Many tourists who visit Curaçao, travel here to experience the incredible beauty of the Caribbean Sea and the amazing coral reef system, that is a bevy of healthy biodiversity, only seen by scuba diving or snorkeling. But, like the world over, Curaçao’s coral reefs are facing multiple environmental threats that have been largely induced by apathy and complacency.
The list of threats is seemingly endless but a few examples include water pollution, construction, marine debris, and over-fishing which subsequently damages and destroys coral reefs. Therefore, there is an imminent need for sustainable and responsible tourism.
“Our ocean and dive sites are an important component of our Tourism Product. It is therefore a shared responsibility of the whole community to conserve and positively contribute to our natural resources, such as our ocean and dive sites for the benefit of our future generations.” – Miles Mercera, CHATA CEO
However, to create sustainable and responsible change, a commitment from the entire community is needed. The government, the private sector, tourists and Curaçaoan citizens alike need to come together to support great initiatives such as the Coral Restoration Foundation Curaçao and the Project AWARE “Adopt A Dive Site” Initiative lead by the CHATA Dive Task Force.
Coral Restoration Foundation Curaçao
The Coral Restoration Foundation Curaçao (CRFC) officially began operations in May 2015. Initially, only starting the nursery (located on the Ocean Encounters house reef at Lions Dive & Beach Resort) with 400 coral fragments of Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) hanging from 10 “trees”. An additional 10 trees were installed later that year that were populated with fragments of corals from the first trees. A year later, the nurseries held 1250 corals.
Since the launch in 2015, CRFC has successfully out planted over 2400 corals at various popular dive sites along Curaçao’s southeastern coastline. Additionally, the Foundation’s Board plans to “branch out” and expand the nurseries by enlisting two CRFC affiliate members which will then provide triple the number of coral fragments available to be out planted back onto the fringing reefs.
The program’s main goal is to bring back the shallow-water populations of staghorn corals in Curacao, which would not only help mitigate the possible effects of climate change but also rejuvenate reef fisheries and biodiversity, as well as help dive tourism. It’s meant to supplement the work currently being done in the region by the SECORE Foundation, another worldwide reef conservation nonprofit organization.
“The significance of the Curaçao Reef Restoration Program is that together as a community here on Curaçao, we will be restoring our shallow water reef system while educating our youth about the importance of protecting and preserving our natural ecosystem,” according to Jeremiah Peek, CRFC Board Chairperson & Managing Director at Ocean Encounters Diving, who adds: “I believe programs like this help solidify a natural sustainability for future generations.”
Project AWARE – Adopt a Dive Site Initiative
The Curaçao Hospitality & Tourism Association’s (CHATA) Dive Task Force is taking action against Marine Debris and six of its members have committed to the Project AWARE – Adopt a Dive Site™ initiative by adopting their house reefs and pledging to conduct monthly Dive Against Debris beach & dive site clean ups.
“The commitment of the Dive Task Force to the Dive Against Debris and Adopt a Dive Site Initiatives is an important step towards the creation of awareness regarding the negative effects of marine debris on the island and ultimately the conservation of our ocean.” – Miles Mercera, CHATA CEO
The Dive Bus, CURious 2 Dive, Ocean Encounters Diving, Scuba Lodge Dive Center, Atlantis Diving and Goby Divers have each adopted a dive site through the Project AWARE Adopt a Dive Site initiative, running free clean-up dives each month.
Volunteers are always needed and very welcome, so if you’re a certified diver visiting or living on Curaçao, join one of the Dive Against Debris Events to help to remove marine debris and make a difference. To date, 215 volunteer divers have removed 348 kgs / 778 lbs of debris from Curaçao’s reefs.
“As divers – and even more so as Dive Industry professionals – we have a responsibility to advocate a message of sustainability and to enable our divers plus the local community to protect and respect our oceans and reefs.”