Published On: Sat, Oct 1st, 2016

The coral reefs in our waters rely on their health and resilience to weather the storm

Hurricane Matthew was a near miss

CoralsWILLEMSTAD/ SAN DIEGO, CA - Curaçao's geographical location shields it from tropical storms. The majority of its population has never experienced a tropical storm and it is almost impossible to explain this experience to someone. Yet, the effects of the inclement weather that TOMAS brought with it in 2010, along with the severe structural damage that it caused is still fresh in the memory of many.

Just like what happens on land, the coastal fringe and the shallow waters around the island can also suffer considerable impact because of a tropical storm. A good portion of the precipitation that falls on land runs off in the sea, dragging along top soil and litter that end up in sea, right where people swim and dive and fish. This litter also end up on the coral reefs, causing damage to both structure and health of the reefs. According to Gisette Seferina of the Blue Halo Curaçao, the fact that people are continually destroying the mangrove trees that grow along the coastline, which are natural wave breakers that protect the coastline from erosion, does not help the situation at all.

"In essence, we could compare a coral reef to a well- constructed building. With a sound design and quality building materials, such a structure could weather strong winds and water currents relatively easily. In the same fashion, a healthy coastal and marine ecosystem promotes the growth of strong and healthy corals, much more capable of rebounding after sustaining damage from a tropical storm" declares Gisette Seferina of the Blue Halo Curaçao.

An extensive scientific assessment was performed less than a year ago in the shallow waters around Curaçao. This assessment indicated that there a a few places on the coast of Curaçao where the corals are in exceptional condition and the best among these few places is the Oostpunt. "Our investigation concluded that one of the important reasons why the corals are in such good condition has to do with the fact that hardly any man- made pollution reaches the sea in this area" declared Mr. Andy Estep, scientific director of the Waitt Institute. "The scientific assessment confirms the enormous worth of this area as a nursery for healthy baby corals and as the area where the healthiest corals of the island grow."

An economic assessment performed by the Waitt Institute at the beginning of this year puts the value of the marine tourism at approximately $375.3 million per year. Dr. Katheryn Mengerink, executive director of the Waitt Institute, stated that the beauty of Curacao's sea, and all that lives under the sea, including the coral reefs deserve proper protection under the law such that this precious resource could continue to contribute to the prosperity of the island. "It was therefor with great satisfaction that the Waitt Institute, conform the MOU signed with the Government of Curaçao in February of 2015, submitted the results of these assessments, among others, to the government in July 2016", Dr. Mengerink stated.


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