The State of Curaçao's Coral Reefs

The Sealink Project

Coral reefs in the Caribbean are degrading rapidly with a loss of ~50% in just 4 decades. The cause of this degradation is a combination of natural and human impacts (Wilkinson 2000). If present rates of decline continue, researchers project that 60% of Caribbean coral reefs will be lost over the next 30 years. The cumulative impacts from runoff, pol- lution, tourism overuse, destructive fishing and cli- mate change contribute synergistically to these re- gion wide trends. This Assessment finds the same is true for Curacao.

The importance of coral reefs for society and the economy is enormous. As discussed in the Eco- nomic Valuation of Curaçao’s Marine Resources (SFG 2016), reefs provide direct monetary value through fisheries harvest and tourism revenues. In addition, and as important, they provide indirect non-consumptive values that are less readily cap- tured by formal markets. Such indirect values in- clude services like protection against storm surge and flooding and providing habitat for commercial and other fish species.

Presently, a kilometer of healthy Caribbean reef is estimated to generate in excess of $1.5M an- nually through fisheries and tourism alone (Burke et al. 2011. The Economic Assessment valued Curaçao’s coral reefs at more than $445 million per year through their support to the tourism and fishing industry alone (SFG 2016).

The purpose of this Assessment is to inform the development of a Sustainable Ocean Policy to improve the health of marine ecosystems around Curaçao so they can sustainably support coastal economies and livelihoods. To develop such poli- cy, a marine survey was conducted in November 2015 to assess the abundance and composition of reef and fish communities and water quality at 148 sites around the island. Secondly, ocean uses (fishing and diving) were quantified at the same sites based on interviews with fishers and divers. Finally, existing information was used to evaluate changes through time in the state of Curaçao’s reefs and their value to the people of Curaçao.

This Assessment complements a series of documents produced by the Waitt Institute and its partners (an analysis of Curaçao’s legal system, a marine science review, and an economic valuation of the island’s marine resources) that collectively can help inform the design and implementation of a Sustainable Ocean Policy.

This Assessment first summarizes the results of reef surveys around Curaçao conducted in No- vember 2015. Based on these findings, their im- plications for the future of the island’s marine re- sources is evaluated resulting in an overview of policy recommendations to ensure the sustainable use of Curaçao’s marine resources. Details on the research methodology can be found in Appendix 1.

Source: Sealink - Report on the state of Curacao's Reefs 

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Image credits

Icon image: Piqsels - Curacao