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A ruling by the Joint Court of Justice may force government agencies to permit activities that could undermine Bonaire’s valuable publicly held marine assets.

In an appeal heard on August 27th 2015 on Bonaire, the court focused on how permit applications for activity in the marine environment must be assessed. The assessment is mandated in the Maritime Management Act BES, a law designed to protect the natural marine resources of the BES islands to ensure healthy, sustainable economies.
The appeal argued against a lower court interpretation that could allow the permitting agency to minimize its assessment of interests related to permits. Plaintiffs argued that, besides the interests specifically mentioned in the act, other interests regarding the marine park should be weighed by the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment. Support for this was found in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Act.

Though the Joint Court of Justice emphasized the importance of this case to Bonaire’s future at the conclusion of this hearing, the verdict, made available last week, declined the higher appeal in favor of the Dutch Ministry. The verdict by the Joint Court of Justice agrees with the decision made by the lower court, allowing the Minister to execute a more narrow interpretation of the Maritime Management Act BES.
Plaintiffs Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB), Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire (STINAPA) and World Wildlife Fund Netherlands (WWF-NL) expressed disappointment with the verdict.

The organizations assert that “It is extremely important that the BES Maritime Management Act is interpreted according to its purpose: that of protecting the natural resources of the BES islands to ensure healthy, sustainable economies”. All assessments ought to take into account every relevant interest, and apply the precautionary principle, in order to protect the future well-being of the residents of Bonaire.

This verdict of the Joint Court of Justice has not ended the official procedure against Karel’s pier permit as issued by the Minister. The Minister still has to come up with a new decision due to the pervious annulment of the permit by the lower court in 2014. The current verdict does not change this.

STINAPA employee discovers lifeless body of newborn baby whale on the beach of Boka Chikitu in Washington-Slagbaai National Park. The government’s Marine Mammal Incident team was notified, so action could be taken to collect necessary information.


During a tour of the Washington-Slagbaai National Park a STINAPA employee discovered the lifeless body of a newborn baby whale on the beach of Boka Chikitu.

This baby whale belongs to a species of whale called Pygmy Sperm Whale (Koga breviceps).We know almost nothing about this type of whale as they are almost never encountered at sea. Most of the information collected and shared about this species is from animals washed up on the beach.

This type of whale is not much bigger than a dolphin. They can reach a length of 3.5 meters and can weigh up to 400 kg. A newborn baby has a length of approximately 1.2 meters.

The Pygmy Sperm Whale is found in tropical and temperate zones of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Examinations of the stomach contents of washed up pygmy sperm whales suggest that this species eats mostly squid.

The government team responsible for investigating incidents involving stranded marine mammals collected data from the body.

Recently, you may have seen junior rangers giving people surveys while dressed as sharks.

This was part of STINAPA’s shark outreach program and 250 surveys were given to Bonaire residents to help determine how the people of Bonaire feel about sharks.

The findings were very interesting and hopeful:

88% of Bonaire residents have never heard of a shark attack in Bonaire.

74% of residents are aware of shark finning (where fishermen cut off and keep shark fins but throw the dead or dying sharks back into the ocean).

72% of residents underestimated the number of sharks killed each year by humans. The number is approximately 100 million sharks killed each year. Yes, 100 million – many more than people imagined.

75% think sharks are important to the coral reef.

64% support the idea of a shark sanctuary.

Sharks ARE necessary for healthy reefs, but as a result of severe overfishing, shark populations are declining rapidly throughout the world’s oceans. STINAPA reached many people while giving the surveys and was able to spread awareness and help educate the community about the importance of sharks and the peril that sharks are in. STINAPA is also very happy that, very recently, the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary was announced, which surrounds the islands of Bonaire and Saba.

STINAPA would like to thank everyone who helped with the surveys, DCNA and the Nationale Postcode Loterij for their support.

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