The islands of Caribbean Netherlands are biologically very diversified and home to hundreds of native species, a variety of worldwide endangered species and worldwide endangered ecosystems. They provide us with clean water, food, coastal protection and medicines. Nature on the islands is vulnerable due to the small surface area and consequently small populations, but also due to habitat loss, -fragmentation and -degradation. The entire Caribbean region is threatened by invasive species and the effect of climate change. The surrounding waters and coastal areas have an abundance of mangroves, sea-grass and coral reefs.
There is a rich marine biodiversity in the waters surrounding the islands. In the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) nearby Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten lies the Saba-bank, the largest underwater coral atoll of the Caribbean. New species of fish, algae and soft coral that have never before been scientifically documented, are still being discovered on this atoll. The deep ocean and coral reefs around the islands have, up to now, barely been researched, but seem to have a wealth of species.
Therefore the Dutch government takes action in several areas. Various international treaty obligations are taken into account in the areas of conservation and fishery.
In 2013 EZ approved a nature policy plan for the period 2013-2017. This plan is based on the BES Principles of Nature Protection and Management Act. The nature policy plan 2013-2017 offers a framework for solid management and sustainable use of nature in the Caribbean Netherlands. Its objective is the sustainable use of nature on the Caribbean islands in order to preserve the ecological systems and eco system services.
The nature policy plan is meant as a basis for a solid decision making process, allocation of resources and funding and contains clear strategic goals to indicate where the focus should be for adequate nature conservation. It offers a framework to the Public Entities when drafting a nature plan at island level that serves as a concrete basis for nature management.
Starting point for the nature policy plan are the international treaties, conventions and regional agreements to which the Kingdom has committed itself and national legislation in the field of nature and biodiversity in the Caribbean Netherlands. Furthermore the connection between nature and economy is crucial: nature is the resource for economic development.
Integral management plan for marine biodiversity and fishery
Download management plan EEZ
In consultation with all the islands a management plan for fishery and marine biodiversity in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the territorial waters around the islands was created. The countries of the Kingdom are united in the EEZ. The sustainable management of this area will have to take place of mutual accord. With the management plan a common policy can be developed and executed in order to protect the animals and plants that live in the sea and the corresponding ecosystems. The management plan has already been signed by the three Island Governments and will also soon be signed by Aruba, Curaçao, The Netherlands and St. Maarten.
Important elements are the conservation of the Saba-bank and a good management of the coastal waters around the islands
An EEZ-committee of which all participants are members will be instituted for the implementation of the management plan. This committee, in principle, will meet twice a year.
Conservation of the Saba-bank
The Saba-bank is one of the world’s largest underwater atolls. The Saba-bank has been designated as a natural reserve and protected area under the SPAW-protocol (*).March 2013 the Saba-bank was recognized by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as an “ecologically or biologically significant marine area”, EBSA. June 2013 the International Maritime Organization gave the Saba- bank the PSSA-status (**), whereby an anchor ban and a ban on sailing through for ships larger than 300 GT was imposed in order to prevent fishing and damage to the coral.
* This is an area that is protected under the protocol for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol). This protocol was signed in 1990 by all governments of the Caribbean Environment Programme.
** A PSSA (Particularly Sensitive Sea Area) is an area that has obtained special protection from the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN organization for global shipping regulation.
Watch a video documentary about the "Saba bank"
Protecting marine mammals and sharks
In September 2015, the State Secretary of Economic Affairs proclaimed the "Yarari" Marine Mammals and Sharks Reserve for all waters of Bonaire and Saba. "Yarari" is a Taino Indian word which means "a nice place". The reserve must be a safe haven for whales, dolphins and sharks and increase the knowledge about these animals so they can be protected in a better way. The Ministry works closely with the Agoa marine mammals reserve (FR), the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) in the US and the Silver Banks Marine Mammals Reserve in the Dominican Republic.
In addition to the integral management plan the Ministry of EZ is drawing up a coastal management plan. This concerns the management of natural marine resources and establishment of sustainable fisheries.
For this purpose two sub-studies are being conducted:
1. A study of the economic feasibility of sustainable fishery, and
2. A study of the required legal and administrative framework.
In Caribbean Netherlands the following have been designated as National Parks:
- Bonaire National Marine Park
- Saba National Marine Park
- Saba Bank National Park
- St. Eustatius National Marine Park
- St. Eustatius Quill/Boven National Park
Management of these National Parks is based on management plans drawn up according to a model developed by DCNA and evaluated by the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA).
In February 2013 the Central Government committed a single payment grant of € 7.5 mil for nature projects in the Caribbean Netherlands. The specific projects are needed to complete overdue maintenance to the nature in the short term. The projects will be executed in the period of 2013-2016.
Het Public Entities of the islands have been asked to propose specific projects with the following themes:
- conservation of the coral, especially by erosion prevention;
- sustainable use of nature, e.g. by improving access to the conservation areas and/or
- by improving synergy between nature, land use (agriculture) and tourism.
The guiding principle for the distribution of resources is the efficient and effective execution of the projects, with consideration of the proportional method of distribution among the islands.
For the funding, execution and distribution of responsibilities between the Central Government (Ministry of EZ) and the executive councils an arrangement will be drafted in the context of the BES Finance Act.
The Ministry of EZ is responsible for the decision making process, funding, supervision and promotion of the projects. The executive councils are responsible for the development, submission and implementation of the projects.