Published On: Mon, Jan 7th, 2013

Oostpunt plans: fatal impact on reeves along the entire south-eastern coast

WILLEMSTAD — Also on behalf of the sixty organizations supporting the project, the Secore (Sexual Coral Reconstruction) Foundation requests the government to reconsider the plans presented for development of Oostpunt. In a letter to the Parliament, the foundation wrote “Secore followed the developments regarding the ‘Zoning Plan’ with great concern. “If this plan is realized it will have a fatal impact on the entire southern coast of the island, according to Secore-chairman Dirke Petersen. The Secore Foundation consists of a network of scientists and public aquaria who labor for worldwide conservation of coral reeves. “One of our largest projects in the field is stationed at the Sea Aquarium on Curaçao, where we study the reproduction of coral and restoration techniques together with Carmabi’, said Petersen. He emphasized that the entire Caribbean area is characterized by an immense deterioration of the coral reef, where undisturbed and conserved reeves can hardly be found in this region. He stated that during the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS 2012) in Cairns, Australia - a five-day conference held every four years which 2500 coral reef researchers from approximately eighty countries had attended last July – Curaçao was specifically mentioned as one of the most virgin coral reeves in the Caribbean region.

‘Fatal’

“If the ‘Zoning Plan’ is realized it will seriously affect the reef of Oostpunt, first by the construction work and subsequently by the human activities. Studies in other regions confirm that it will seriously degrade the reef. This unique reef is of essential ecologic value as source for producing coral larva and the conservation of both the surrounding reeves and of the entire region – particularly also the reeves along the entire south-western coast of Curaçao. The impact on these reeves along the south-eastern coast will be fatal considering the reef of Oostpunt is the most important source of offspring and ‘seeding’ of these reeves. Apart from the ecologic impact on the stability of the reeves of Curaçao, one can only estimate the economic consequences. The southern coast of the island with beautiful beaches and crystal-clear water contributes substantially to the tourist sector of Curaçao”, said Petersen. For its research into conservation of the reef, Secore receives financial support from the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) among others. For instance, every year Secore organizes an international workshop on Curaçao for the reproduction moment of the endangered coral species, the elk horn coral and stag horn coral, for which occasion participants from reputed universities, aquaria and zoo’s come to Curaçao. Every year the Secore-team collects the reproduction material from these endangered coral species in order to enhance the sexual reproduction process under artificial circumstances. The aforementioned coral species are already included on the ‘Red List’ of endangered species from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). For these reasons Secore emphasized the importance of the research. The aim is to breed young corals that will strengthen the reef in due course. These coral species are still well represented on the reef of Oostpunt. With this method we cannot ‘reproduce’ the reeves that have disappeared. This method is only used to strengthen existing reeves.

 

Shared viewpoint

Several prominent experts, coral researchers and marine biologists share Secore’s viewpoint in the letter to the Parliament and subsequently made this viewpoint known worldwide. The international research team ‘Future of Reefs in a Changing Environment’ (Force) also sent a letter to the Parliament whereby Force project coordinator Peter Mumby wrote that a healthy reef in the Caribbean area generates approximately 2 to 16 million dollars per year on revenues per linear kilometer. Force has over eighty international coral scientific researchers and policy advisors and is financed by the European Union. The Parliament of Curaçao also received a letter from the American Emeritus Prof. Dr. in Biology with the University of South Florida (USF), John C. Ogden, with a similar tenor. Ogden has been working on coral scientific study, management and conservation of the coral reef in the Caribbean area for five decennia.

“If the island does indeed decide on development from Lagun Blanku up to Punt Kanon, this reef will certainly deteriorate or die off in 4.5 years. That’s a fact”, stated Professor Dr. Rolf Bak with the University of Amsterdam, assistant of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and editor in chief of the scientific magazine Coral Reefs from The International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS). At world level he has the longest existing monitoring system and research into the condition of corals. This research started in 1973, among others on Curaçao and Bonaire. Also American marine biologist Aaron Hartmann of Scripps Institution or Oceanography from the University of California San Diego, whose doctoral research focused specifically on the reef of Oostpunt, has emphasized the ‘strengthening function of the reef of Oostpunt’ for the other reeves along the southern coast. He also expressed his concern that a development of Oostpunt would mean the loss of this reef.

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