Nos ta Biba di Naturalesa”, this means “Nature Is Our Livelihood”. With this communication campaign we want to make the Bonairean public aware that nature is important to all of us; most of us, directly or indirectly, earn our salary from an economic activity related to tourism. The majority of the tourists who visit Bonaire come here to enjoy our nature. We on Bonaire, because of lack of knowledge, take this beauty for granted and at times we do not give it the love and attention it deserves. The information campaign will last between 3 to 5 years with the objective that by the end of the campaign at least 70% of the population should agree with the policy of nature and environmental protection on Bonaire. We will look for partners on the island to join us and give us financial support in this campaign: government, tourism sector, private companies, etc. We should all work together towards a sustainable development.
As stipulated by the Marine Ordinance (Dutch version / English translation) the island government has instituted a “Commission of Marine Environment” with experts in different disciplines. The Manager of the Bonaire National Marine Park is an advisor to this Commission. Requests for permits (construction, renovation or research) to the island government for activities in the Bonaire National Marine Park pass through the Commission, which takes into consideration the legislation, policies, and guidelines before giving advice.