Bonaire Marine Park


Bonaire: (southern Caribbean – 12º10′ N 68º15′ W) approximately 100 km north of Venezuela. One of the five islands, together with Curaçao and the Windward Islands of St.Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius (Statia), which form the Netherlands Antilles. Bonaire is a crescent shaped island, orientated along a northwest-southeast axis, approximately 40 km long by 11 km at its widest point with a land area of 288km². The small uninhabited and undeveloped satellite island of Klein Bonaire (small Bonaire) is located some 750 m off the western shore of Bonaire.

Management authority

STINAPA, Bonaire (Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire) or National Parks Foundation for Bonaire, a local non for profit NGO.

Demographic Statistics

The resident population in 1990 was 10,791 (CBS, 1991) with a population density of only 37 persons/km². The population in December 2001 shows an increase to 14,312 (pers com CBS 2002). The main centre of population, Kralendijk (locally called “Playa”) is located in the centre of the island. The coastal zone adjacent to Kralendijk has been extensively developed to provide tourist accommodation and more recently for private residential housing to accommodate an influx of wealthy retirees taking advantage of tax concessions.

Objective/Purpose of site

To protect and conserve the island’s marine resources whilst maximizing returns from both recreation and commerce.

Ecological features and assets

  • Coral Reefs: Bonaire and Klein Bonaire are surrounded by continuous fringing coral reefs from the shoreline seaward to depths in excess of 70 m covering an area of some 2,700 hectares.
  • Mangrove and seagrass: A sheltered shallow inland bay, Lac Bay, occurs on the windward shore of Bonaire. It is the largest inland bay in the Netherlands Antilles and is internationally protected as a RAMSAR site. The bay is bounded on its seaward extent by exposed fringing coral reefs. Lac Bay supports Bonaire’s only significant mangrove and seagrass ecosystems. The open water area of the bay is covered by seagrass beds while along its landward edge it is surrounded by an actively growing mangrove which is systematically encroaching on the bay. The mangrove stands are particularly important as nesting and roosting areas for birds and the seagrass beds form nursery grounds for some important reef fish as well as important foraging area for turtles
  • Klein Bonaire: A coral-limestone island owith 10 km of well developed fringing reefs and active sea turtle nesting beaches used by the endangered Hawksbill Turtle. Also significant waterbird breeding activity recorded.

Socioeconomic features and assets

The economy of Bonaire is remarkably undiversified consisting of an oil transshipment facility located on the northwestern shore, a solar salt extraction plant whose “condensers” (evaporation ponds) take up most of the southern end of the island and tourism which is firmly based on the dive travel segment. Tourism is considered the mainstay of the island economy with gross revenues from dive tourism in 1994 estimated at US$ 34 million. Since both fishing and agriculture are essentially small scale artisanal activities, the major impacts on the marine ecosystem are as a direct and indirect result of tourism development.

Major Threats

  • A succession of coral bleaching events (1990, 1995, 1998) have caused significant mortality and left Bonaire’s reef extremely vulnerable.
  • The incidence of disease amongst coral populations has risen dramatically over the past decade.
  • nutrient enrichment
  • sedimentation

Background legislation and policy support

The Marine Park is protected by the Verordening Marien Milieu – Marine Environment Ordinance (A.B. 2001, no. 13) and associated EBHAMs. It is hoped to give training to the Rangersspecial policing powers so they can not only write out a summons but can also issue summary fines to deal with offenses under the Marine Environment Ordinance. Law enforcement activities take up approximately 5-10% of staff time (excluding patrols). Problems are associated with development of the coastal zone, modification of the shore line, creation of beaches and illegal placement of moorings and piers. Additionally Bonaire has a small but persistent spearfishing problem and occasional problems with recreational divers who are unable or unwilling to control their bouyancy under water or who remove items (such as soft corals and shells) from the reef. BNMP is working with SSV, police and airport authorities to try to avoid export of collected corals and other CITES listed organisms. Signboards have already been made and placed at strategic locations informing visitors about CITES regulations.

There have also been problems with shipping – dumping of dirty ballast or other substances, leaking of oil, groundings – captains of all ballast carrying vessels are now required to sign a “ballast water declaration” before his vessel may dock.

Management structure

The management of the Marine Park was assigned by the Island Government to STINAPA, Bonaire under a management contract. The nine person board of STINAPA represent the broadest array of interests and has officially appointed representatives from the local agricultural cooperative, fishing community, tourism industry, hotel and tourism association and dive operators. The board is responsible for policy decision making and the Park Manager is responsible for the day to day management of the Marine Park, finances and personnel.

BNMP staff consists of a manager, chief ranger and three rangers. Additionally there are 4 members of staff shared with STINAPA (Accounting manager, office assistant, delivery person and cleaning lady). The Marine Park share office space with STINAPA. The building houses also a workshop, storage space, a conference/AV room and library.


Chief ranger and rangers: patrolling and maintenance within BNMP, including the maintenance of Marine Park moorings, public yacht moorings and the placement of private moorings. Maintenance of shore marker stones and all Marine Park equipment (such as boats, vehicles etc). Daily boat and shore patrols which are designed to assist park users as well as ensure compliance with the Marine Environment Ordinance. Rangers also run snorkel classes and outings for local children and routinely assist with research and monitoring work.

Manager: time is taken up to a large extent with administration. The Manager is also responsible for provision of information, education, outreach, research, monitoring, advice, media relations, representing the Marine Park at home and abroad, securing grant funding, donations and similar as well as law enforcement activities.

Research and Monitoring: User’s statistics, Coral Reef Monitoring, Fish census and diver’s impact, Economic analyses and carrying capacity, CARICOMP programme coral disease monitoring, Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA), Site characterization (an overview of all published and unpublished materials on Bonaire’s reefs, seagrasses and mangrove ecosystems and associated biota) and Parrotfish population dynamics.

Volunteer Research and monitoring activities: Caribbean Marine Biological Institute (CARMABI), REEF: The US based fish spotting organization, CEDAM, Earthwatch, ReefKeeper, Reef Check.

Education and Information: Educational and interpretive materials have been developed.

Stakeholder Involvement and participation

BNMP works closely with the fishermen’s association, local dive operators and other tourism concerns with in the Park. The Dive operations collect the diver admission fees, give orientations on BNMP rules to visiting divers and act as the eyes and ears of the Park. In addition the board of STINAPA is made up of representatives from the local agricultural cooperative, fishing community, tourism industry, hotel and tourism association and dive operators.

BNMP also have a volunteer group made up of local divers.

Financing Mechanism

BNMP is funded by a diver admission fee of $10 US per diver per year (initiated in 1992), mooring fees from visiting yachts to the public yacht moorings, sales of souvenirs and donations. This income covers the running costs of the Park but further funds are needed to run any special education, interpretation or research and monitoring projects.

Major successes and failures

Implementation of MPA user fees through local dive operator participation.

Major Needs

  • Waste treatment facilities to tertiary level and is not allowing nutrient rich water to percolate or be discharged into our coastal waters.
  • Improve the financial situation of the Marine Park by working with STINAPA, CORAL, TCB, CURO, BONHATA etc to find a solution for the existing cash deficit, implementation of private mooring fees in 2002, emphasising consideration of additional user fees, increasing existing diver admission fees and public yacht mooring fee as well as grant, corporate and other novel funding sources.
  • Modifications in coastal zone construction practices and production and promotion of the Construction Guidelines and the “Green Flamingo” incentive scheme to local constructors.
  • Green Bonaire’s tourism industry.
  • Minimize the impacts of landscaping by persuading hoteliers and others to adopt environmentally friendly landscaping practices.
  • Production of a biological and physical monitoring plan for the MPA.
  • Produce a working management plan for Lac Bay.
  • Develop broader education programme using volunteer Bonaire residents.
  • Formalise a management plan for the Marine Park through a process of public participation
  • Produce a management plan for Klein Bonaire to manage visitation, educate and inform visitors, provide necessary infrastructure, and conserve wildlife and their habitat. Seek National Park status for Klein Bonaire.
  • Complete the manual for the use of volunteers to collect data in support of MPA management