The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty, which protects wetlands that are of great international importance. It is mainly concerned with the importance of these areas for waterfowl. The full name of the Convention is ‘Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat’. The treaty protects these wetlands because of their important ecological function as regulators of water management and as areas with flora and fauna unique to their habitats. A wetland that has been presented to the Convention is also called a Ramsar area.
The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.
Wetlands are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems. They provide essential services and supply all our fresh water. However they continue to be degraded and converted to other uses.
The Convention uses a broad definition of wetlands. It includes all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.
There are 5 wetlands registered to the Ramsar convention found in Bonaire. These areas are being managed by STINAPA Bonaire, except for the Pekelmeer. The Pekelmeer, where the flamingo reserve is located, is being managed by Cargill Salt Bonaire NV.
The Bonaire Ramsar areas are:
Lac (700 ha.)
Lac is registered because it is a splendid bay, banded by mangroves. A large part of the bottom is covered by sea grass, on which the green turtle grazes. The mangroves offer shelter to juvenile fish and invertebrates. Lac is an important resting, breeding and feeding area for waterfowl. The bay is part of the statutory protected marine park. In the Bonaire Nature Management Plan, Lac is indicated as a national nature park, including a buffer zone of 500 meters.
Pekelmeer (400 ha.)
The Pekelmeer is mainly of importance because of the presence of the flamingo reserve. Inside the Pekelmeer there are often thousands of Caribbean flamingos present. It is one of the most important breeding places for the flamingo population of more or less 20.000 specimens in the Southern Caribbean area. The flamingo has special claims to its environment and is very sensitive to disturbances. Also other waterfowl, like herons feed in this area. In the Bonaire Nature Management Plan the Pekelmeer is allocated as a strict nature reserve. This restricted area is managed by Cargill Salt Bonaire NV.
Klein Bonaire (600 ha.)
Klein Bonaire is an uninhabited islet that is part of the legally protected Bonaire National Marine Park. It is surrounded by a magnificent coral reef. The beaches at the north and west coast are the most important nesting sites for turtles. On the islet there are also some Salinas or salt lakes where flamingos forage for food.
Gotomeer (150 ha.)
The Gotomeer is part of the Washington Slagbaai National Park. It is a shallow lagoon that is cut off from the sea by a coral stone dam. The area is an important foraging site for flamingos, of which often many hundreds are present. The brine fly and the larvae of this fly, which are plentiful in the lagoon, are the most important source of food for the flamingos. Sometimes the flamingos breed at Gotomeer as well. This is also an important area for other waterfowl.
Slagbaai (90 ha.)
The Slagbaai lagoon and salinas are part of the Washington Slagbaai National Park. The lagoon is cut off from the sea by a coral stone dam. It is another foraging site for flamingos. Breeding sometimes takes place here, as well. For other waterfowl, like the pelicans and the herons, this is also an important area.