World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the Netherlands has called upon Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Carola Schouten to take action to save the dying coral reefs in the Caribbean Netherlands.
The minister is visiting Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire this week. The reefs around these islands are dying due to climate change and pollution. Excessive fisheries and coastal development are also having a negative effect on the health of the coral systems, WWF said Monday.
In a report on the state of nature in the Caribbean Netherlands, it is stated that the coral reefs are in danger, which affects not only the natural environment of the islands, but also the economies and autonomy of Saba, Statia and Bonaire.
The size and quality of the coral reefs in the Caribbean Netherlands have been monitored since 1973. Since then, 70 to 85 per cent of the coral cover has disappeared. If this trend continues, it is expected that the coral cover in Bonaire will drop below the one-per-cent mark by 2030.
WWF fears that if policies are not drastically changed, the coral reefs will disappear from the Caribbean Netherlands for good.
“The numbers of [cruise — Ed.] tourists and inhabitants on the islands are increasing, which leads to the production of more refuse and wastewater, more buildings and an increase in demand for fish. At the same time, the dimate is changing which causes the soil to dry out, more extreme weather, warming and acidification of seawater and rising sea levels. These are all factors which negatively influence the nature on land, but definitely also under water,” WWF stated.
Healthy coral reefs are considered of great importance to the islands, as these are a good source of income for the tourism sector as well as local fisheries. Besides, the reefs are also a natural form of coastal protection, which is becoming more and more important due to climate change.
Earlier this year, Minister Schouten told the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber she would make an effort on behalf of the Coral Action Plan.
“WWF is counting on the minister to start working on the plan during her visit because much needs to be done to save the reefs,” the nature organisation said.
“It is high time to tackle all threats as quickly as possible, and in dose cooperation with all parties involved. An integral plan is necessary. Nobody can save the coral reefs alone, but everyone has to work together on the different solutions.”
WWF has identified several concrete and feasible solutions that together could have a positive impact on the reefs. These include sewage treatment, prevention of (plastic) pollution and soil erosion, making local fisheries more sustainable and protection of the most vulnerable areas.
“WWF and partner organizations have asked the minister to get started with this as soon as possible, before it is too late for the Caribbean Dutch coral reefs,” the organisation said.
The Daily Herald.