PARTICIPANTS: Profiles and Comments

Carolina Bastidas, Departamento Biología de Organismos, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Venezuela.

I have been recently appointed at this university, where I will further develop my research interests on reef ecology. So far, I have been involved in research in coral reefs, mainly monitoring (CARICOMP), trace metal concentration in corals and sediments, and population genetics of corals. I am concerned with proper conservation of reefs, and my attendance to this meeting gave me the perspective of what other countries are doing as management initiatives. Venezuela has well-developed coral reefs in islands and, to a lesser extent, in coastal areas. At the meeting, I presented in a poster the first report of spawning times for various hard and soft coral species of Venezuela, comparing one coastal and one island reef environment. I am starting a project on connectivity between coral populations among Venezuelan major reef areas. In the near future, I am interested in expanding this study to include other major reef areas of the Caribbean. I attended the Conference with the sponsorship of the organization committee and of the Instituto de Tecnología y Ciencias Marinas of the U.S.B, to which I am very grateful.

Sophie Brugneaux, director Marine Environment Observatory of Martinique,

The island of Martinique has 400,000 inhabitants, 400 km/248 miles of coastline and is surrounded by a fringing reef. The pressure on the reefs is mostly human. The island has a failing cleansing web and not everyone is connected to it. Besides, the island has intensive agriculture with lots of pesticides and fertilizers. Fish traps focus on herbivorous fish, causing an algal problem. Neither the government (= France) nor the people are aware that the reef is declining, stated Brugneaux. 'Nobody cares', she said during the conference. Only in the last two or three years some awareness for marine environment has been growing.
Martinique has no marine park. Three volunteers and a few naturalists help Brugneaux, who is a biologist specialized in marine environment and fisheries herself, with monitoring the reefs and making inventories.
Comments: 'We have never had any exchange with any territory in the Caribbean. So this was our first experience. In a couple of months I can tell if we have received any feedback from this conference. At this point the contacts are the most important to me. I didn't know so many people in the Caribbean are interested in the reefs.'

Gerard van Buurt, head of the Fisheries Sector, Department of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Curaçao,

The decline of the reefs has both human and natural causes. During the conference Gerard van Buurt only talked about the human causes, since 'there is very little we can do about the natural causes'. He doesn't really know what the most important cause of coral decline around Curaçao is, but if there is one cause, he would say it's the nutrients. Fishery cannot be blamed, he stated. Van Buurt has done some research and there isn't that much fishing in Curaçao's coastal waters, since most Curaçao fishing is pelagic. Very often fisheries are blamed for the coral decline, but Van Buurt thinks that it could also be the other way round: when coral cover declines one can expect less fish.
Comments: 'It was interesting to hear that the Acroporas are returning in the Florida Keys and around Los Roques. Since they didn't have a nutrient problem around Los Roques, one would think that nutrients couldn't have been the cause for the diseases affecting Acropora in the first place. The return of the Acroporas could mean that some of them have become resistant against the diseases.'

Laurent Courgeon, Environmental Department of Martinique, Martinique.

Laurent Courgeon is an engineer in marine environment. His job is twofold:
1. monitoring the nutrients in the seawater. The run off from the sewage plants still contains nutrients. A special problem is that the sewage plant doesn't work properly when the island has a lot of rain.
2. Protecting threatened species (CITES) and the implementation of Ifrecor.
Comments: "I came to Curaçao with a local authority, to whom I could show how the other islands deal with similar problems. He is an IFRECOR member and a former lieutenant governor. During the conference, he talked to a lot of people and I hope he will pass on the message on Martinique."


Francianne Gréaux, manager of the marine reserve St. Barthelémy,

The economy of this 10 sq. mile small island is mainly tourism based. It has fringing reefs and lots of patches of seagrass. The marine reserve was established in 1996. In St. Barths' waters 51 species of corals, 183 species of fish, lots of conchs, hawksbill turtles and green turtles can be found. Also, humpback whales can be seen during migration. 'Twenty to thirty years ago the local people lived on sea birds and sea turtles, now they are protected', Gréaux said during the conference. The Statian assistant manager, Gershon Lopes, replied that – unfortunately - the St. Barths' fishermen now come to Statia to catch the turtles.
Threats to the reef come from anchoring, sewage, erosion, disposal of ballast water and hurricanes. Since the land is not protected, the mangroves aren't either. The reserve organizes programs for local schools and beach clean-ups. Gréaux: 'Each year we visit school classes because we really want to reach the local people.' Lack of volunteers makes a yearly monitoring of the sea turtles on St. Barths difficult.

Joe Christophe, ranger of the Parc Natural de St. Martin, St. Martin

Joe used to be a forest ranger. The fact that he is local is both helpful and difficult, he stated. He knows the people, which is an advantage. But on the other hand some fellow-islanders blame him for working with the marine park: 'Ýou're one of us', they'll tell him.

Aldo Croquer, marine ecologist, Venezuela,

Croquer is finishing his Ph.D. on the biology of organisms and is currently working with the CARICOMP Network. During the conference he presented his work in the Marine Park of the Archipelago de Los Roques, one of the most important marine protected areas in the southern Caribbean. Compared to other Caribbean locations the waters around Los Roques have the highest coral cover: locally it is 44% compared to 36% for Curaçao, 30% for Bonaire and 1.6% for the Bahamas. Furthermore the park has sea-grass beds, sandy beaches and mangrove forests. Potential threats to Los Roques are illegal fishing (esp. queen conch, turtles and lobster), tourism development and population increases. Since prevention is better and cheaper than solving the problems afterwards, Los Roques desperately needs more people to make the local population understand why zoning the park is important. Furthermore the park needs facilities like boats and accommodations for the park rangers. Croquer stated that there is a need to establish a relationship between the increase of the population and the nutrient level. If there is a relation, people have to be made aware that population growth might lead to a decline of the coral reef.
Comments: 'I appreciated the opportunity we were given to work with a heterogeneous group - scientists, park managers, representatives of global organizations, grass roots organizations and the government - of which every member has the same goal: the need to address actions that are orientated towards the conservation of the coral reefs for future generations.'
'I am very pleased with the start of a regional network that can be used for sharing information and educational programs. Also the idea of an exchange of rangers seems very good and useful.'
PS: The network will be on, where in the near future one will be able to find information about all participants of the conference, which will make sharing information easier. Some participants will be asked to give some more information about themselves and the organization they represent.

Henry de Cuba, Stimaruba, Aruba

De Cuba visited the conference not only on behalf of his own nature organization, but with the support of other Aruban nature and grassroots organizations as well. He showed the conference participants how Aruba's beaches have been divided among the private sector: each beach has been adopted by a company that takes care of the cleaning of 'its' beach. Also, the companies organize other activities in 'their' area.
Stimaruba does talk with the Aruban government, but investors always have the last say, De Cuba stated. He regrets that environment doesn't have priority on his island, though tourism is the main source of income. 'The government should bear in mind that water, beaches and the reefs are our products, but unfortunately it doesn't. There should be a balance between island development and nature.'
Comments: 'It is fantastic to see that so many people from Caribbean islands are interested in the coral reefs. Some islands are already deeply involved in monitoring. Aruba is not linked to the CARICOMP network yet and this conference is a good opportunity to make the first contacts.'

Dolfi Debrot, Scientific Director, Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity Foundation (Carmabi), Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles,

According to Dolfi Debrot, Curaçao has seen a lot of flash brochures, plans and draft ordinances since 1976, when the last reef management ordinance was written. 'There has been a lot of activity, but where are we? Nowhere', stated Debrot at the end of the first day of the conference. He feels that the institutional capacity is the bottleneck for the Dutch small island developing states (SIDS). In the nineties of the last century, the island of Curaçao has seen a growth of small organizations at the expense of institutional capacity. Debrot: 'Active environmentalism doesn't actually speed up structural advance. So many small organizations are inefficient and they provide a confusion of issues and a dilution of resources. Bustling environmental activism may slow progress or break down institutional capacity.' Debrot would favor growth of the institutional capacity whereby the environmental organizations have close links with this institutional capacity. He encouraged the grassroots organizations to put their heads together, because too many small organizations will lead to fragmentation.
The conference was a grand happening and well organized. Compliments to the organizers. I regret, though, that just a few participated of the more than 15 government sections and foundations carrying out crucial management and policy tasks influencing the Curaçao coral reef directly. E.g. the Tourism Department, the Shipping Inspectorate dept., the Finance dept., the department of Town and Country Planning, the dept. Of Public Works, etc. Also, participation of environmental groups could have been much better.
In recent years, the Antillean islands have talked with each other at several conferences and on other occasions (St. Eustatius, Bonaire, Curaçao, St. Maarten,). Unfortunately, these talks have hardly resulted in substantial progress in the field of nature management. And if it comes to information sharing, I think, we can come up with more efficient mechanisms.
But I do hope that this conference will lead to changes, especially to more extensive forms of collaboration. Hopefully this will lead to the synergy so desperately needed for making sustainable, structural progress in the field of coral reef management.

Karen Eckert, Executive Director of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST, Inc.),

Dr. Karen L. Eckert, a Ph.D in sea turtle biology and multilateral conservation is currently Executive Director of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST, Inc.). Her work for WIDECAST was recognized by the United Nations in its 'Global 500 Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement' in 1994 and UNEP characterized her as “one of the most important figures in conservation and grassroots community empowerment in the field of endangered species in the Wider Caribbean Region.” In 1996 she was selected for a prestigious 3-yr Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, which specifically recognized WIDECAST’s efforts to restore depleted sea turtle populations and promote sustainable coexistence between Caribbean peoples and their marine resources.

The WIDECAST program is a model for multilateral marine resource management in the Caribbean region and throughout the world. WIDECAST’s major task is to prevent the extinction of six species of endangered sea turtles in the Caribbean basin by emphasizing science-based tools in national policy-making and community conservation initiatives. The network includes volunteer Country Coordinators in more than 30 Caribbean states and territories. Experts work closely with these coordinators, as well as with local WIDECAST Partner Organizations, to develop comprehensive national-level “Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plans”. WIDECAST assists government agencies and non-government groups in the implementation of priority Action Plan recommendations, as well as in the design and implementation of regionally harmonized research and management projects.

In addition to her work with WIDECAST, Dr. Eckert's personal research has taken her throughout the Western Atlantic, and into the Mediterranean Sea, Eastern Tropical Pacific, and Southeast Asia. She is a valued consultant to many governments and inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations. She has published numerous scientific and general interest articles, technical manuals, and policy documents. She is a member of the U.S. Pacific, as well as the Atlantic/Caribbean, Sea Turtle Recovery Teams, and the Marine Turtle Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. She served as Senior Editor of the Marine Turtle Newsletter, a scholarly periodical with subscribers in more than 100 nations, for ten years (1988-1997).

Paul Ellinger, assistant manager St. Maarten Marine Park,

The island of St. Maarten has a French and an Antillean side. Therefore, there are two marine parks, managed by an Antillean and a French manager (see: Nicolas Maslach). With the help of the WWF, the Antillean and the St. Maarten government, the St. Maarten Nature Foundation was founded in 1997. The marine park has been in operation since that time; the founding of a terrestrial park is delayed because of problems with acquiring the land.
Ellinger stated that it is very hard to reach the population of St. Maarten and make them aware of the necessity to protect the underwater nature. But he persists in 'attacking' the school kids who will tell their parents; or so he hopes.
The foundation also organizes beach clean-ups and in November the park management will start a reef ball project, such as the conference participants saw in Porto Mari's waters. Ellinger: 'The reef balls will form an artificial reef that will take a lot of stress from the existing coral reefs. Besides, the reef balls will be closer to the shore. Presently one really has to sail far away (30-35 minutes) to see the reef. But it is worth its while!'
Comments: 'Through this conference we know what the problems are on the sister islands, especially the French, our neighbors. I really think we should cooperate on different topics such as education. Furthermore I think it’s a good idea if monitoring would be done on a larger scale, all over the Caribbean.'

Seon D. Ferrari, fisheries extension officer, Department of Fisheries, Saint Lucia,, website:

The 257 sq. mile large island of Saint Lucia implemented marine reserves in 1986. In these reserves extractive use (e.g. collecting corals, fishing etc.) is forbidden. Unfortunately it appeared to be too soon and too sudden. As Ferrari stated: 'It was imposed on the fishermen. Also, it couldn't be enforced because there was no structure.' Nearly a decade later, in 1994, the government started a consultative process with all stakeholders: the tourism industry, the dive industry, the fishermen, the private sector, the department of fisheries and any member of the public that was interested. The fishermen were still opposing the idea of a fish reserve, because they would lose part of their fish grounds, but after many consultations the Soufrière Marine Management Area was founded and fish reserves were officially designated in 1995. To mitigate the effect of the fish reserve some older fishermen were offered financial compensation while fish attracting devices were installed for the younger fishermen. Gradually the fishermen became more supportive. Partly because some of them saw the amount of fish when they were fishing illegally in the reserves. They noticed that the fish there were indeed bigger and could be seen in larger amounts. After a while they even requested an official ban on gillnets, because these nets would harm the corals.
Although the coral reefs of Saint Lucia are healthy, they are under pressure from pollution and overuse: too many (inexperienced) divers use the reefs.


Gert Jan Gast, Greenpeace, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Gert Jan Gast worked on Curaçao during his Masters and PhD research on the effects of pollution on water quality and the coral reef ecosystem. At the conference he presented Greenpeace's fight against overfishing as the biggest problem in the world’s oceans. Overfishing leads to depletion of fish stocks and changes in the oceans' ecosystems.
Fisheries management is organized through Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs). All fishing outside these RFMOs is considered Illegal, Unregulated or Unreported (IUU). Worldwide about 20-30% of all fish catch is IUU. The Netherlands Antilles contributes to IUU by facilitating its flag to Spanish tuna vessels. The EU is a member of the International Commission for Atlantic Tuna and tuna-like species (ICCAT, an RFMO), meaning that Spanish companies fall under the regulations of this ICCAT. By flagging vessels under the NA flag, not a member of ICCAT, these Spanish companies fish more tuna outside the management system. They use this backdoor construction to fish extra fish, thus contributing to overfishing.
At the time of the conference, the Netherlands Antilles intended to become a member of ICCAT* and play the game by the rules. These rules are that the fishing companies have to report their catch to the NA and that the NA is responsible to control these reported catches. In practice, this means that the NA government has the obligation to check in Spanish harbors if these vessels did not catch more fish, undersized fish or other fish than they reported. Greenpeace fears that the Netherlands Antilles will not be able to enforce this obligation. They neither have the money nor the manpower to implement this inspection, since registration fees are much smaller than the costs of sending inspectors to the other side of the Atlantic. The NA would simply legalize Spanish fishing outside the rules, but not bring those fisheries under real control.
The Netherlands Antilles will not profit from the ICCAT membership. The fish caught by the Spaniards is not traded on the Antillean islands, the profit of the companies doesn’t go to the Antilles and they don’t pay tax. Moreover, by giving fishing rights away, the NA block the possibility to develop their own fisheries in the future.
Comments: 'It is really important that park managers from different islands get to know each other. In their daily life they are flooded with work. They have to visit schools, keep records, manage the rangers and maintain the moorings and there is little time and money to visit parks at other island. When they have met someone from another island or from an international organization, it's easier to send an e-mail. So I think the contacts are a very important outcome from a conference like this.'
'The story about the fish reserves of St. Lucia was important, because no-take zones are part of the solution to the fisheries crisis. Greenpeace aims at no-fishing zones on a much larger scale. It is good to hear that a number of no-fishing zones is in existence and that other islands are trying to designate their own fish reserves.'

1. After the conference the news developed that the ICCAT membership of the NA failed, because they had not lodged the application the required 90 days in advance.


Dave Gulko, Aquatic Biologist IV - Coral Reefs, Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawai'i Department of Land & Natural Resources,

Dave Gulko spoke about marine alien species threatening endemic species. Since 1950 19 species of non-indigenous algae have been introduced on Hawaii. Alien species can be brought into the area where they don't belong naturally. This can happen via commercial or recreational vessels, in ballast water, via marine debris or the aquarium industry. The problem is that alien species may directly kill some coral species, they may significantly alter the ecosystem structure and its function and/or they may reduce biodiversity. How? When corals get overgrown with algae, the alien species affect the diet of the herbivores, the resting and mating habitat of marine species and the cleaning stations. This is especially true for Hawaii since it has an extremely high number of endemic species.
Algae have now become a huge problem for Hawaii's economy. Tons of algae have been removed by volunteers, but it is probably much cheaper to have the diving gear inspected before the first dive. Also, legislation against the introduction of alien species would be an option.


Carl Hanson and Linval Getten, project manager and head ranger of the Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society, Jamaica.

Jamaica has three underwater parks: Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and the Negril Marine Park. The last one was founded in 1990. It has no user fee system yet, but the government is working on that for all Jamaican marine parks. The Negril Park now gets its money from grants, memberships and fundraising.
Comments: 'We picked up quite a lot. In general, there are similarities in the problems we are all facing. Presumably, the solutions will be similar as well. We think the coral spawning might be something to market for in Jamaica. Furthermore, we are intersted in the mapping of protected areas. It is encouraging to see that it can be done fairly easily. We have already made some contacts with Sheila Mc.Kenna (Conservation International) and Jill Meyer (NOAA).


David Kooistra, park manager of the Saba Marine Park, Netherlands Antilles,

Kooistra has been the park manager on Saba since1997; the park was founded in 1987. Saba is a small island of 5 sq. miles and some 1500 inhabitants. The island is very much dependent on tourism. Saba doesn't have any beaches, which is quite good for the coral reefs that are still in a pretty good state. Since Saba's lowest village is situated at a height of some 200 meters, no wastewater reaches the sea. The waste management is a problem though. Waste is dumped in a gut and since the island has quite some erosion the wastewater will percolate into the sea after a good shower. Saba is especially promoted as an un-crowded dive island, where the dive experience is important. The 27 dive sites receive around 21.000 dives per year.
Comments: 'The conference is very good for your network and it actually charges me as a park manager. It brings everything in perspective and it gives me some grip. It would have been nice, though, if we could have opted for certain themes that we could have discussed in small groups. To my liking there were too many presentations. The volunteer program of our sister island St. Eustatius is very good and we are working on a similar program. The only problem is accommodating the volunteers.'

Gershon Lopes, assistant manager St. Eustatius Marine Park, Netherlands Antilles,

The 8.2 sq. mile small island of Statia has two terrestrial parks, a marine park plus a botanical garden. Stenapa (St. Eustatius National Parks) manages all parks. Divers pay a yearly fee of $15.00, but since the island doesn't receive many tourists, the fees aren't enough to cover Stenapa's expenses. Legally it is possible to make the big oil tankers of Statia's oil terminal pay for anchoring, but the government hasn't approved yet. Erosion is the biggest problem on the island.
Stenapa invests a lot of time in talking to the fishermen to get them to understand why there is a no-fishing zone. Furthermore, Stenapa started a junior rangers club. Lopes, a born Statian who studied in the Netherlands: 'We go snorkeling with them, because many children know nothing about the nature under water.'
Another Stenapa activity is their volunteer program. Volunteers from all over the world come to the island for a couple of months to help with certain projects, such as cleaning the beach where sea turtles lay their eggs. They also assist in the schools, where Stenapa has education projects. Fortunately Stenapa has some small buildings in the botanical garden to accommodate the volunteers.
Comments: 'It is very good to learn from each other's experiences. During this conference I heard about the folding fish traps they are using on St. Lucia and Antigua. Also we can help St. Barth with installing mooring buoys in their waters. If we cooperate more, it saves time and money.'
'Also, it is very important to provide feedback to our respective governments, because we cannot function without their support.'

Nicolas Maslach, manager of the Parc Natural de St. Martin, St. Martin

The French side of St. Martin has a terrestrial and a marine reserve. The marine reserve was established by the French government in 1998 and covers 7163 acres. with fingerlike reefs, patches of reef and lots of sea-grass beds and sand. In the beginning the local people, especially the fishermen, strongly opposed the reserve, since fishing was forbidden in some parts. Also, the locals didn't understand why they weren't allowed to build in the park.
The number one cause of coral reef stress is anchoring, since there are not yet any mooring buoys in the reserve. The park management is now preparing a dossier to get money for 50 mooring buoys. Maslach studied political science and was working with whales and dolphins in the Indian Ocean before he settled on St. Martin as a marine park manager.
Comments: 'The conference is very important because it is a good occasion to see a lot of the reserve managers in the Caribbean. At the conference I talked with my colleagues about developing one flyer for all the northern Caribbean islands (St. Martin, Saba, Statia, St. Barth, Anguilla). We all have the same goal and want to give the same information. It would also be nice if we had a Caribbean magazine with two pages for every island. Meetings like this are very important and one or two a year for the French and Antillean islands would be great. Then we could discuss our problems and the solutions.'


Franck Mazéas, IFRECOR, French Ministry of Environment, Martinique.

IFRECOR is the French equivalent of the NACRI: the French Initiative for Coral Reefs. The eight French Caribbean Islands have four reserves: one on St. Martin, one on St. Barths, one in Petite Terre (Guadeloupe) and one called Grand Cul de Sac Marin. It's part of Mazéas' job to help the reserves with technical and financial support. They can always call him when they have questions of problems. Mazéas himself is specialized in tropical marine ecosystems, in particular the coral reef.
The main problems of the islands are: nutrients due to agriculture (bananas and sugar cane), coastal development because of tourism, and fishing. Little is known yet about fishing, but Mazéas knows that the fishermen preferably catch herbivores. Without their grazing, the algae can grow and eventually the corals will die.
But the most important problem, according to Mazéas, is the lack of knowledge. People on the islands don't care because they don't know. That's why my most important job is creating awareness. Not only with the local people, but with the politicians as well.
Comments: 'I received some new information from Mark Vermey in his presentation about monitoring and from Dave Gulko about the import of alien species.'
Also, I was surprised that on Curaçao beaches are private and that you have to pay for them. The same goes for the dolphins in the Sea Aquarium. I am afraid we will create a generation that expects to get anything, as long as you pay for it. Put a coin in the machine and you can feed the sharks. It would be better to teach them respect for marine life. I was also surprised that development right up to the edge of the sea is still allowed on Curaçao in spite of the detrimental effects on the coral reefs.


Sheila McKenna, Conservation International, Washington USA,

Conservation International is an international non-profit and non-governmental organization. McKenna herself is a scientist with a Ph.D. in coral reef ecology. She stated that a lot of scientific studies have been published to conserve the reefs. 'But we are not going to win with scientists alone. We need politicians, economists and all the people who love the reef as well. The goal is not only to save species, but also to deal with social, economic and political issues: a holistic approach.
CI started the Caribbean Biodiversity Initiative, aimed at both the biological and social factors that must be harmonized to protect a maximum number of the region's species.
Comments: 'It was good to see that the people who are doing the conservation work are more than willing to cooperate and help each other out. They talk to each other and when something is working on one island, it might work on another island as well.'
Some facts: Worldwide there are 14,750 species of fish. In the Caribbean Area 2,500 fish species can be found. That means that 17% of the world's marine fish are to be found in only 4% of the ocean. Furthermore the Caribbean harbors more marine species than any other area of its size in any waters bordering the Americas.


Jill Meyer, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coral Reef Program, USA.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as steward of US Marine resources and co-chair of the US coral reef task force, has the responsibility, experience and unique suite of science and management capabilities needed to address threats facing US coral reefs. The NOAA Coral Reef Program works with scientists, private sector, government and non-governmental partners at local and international levels to conserve coral reef ecosystems. From mapping and monitoring to managing reef resources and removing harmful debris, the NOAA Coral Reef Program is helping to address priority to coral reef needs.
The NOAA interacts with the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and Caribbean based organizations to promote international collaboration, in particular to develop marine reserve plans.
Comments: 'Í think we from the NOAA have a lot to offer, since we have done a lot of work in this area. Besides, we have grant programs. So everyone who is interested can contact me. On the other hand: the US Islands could learn from the practices implemented in the Caribbean countries. That will help us over all, since we are part of the Caribbean. We like to extend our programs especially to neighboring islands, since we don't want to limit us to national aspects.'
'So, to me, it was a learning experience to better understand how the Caribbean islands address the issues and have found solutions.'
'The networking was quite interesting as well. I can now tell the people from the US Virgin Islands who the individuals working in this field are and what groups are addressing similar problems.'

Dirk Petersen, Rotterdam Zoo, The Netherlands, and University of Essen, Institute of Ecology, Department of Hydrobiology, Germany.

In 2001, Rotterdam Zoo (the Netherlands) together with Curaçao Sea Aquarium (the Netherlands Antilles) and the University of Essen (Germany) started an international research project called SECORE: captive Sexual Coral Reproduction for nature conservation, to study the ex situ sexual reproduction of reef building corals. The purpose of SECORE is to develop techniques for large scale breeding of a wide range of coral species.
In the initial three years this project will focus on two species of the brooders and two species of the broadcast spawners: Lettuce coral (Agaricia humilis), Golf ball coral (Favia fragrum), Brain coral (Diploria strigosa) and Star coral (Montastrea annularis) are common species of Curaçao's south coast. Using these models, Petersen and his colleagues study factors that are supposed to induce ex situ reproductive events (release of larvae respectively gametes), larvae settlement and the early development of juvenile colonies under controlled aquarium conditions. The larvae used for these studies are collected from captive corals and from colonies in the field.
The results of this study will contribute to reducing field collection by public aquariums and trade, will restore damaged reefs and establish breeding programs of endangered coral species. SECORE project is further aimed at initiating an international network of public aquariums, research institutions and coral farms for effective cooperation.


Steve Piontek, Curaçao Sea Aquarium, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles,

The Sea Aquarium has several education programs to show children what's under the water. Since lots of Curaçao kids have no idea what creatures live in the sea, they get information about animals and even get a chance to touch the animals and see them from close distance. They will for instance feed the sea turtles and the sharks, they can swim with dolphins ('a lifetime experience') and they go snorkeling so they can see the corals with their own eyes. From January to October 2002 nearly 8000 schoolchildren visited the Aquarium. The Aquarium also has a Snorkel Club and a Junior Dive Club.

Leon Pors, manager of the Curaçao Underwaterpark, Carmabi, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles,

The marine park was founded in 1983. According to Pors little or nothing has happened since. With the help of the World Wildlife Fund, a manager was appointed in the nineties of the last century, but when the island took over, there was no more money to effectively manage the park. In 1995 a draft marine ordinance was written and with money from the European Community a ranger could be hired for a period of two years. Pors: "We hoped that in the meantime the government would pass the ordinance. With a legal basis for the park we could have asked dive fees." Without a legal status, no official dive fees can be charged. With their proceeds Carmabi could cover the expenses of boats and rangers, as is the case on Bonaire.
Pors stated that he deliberately chose not to patrol the park very strictly. "In the first place because it would hardly be effective and secondly because it's not fair to catch the small spearfisher and leave the real polluters alone."
Comments: "I am afraid a conference like this makes no sense. The problem is that the wrong partners were gathered. It's interesting to exchange views with people who already know what is going on and who know the problems. But the partners present here have been doing far too little to involve the local people. There were no representatives of the government and no representatives of community organizations. A broad social basis is important, but unfortunately mostly foreign people are managing the parks. The local people hardly believe in what we are doing. Since they don't dive and since the dive sector is run by foreign investors, they don't see direct benefits."


Deevon & Craig Quirolo, Reef Relief, Florida, USA. e-mail:

Craig Quirolo was a charter boat captain who took people to the reefs for snorkeling. By 1985 he realized that he was killing the reef he was living on by anchoring his boat on it. His first initiative was to talk to the other charter captains in order to get mooring buoys to prevent damage by anchoring.
As Craig learned more about the corals, he realized he had to teach the local people about the reef and that was the moment when Deevon got involved. They started an educational program and organized a symposium. When the effect of nutrients on the corals became clear the couple started contacting scientists. Their clean water campaign was successful and by now Reef Relief is working in several Caribbean islands with small, community-based projects.
Since 1993 Craig has been monitoring the Florida Keys' reef by shooting videos with regular intervals. The last recording, taken a few days before the conference, has made him and Deevon feel positive and optimistic.
During the conference Deevon admonished the participants to be tenacious. Other suggestions she gave the audience:

  1. know the reefs, monitor them and see the changes
  2. do your homework (ask questions, talk to the politicians, study the laws, talk to the fishermen)
  3. identify the solutions (e.g. sewage treatment)
  4. build your capacity to make the difference (a strong board; develop a budget and stick to it; work with the media)

Craig: 'During the conference someone said nothing has happened in the last ten years. My opinion is the opposite. Nowadays, there is a very large environmental awareness. Now is the time to build on all the successes we have had. To help the coral we started clean-ups. It is the best way to engage the community in solving the problems. Many people are littering the beaches themselves. After a beach clean-up, they'll never do it again.'
Deevon: 'The conference offered all park managers the opportunity to share strategies that have been successful. We were impressed by the system of dive tags, it's quite progressive. We don't have that but we will surely try to implement it as well.

Henk Renken, project manager Bonaire Marine Park, Netherlands Antilles,

Renken started his job in October 2002. He studied tropical coastal management at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, in the UK where he received his, and had never been to Bonaire when he applied for the job.
Comments: 'For me the conference was a perfect opportunity to meet the people from the other Antillean parks. It's all quite new to me, so meeting people and getting more familiar with the problems was the most important thing. Project manager is a new job in the Marine Park. It appeared that the manager has too little time to take care of special projects, so that's my job now. For the next year I will focus on a management plan for Lac*. Furthermore I will initiate a private mooring system. As early as 1996 the island government decided that local boat owners need to have a permit for a mooring. We haven't enough space to accommodate everyone, which means that it will become more difficult for non-Bonaireans to get a mooring.'

* Lac is the most important and pristine seagrass area in the Dutch Caribbean. It is a large inner bay of about 2000 acres on Bonaire's east coast, bordered by extensive mangrove forests. On the eastern side of the lagoon, a barrier reef protects the bay from the impact of waves and severe storms. Thus, the three major marine ecosystems (coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves) are present in this bay, making it unique in the Dutch Caribbean. Lac has been part of the Bonaire Marine Park since 1979.

Brad Rosov, The Nature Conservancy of the Florida Keys.

Diadema antillarum, or long-spined urchin, was once considered one of the main herbivores of the Caribbean reefs. But in1983 a mysterious plague swept through the Caribbean and Western Atlantic killing approximately 95% of all Diadema. Combining the effects of nutrients, overfishing and the Diadema die-off, many of our coral reefs are shifting from a coral dominated reef to an algal-dominated reef.
In an attempt to restore the Florida Keys reef to its previous state, The Nature Conservancy of the Florida Keys has formed a partnership with the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. From various locations 'wild' Diadema were collected and released into four underwater corrals. Each corral was stocked with five Diadema per square meter, the approximate density prior to the die-off. Each corral encircled a dead coral head covered in macroalgae.
Creating dense aggregates of Diadema will allow for a greater chance of successful spawning ultimately resulting in an increase of juvenile Diadema. Preliminary results show that the macroalgal cover has significantly been reduced due to the grazing effect of Diadema within the corrals compared with control sites. In August 2002, coral larvae were collected and 'seeded' within the grazed-down corralled areas. As we monitor the growth of these juvenile corals as well as algae abundance, we can expect an eventual shift from an algal-dominated community back to a coral dominated community.

Fernando Simal, interim manager Bonaire Marine Park, Netherlands Antilles.

Originally from Spain, Simal used to live on Bonaire from 1989 until 1993. He got to know a lot of people there and after he left for the Venezuelan Island of Margarita the park management remembered him when they needed a park manager for the Washington Slagbaai National Park on the island. He took the job and presently he is the interim manager for the Marine Park as well.
Bonaire receives some 60,000 visitors yearly, half of whom come for diving. The Marine Park was founded in 1979. Spear fishing has been banned since the sixties. Presently only divers pay a yearly fee of $10.00. In order to be able to hire more staff members, the management is considering to charge other users of Bonaire's waters, such as snorkelers and kayakers, as well. Compared to reefs worldwide, Bonaire's reefs are in excellent condition. However, they are degrading due to overfishing and sewage water.
Comments: 'The conference was very good for meeting people. Since we usually deal with the same problems, we can give each other tips and ideas. To me it was very interesting to talk to Gert Jan Gast from Greenpeace and the people from Saint Lucia. From them I received additional information about fish reserves, something that the Bonaire Park is also interested in. One of the most positive things was the presence of all the French islands' representatives. I didn't know them and it was good to meet them and talk to them, mostly during breaks of course.'
'If it had been up to me I would have preferred more discussions. Especially during the first days, there were too many presentations. Basically every park has the same problems, we know what's going on, it's better to talk about what we can do about it.'

Paul Spiertz, project manager Plantages PortoMari

Paul Spiertz, a civil engineer by profession, made a plan for the former owner of the PortoMari Plantation, who wanted to develop a traditional housing project on the former plantation. This plan was canceled when PortoMari was sold to Jack Scheepbouwer, who preferred conservation, recovery and use of PortoMari's still pristine nature. Spiertz: 'The area had been neglected for 60 years so we had to do some restoring.'
Scheepbouwer died last year, but his promise to build an eco-resort on PortoMari "where nature comes first" will be fulfilled. On a mere 5 per cent of the 1,480 acres, tourist accommodations will be built. There will be small lodges with great self-sufficiency, with solar and wind powered electricity and their own water. To that end the water dams originally built during plantation times, to collect the scanty rainwater and raise groundwater level, have been restored.
Underwater nature gets a second chance as well. The shallow reef at PortoMari was heavily damaged by hurricane Lenny in 1999. By placing concrete reef balls, volunteers are trying to re-establish the coral reef and to provide a new shelter for the fish that became homeless after the hurricane. Since then, the first transplanted corals have started to grow, while fish enjoy their new homes. The reef balls also make up a pleasant trail for snorkelers and have educational value for school children. Furthermore, the reef balls will enlarge the carrying capacity of the existing reef, Spiertz stated. Restoring the water dams has been essential, because PortoMari's topsoil will no longer wash away in the sea and suffocate the reefs.


Menno van der Velde, Reef Care Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles,

Reef Care Curaçao (Fundashon Kuida Ref Korsou) is a volunteer organization established in 2002 to protect and preserve the coral reefs around Curaçao. Reef Care's activities are centered around scientific projects, educational projects, public awareness and specific protection actions such as the anti speargun campaign.
Reef Care organized the Caribbean Coral Reef Conference together with the NACRI. The reason for an all-Caribbean conference is twofold:

  1. Only when joining forces of all stakeholders (divers, fishermen, government and tourist industry) can we make sure that we'll still have coral reefs in the Caribbean in the near future.
  2. Coral reefs are a regional concern and should be looked at in that perspective.

Comments: 'With this conference the first steps have been taken towards regional initiatives. Small steps, though, but I think we should make small steps to achieve our goal, the protection of the reefs.'
'This conference was unique, since we have never had a conference like this in the Caribbean before.'


George Warner, University of the West Indies, Jamaica, working for the CARICOMP Network e-mail:

'The good news is that most Caricomp sites show no change in the last seven years. The bad news is that it hasn't gotten any better either. As a rule of thumb a minimum of 50% is a good coral cover. We now say 45% is good, but that's because that's the best we have', said George Warner during the Coral Reef Conference. Warner came to Curaçao to talk about Caricomp. Caricomp has two centers, one in Florida (the secretariat also taking care of fundraising), the other in Jamaica, the Caribbean Coastal Data Centre. Every island that is connected to the network does its own monitoring and sends the data to Jamaica for archiving and analysis. The data are spread via the Internet as well. Warner showed the audience that not all islands are connected yet and that some islands stopped producing data, mostly because of a lack of volunteers. He urged the participants to link up (again).
Comments: 'One of the purposes for being here is to encourage the representatives of the islands to start monitoring again. I heard hopeful sounds. Many islands would certainly like to link up to the Caricomp Network, but the monitoring is a time consuming matter, for which one needs volunteers. Bonaire and Curaçao stopped producing data a few years ago and Saba stopped in 1998. I heard the French speaking islands are willing to link up with the network, they really seem to be interested.'
'I enjoyed the conference very much. It is very interesting to see that in so many places the problems are very similar. I am a scientist, so I liked the presentations and the pictures of corals. And I made a number of contacts.'
'As for this group: I am optimistic about its future and the connections we've made. I am not so sure if I can be optimistic about the future of the coral reef. But I am hopeful.'