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Snorkeling

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Sunscreens Can Cause Damage to Reef Systems

A new study published this week in a toxicology journal has found that a chemical widely used in personal care products, such as sunscreen, poses an ecological threat to corals and coral reefs and threatens their existence.

It only takes one drop of that chemical, oxybenzone, to cause disaster.

Oxybenzone is found in over 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide, and pollutes coral reefs from swimmers wearing sunscreens and through wastewater discharges from municipal sewage outfalls and from coastal septic systems.

“The use of oxybenzone-containing products needs to be seriously deliberated in islands and areas where coral reef conservation is a critical issue,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Craig Downs of Haereticus Environmental Laboratory Virginia.

“We have lost at least 80 per cent of the coral reefs in the Caribbean. Any small effort to reduce oxybenzone pollution could mean that a coral reef survives a long, hot summer, or that a degraded area recovers. Everyone wants to build coral nurseries for reef restoration, but this will achieve little if the factors that originally killed off the reef remain or intensify in the environment.”

Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion are emitted into coral reef areas each year, much of which contains between one and 10 percent oxybenzone.

The results of the study, which was conducted in the US Virgin Islands and Hawaii, come less than two weeks after NOAA declared the third ever global coral bleaching event and warned that locally produced threats to coral, such as pollution, stress the health of corals and decrease the likelihood that they will resist bleaching, or recover from it.

It demonstrates that exposure of coral planulae (baby coral) to oxybenzone, produces gross morphological deformities, damages their DNA, and, most alarmingly, acts as an endocrine disruptor. The latter causes the coral to encase itself in its own skeleton leading to death.

These effects were observed as low as 62 parts per trillion, the equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Measurements of oxybenzone in seawater within coral reefs in Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands found concentrations ranging from 800 parts per trillion to 1.4 parts per million. This is over 12 times higher than the concentrations necessary to impact on coral.

A team of marine scientists from Virginia, Florida, Israel, the National Aquarium (US) and the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, undertook the study.

It should be noted that some retail outlets on Bonaire do sell only ecologically friendly sunscreens.  When visiting Bonaire, be sure to only bring or purchase on island sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone.  (Source:  Caribbean360.com)

Posted by Susan Davis on October 23, 2015 at 10:36am AST
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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Carib Inn Launches Weekly Photo Contests

With the proliferation of wonderfully small and high quality cameras these days, more divers than ever are taking their own underwater and travel images and coming home with great images.  Bruce Bowker’s Carib Inn has just launched a weekly photo contest for their guests and divers to help showcase these wonderful images.

It’s very simple–post your favorite images taken during your stay on the Carib Inn Facebook page.  Images must be uploaded during your stay by Thursday each week.  The week’s winner will be announced on Friday and is awarded by the most number of “likes.” Each weekly winner receives a T-shirt (winner must be present to receive the prize), and each winner is automatically entered into the annual contest, with a prize of a shore diving package for two.

Images can be from above or below the water, and can be of guests, staff, flora, fauna, landscapes, or activities.  It’s only limited by your own imagination!  Be sure to submit only current images, those taken during your stay at Carib Inn or while diving with them.

Other terms and conditions do apply, so visit the Carib Inn web site for additional details. (Source:  Carib Inn)

Posted by Susan Davis on October 21, 2015 at 11:17am AST
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Friday, September 18, 2015

15th Annual Jong Bonaire Swim to Klein Bonaire Is October 4, 2015

This year’s annual Jong Bonaire Swim to Klein Bonaire is very special as there are actually two swims during the event!

Everyone will gather at the beach at Spice Beach Club at Eden Beach Resort on Sunday morning, October 4, 2015.  Registration is at 8:30 for the public swim, which will take place at 10:00 AM after an official “DJ” warm-up session at 9:30 AM.  This fun swim, suitable for anyone of any age, is not a race. For those who do not wish to swim back, there are many boats available to pick up people and return them back to the shoreline. Participants can use fins, masks, or even flotation devices.

But, at 9:00 AM, there will be an official competition for the Barracudas, Bonaire’s open water swim team.  These competitors will be racing to Klein and back and you’ll be amazed at how fast they will be back on the beach!

Throughout the day there will be music from DJs, a steel band, and Sabor live band from Curacao to help wash down the wonderful BBQ that is planned.  Make a day of it on the beach in Bonaire–it doesn’t get any better than that!  (Source:  Jong Bonaire, image courtesy of Tim Nesselrodt)

Posted by Susan Davis on September 18, 2015 at 9:03am AST
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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

New Shark Reserve Launched on Bonaire

It was a great way to end Bonaire’s first Shark Week, when State Secretary Dijksma of Economic Affairs opened a shark reserve during her recent visit to Bonaire and Saba. Shark populations are plummeting worldwide and therefore need extra protection against illegal fishing and the bycatch of regular fisheries. The local nature and fisheries organizations are involved in this protection and The Netherlands will actively protect sharks in the Caribbean Sea with the eleventh shark reserve.

“This special reserve will ensure the conservation of the animals in the waters surrounding Saba and Bonaire. Sharks are not only important for tourism but also for fishery. When there are more sharks, there also are more fish – contrary to what one would expect,” stated State Secretary Dijksma, who stated further, “The reserve will work closely with local nature and fisheries organizations to protect sea mammals and sharks.”

Proponents of shark reserves in Dutch Caribbean waters are happy that the governments of both Bonaire and Saba, along with the government of the European Netherlands see the importance of this issue and the beneficial effect the reserve can have for the islands and the region as a whole.

Research by Imares has shown that a decrease in sharks as apex predators leads to a disturbed natural balance in the sea. This could have consequences for the total fishery stock.

A good fishery stock is also important for the fishermen on the islands, who are dependent on fishing. Tourism also benefits from coral reefs with sharks. (Source:  RCN)

Posted by Susan Davis on September 02, 2015 at 10:38am AST
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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Shark Week Premieres on Bonaire, Starting Saturday, August 22, 2015

It’s a new “first” for Bonaire, and it’s part of an international effort to give protection to the sharks which inhabit the waters of Bonaire, as well as all the Dutch Caribbean islands, and even Holland itself.  “Shark Week” will begin on Saturday, August 22, 2015, and there’s activities all week that will offer educational and fun things to do.

For some background information, it’s long been acknowledged that a healthy shark population equates to healthy reefs, as apex predators, such as sharks, keep other reef species genetically “fit.” In other words, the hardy survive and continue to breed, while those which might be a little weak, normally do not survive to breed.  But, unfortunately, since the days of the movie, Jaws, the hunters of the world’s oceans have become the hunted.

It is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed each year in commercial fisheries, and it’s thought that this is a conservative estimate.  This represents a rate of fishing about double the rate of reproduction, which is why the world is seeing declines in most populations for which data exist.  These populations for which we have detailed information, are called “assessed” species, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of threatened or near extinction assessed species includes 27 Caribbean species, of which six species are found in Bonaire’s waters (bull, blacktip, Caribbean reef, tiger, lemon, and whale sharks).

Bonaire, along with Holland and other Dutch Caribbean islands, are formally beginning an educational effort to increase shark awareness.  Next week’s launch will bring some fun get-togethers, but also the airing of educational videos.  View Shark Week’s schedule by clicking here (available in PDF), and be sure to stop by and become aware!  (Source:  STINAPA)

Posted by Susan Davis on August 19, 2015 at 9:49am AST
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Friday, July 03, 2015

Woodwind Snorkel and Sailing Excursions Launches New Web Site

Spending hours snorkeling and sailing on Woodwind is a popular pastime, both for visitors who are visiting for a week or more, as well as day visitors coming in cruise ships.  Woodwind has just recently launched a new web site, which provides easy navigation to any needed information about Woodwind, her crew, or available snorkel sailing trips.  View the new site at http://www.woodwindbonaire.com.

The new site is responsive, so it will display well on any device, whether it be it a computer, laptop, tablet, or phone.  The web site provides a section dedicated to those arriving by cruise ship, with a calendar of availability through May, 2016.

The section dedicated to those staying on Bonaire for a longer term highlights the various snorkels and cruises which are available throughout the week.  It’s easy to see what’s available by the day of the week, or by your chosen activity.

There is an entire section which tells one all they must know about Woodwind, including glowing testimonials, Frequently Asked Questions, and a Photo Gallery.  There is even an area where you can review your experience on Woodwind for Trip Advisor, after you are back home.

Take a few moments and view the new web site by clicking here, and be sure to add it to your Bonaire bucket list for your next visit.(Source:  Woodwind)

Posted by Susan Davis on July 03, 2015 at 4:07pm AST
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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

There’s Good News for Bonaire’s Coral Reefs

Bonaire’s coral reefs remain among the healthiest in the Caribbean. Although the island’s reefs have suffered bleaching disturbances similar to those plaguing reefs throughout the Caribbean, on Bonaire, it’s unique that the reefs are showing signs of recovery and a higher degree of resiliency.  Every two years, the Bonaire National Marine Park, under the auspices of STINAPA, and in conjunction with some of the best-known reef ecologists, performs a reef monitoring study, with historical data going back to 2003.  The results of this year’s monitoring in March, 2015 are now available.

The findings are put in the context of both the trends recorded since 2003, when regular monitoring began, as well as the most recent research related to the factors controlling the structure and functioning of healthy coral reef ecosystems.  It was determined that focusing upon the trends and key indicators ("drivers") of coral health would be the best for Bonaire’s reef system.

Although coral reefs are complex ecosystems, relatively few drivers control much of their structure and how they function. “Drivers” are key processes that control functionally important aspects of coral reefs. Several processes can interact with one another.  For example seaweed (also called “macroalgae”) are known to poison corals and reduce or halt the settlement and survival of reef corals. It has also been shown that herbivorous fishes are capable of reducing or eliminating macroalgae from coral reefs. Thus, herbivores--such as parrotfish--facilitate the recruitment of reef corals, reduce toxic seaweed, and create complex habitats into which juvenile reef fish can find homes. These drivers and their interactions have been viewed as integral to a complex system of feedbacks that maintain healthy coral reefs.

One driver is coral cover.  At all the monitored sites, coral cover was nearly 50% and algal cover was extremely low from 1999 until the coral bleaching event of 2010, when about 10% of the coral died and macroalgal abundance markedly increased. For these two indicators of coral reef health, the impact of the bleaching event is easy to see. However, how the ecosystem responded after the event is extremely important. Coral cover increased very slightly in 2015 and it was observed that some of the heavily impacted coral species, such as Colpophyllia natans, were recovering from the bleaching event.

Additionally, Bonaire’s reefs see a positive trend in seaweed abundance because it is low and declining. The impact of seaweed scales with its volume. A cover of low-canopy seaweed has much less impact on reef corals than does one with a high canopy. This is represented by an “algal index”, which is the volume of macroalgae. The macroalgae index recorded in 2011 was less than 300 whereas the Caribbean average ranges between 700 and 900.

Overall, Bonaire’s monitored coral reefs have relatively abundant fish that contribute to healthy reinforcing ecological feedbacks thus maintaining resilient reefs. Recently a review of reef fish abundance for the ocean systems of the Pacific, Indian and Caribbean determined that reef fish biomass was “functional” around 1000 kg ha-1 and that it could take as long as 30 years for a reef depleted of fish to recover to functional abundances. However, Bonaire’s reef fish biomass is similar to the biomass of fully protected reefs within no-take reserves.

Coral cover has not only remained high relative to the rest of the Caribbean, it has shown signs of recovery following the bleaching event of 2010. This, along with the increase in crustose corraline algae and the decline in macroalgae since the 2011 assessment, suggests that Bonaire’s reefs are relatively resilient.

To summarize, the 2015 monitoring study has determined that there are five drivers which have reversed a negative trend and are now indicating a positive trend.  This is the first time that such a wide reversal has been seen, since monitoring began in 2003.  Bonaire also created Fish Protected Areas in 2010, and it’s theorized that these FPAs are now showing positive results.

This study was completed by Robert S. Steneck (University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences), Suzanne N. Arnold (The Island Institute), Ramon de Leon (Reef Support BV), and Douglas B. Rasher (University of Main, School of Marine Sciences) on behalf of STINAPA and the Bonaire National Marine Park.  (Source:  STINAPA)

Posted by Susan Davis on June 17, 2015 at 4:33pm AST
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Monday, April 20, 2015

Dive Friends Bonaire Volunteers Dive Against Debris Under Bonaire’s South Pier

On Saturday, April 11, 2015, 117 volunteer divers gathered at Dive Friends Bonaire @ Dive Inn for the famous quarterly clean up dive. Many STINAPA Junior Rangers and Sea Turtle Conservation volunteers were in attendance, as well as local and visiting divers. The dive site being targeted for a “spring cleaning” was the South Pier. South Pier is frequently in need of a clean-up dive because it is a popular area for fishermen as well as being the main pier used for cargo deliveries and cruise ships.

Asko Zuidam of Dive Friends Bonaire provided a safety briefing to address what items should be collected and explained that anything with coral growing on it or creatures living inside of it should be left behind. He also gave an explanation about how to carefully remove fishing line so as not to damage delicate sponges or corals.  After the briefing, the divers entered the water in front of Dive Inn and swam the short distance over to the South Pier. When their bags were filled with marine debris, they brought the bags to the surface and handed them over to the Dive Friends crew who were working as shore support. Volunteers checked once again to be sure that no marine creatures had been inadvertently included. Then, everything was counted, tallied for Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris program, and disposed of responsibly.

Volunteers collected 164 glass beverage bottles, 17 cans, 96 pieces of dangerous fishing line, 1 cruise ship pass, 141 plastic fragments, 15 cardboard fragments, 5 shoes, 16 pieces of rope, 1 fishing net, 1 hammer, 4 tires, 1 cheese grater, 1 toothbrush, 26 items of clothing (including one pair of Superman underpants!) and much more. A total of 987 items were removed from the marine environment.

All participants and their families were welcomed back for a sunset BBQ and raffle at Dive Friends Bonaire @ Hamlet Oasis. Dive Friends Bonaire and sponsors provided drinks and main courses, while participants supplied the pot luck side dishes. In keeping with the spirit of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” Dive Friends Bonaire does not use disposable plates and cutlery, so the instructors and dive masters also spent a lot of extra time cleaning up after the clean-up.  Sponsors for the event include: Beachcomber Villas, Bonaire East Coast Diving, Pasa Bon Pizza, Van Den Tweel, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, STINAPA Junior Rangers, Selibon, Deep Blue Gear, Reef, SubGear, Mares, Trident Dive, Esko Diveworld and Intova.

The next quarterly Dive Friends Bonaire underwater cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, July 18th, 2015.  Additional information about the cleanups is available at by clicking here. All are welcome to join in.  (Source:  Dive Friends Bonaire)

Posted by Susan Davis on April 20, 2015 at 11:28am AST
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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Dive Friends Bonaire Hosts Next Underwater Cleanup

On Saturday, April 11th, 2015, Dive Friends Bonaire will host another quarterly Clean Up Dive.  They would like to invite everyone to come by and help keep Bonaire blue and beautiful!

Check in for volunteers will begin at 9:45 AM at the Dive Friends @ Dive Inn location, with a briefing for all volunteers at 10 AM.  Please don’t forget your certification cards (if they are not already on file with Dive Friends).  The plan for this event is to clean around Bonaire’s South Pier.  Please insure that you also bring your dive tag with you, as required.  Lionfish hunters are welcome to bring their ELFs!  There will also be an effort to collect as much fishing line as possible, so please bring along a dive knife or shears.

Those who do not dive are always welcome as well to assist with a shoreline clean-up and to log the items removed from the water for PADI Project AWARE.  It’s always fun for the whole family.

At 6:00 PM, there will be a potluck BBQ for all the volunteers at the Dive Friends @ Hamlet Oasis location.  It’s a potluck, so please bring a snack, side-dish, or dessert to share and Dive Friends will provide the main course and one beverage.  For additional information, telephone 717-2929. (Source:  Dive Friends Bonaire)

Posted by Susan Davis on April 09, 2015 at 3:47pm AST
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Come and Join in Dive Friends Bonaire’s Next Underwater Cleanup, Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Dive Friends Bonaire will once again host their quarterly underwater cleanup this Saturday, January 17th, 2015.  Everyone--divers, snorkelers, or shore support volunteers--is welcome to join in to keep Bonaire beautiful.

Those interested should meet no later than 10:00 AM at Dive Friends @ Yellow Submarine for the briefing.  After check-in and the briefing, everyone will move to Karel’s Pier to do a cleanup in that location. 

As always, a potluck BBQ will be hosted at Dive Friends @ Hamlet at 6:00 PM for all participants.  Bring a side dish or dessert to the BBQ, as Dive Friends and other sponsors will be providing the main course and one drink.  (Source:  Dive Friends Bonaire)

Posted by Susan Davis on January 15, 2015 at 10:43am AST
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