A new handbook, Towards Reef Resilience and Sustainable Livelihoods, provides tools, information, and management recommendations for coral reef managers. Sections within the handbook highlight the latest scientific research on reefs and resilience to inform management actions. Some of the topics in this guide include: coral reef fisheries, ecosystem services, livelihoods, and monitoring for management. Get the handbook here.
Since the early 1980s Caribbean coral reefs have suffered massive losses of corals. Impacts from human population growth, overfishing, coastal pollution, global warming and invasive species have resulted in decrease of coral populations, increases of seaweeds, outbreaks of coral bleaching and disease, and failure of corals to recover from natural disturbances. This study analyses the status and trends of reef communities throughout the wider Caribbean. Metadata on the nature of the reef environment, depth and history of human population growth, fishing, hurricanes, coral bleaching and disease was compiled and analyzed. In some cases, biological information for coral and macroalgal cover, abundance of grazing sea urchin Diadema antillarum, and biomass of fishes such as grazing parrotfish was also obtained. Results imply that the three best predictors of the decline in Caribbean coral cover over the past 30 or more years are: (a) outbreaks of Acropora and Diadema diseases (1970s and early 1980s); (b) overpopulation, including increase in tourism; and (c) overfishing of herbivores, particularly parrotfish. Coastal pollution is also significant and increasingly warming seas is also a threat but so far, extreme heating events have had only localized effects.
In summary, the degradation of Caribbean reefs has occurred in three distinct phases: (1) Massive losses of Acropora (mid-1970s to early 1980s) due to White Band Disease; (2) Increase in macroalgal cover and decrease in coral cover following the mass mortality of Diadema (1983) and (3) Continuation of the patterns established in Phase 2 worsened by more overfishing, coastal pollution, tourism, and extreme warming events. Four major recommendations for management emerge from this report:
- Adopt conservation and fisheries management strategies to restore parrotfish populations;
- Simplify and standardize monitoring of Caribbean reefs and make the results available on an annual basis;
- Foster communication and exchange of information;
- Develop and implement adaptive legislation and regulations to ensure that threats to coral reefs are systematically addressed.
Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
To better understand resource use patterns in Curaçao and Bonaire in the southeast Caribbean, the authors conducted a socioeconomic study of the time preferences and marine management preferences of local SCUBA divers and fishers. Through interviews with 197 divers and 153 fishers on the two islands, they calculated individual discount factors and present bias to evaluate time preferences and preferred strategies for managing coral reefs. Divers’ discount factors were significantly higher than fishers’, meaning they value the future more highly or are more future-biased. Divers, on average, supported more restrictions than fishers such as gear restrictions and marine reserves. And, only 1% of fishers were willing to limit the number of fishers, while 34% of divers were willing to limit the number of divers. Overall, divers were more supportive of management than fishers. The main management and policy implication of this study is that differences in diver and fisher groups should be addressed for effective marine management. The authors suggest offsets, such as a dive fee, like the Nature Fee in Bonaire used for marine park management. A portion of the fee could be used to pay fishers to reduce high-impact gears or the buyout of traps and nets. They also suggest property rights schemes within a larger management framework that includes some mix of gear or effort restrictions, incentives for sustainable use, enforcement, and local buy-in.
Author: Johnson, A.E. and D.K. Saunders
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Ecological Economics 100: 130–139. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2014.01.004
Participate in or join a Dive Against Debris event. Dates Vary.
In response to the onslaught of marine debris, one of the biggest ocean issues of our time, Project AWARE launched Dive Against Debris. Created by divers for divers, this global, underwater survey of rubbish is designed to increase debris removal efforts, prevent harm to marine life and connect your underwater actions to policy changes and prevention.
Using Coral Restoration and Ecotourism to Increase Local Participation and Financial Benefits of Resource Management Efforts
Korolevu-i-wai District, Baravi, Nadroga/Navosa, Fiji
Fiji’s Coral Coast – Southwestern Viti Levu
The project is being conducted in the Customary Fishing Ground of the Vanua Davutukia, in the Korolevu-i-wai District of Nadroga/Navosa Province, Fiji Islands
Fiji’s coral reef ecosystem is the most extensive in the South Pacific and provides fisheries and tourism opportunities that are primary GDP earners and integral to the well-being, culture, and survival of Fijian communities. The southwest coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest and most populated island, is flanked by the country’s longest fringing reef system and has been affectionately known as the Coral Coast since resort tourism began on its shores in the 1950’s. The wide, shallow lagoons filled with colorful fish and corals just meters beyond the white sandy beaches are the icon that made the Coral Coast famous and over the last 50 years has created a thriving tourism economy that today caters to more than 20% of Fiji’s tourists. Since time immemorial, these reefs have supported the subsistence needs of the indigenous resource owners. However, the spectacular reef ecosystem that became the icon of the Coral Coast has been degraded by the compounded effects of local impacts from high fishing pressure and coastal development along with climate change stressors threatening the backbone of the local economy and the livelihood and food security of coastal villages and settlements.
The Korolevu-i-wai district is located in the heart of the Coral Coast and consists of the four traditional villages of Votua, Vatuolalai, Tagaqe, and Namada amongst which numerous settlements, residential areas, and tourism developments are interspersed. Overall, the district has a resident population of over 2,350 people living in more than 420 households, less than half of which are resource owners in the district. Along its shores lie numerous resorts and guest houses that offer over 450 guest rooms, largely on leased native land. The adjacent reef system is approximately 9km2 in area and is the Customary Fishing Ground of the Vanua Davutukia, the native resource owners of the district. The reef system is relied upon by most families in the district to meet their household food requirements, and is particularly depended upon when tourism arrivals and thus employment opportunities and income are down. In 2000, Fiji’s coral reefs suffered from the first-documented widespread, intensive bleaching event that resulted in extensive coral death. Korolevu-i-wai reefs lost much of their living coral with the shallow, backreef lagoon (where fishing and tourism activities mainly occur) being most severely impacted. Local impacts from overharvesting and other destructive fishing practices along with climate-related stressors have severely degraded the reef ecosystem to the point where coral communities have largely been unable to recover from the 2000 bleaching. The once majestic Korolevu-i-wai reefs now have <10% living coral cover, are largely overgrown with seaweeds, and the average catch for hook and line fishing is less than 200 gm of fish/person/hour.
The Vanua Davutukia of the Korolevu-i-wai district began with marine resource management efforts in 2002 with the support of the University of the South Pacific’s Institute of Applied Sciences (USP-IAS) and Fiji Locally-Managed Marine Areas (FLMMA) program. A simple, district-level resource management plan that identified perceived threats to the resources and mitigating actions to be taken was developed and adopted.
In 2006, the Vanua Davutukia began working closely with Reef Explorer to implement and review their management plans and monitor the success of their activities. A suite of educational, research, and community development activities were undertaken to address priority issues along with extensive management planning activities and reviews of the community’s marine resource management plan in 2007 and again in 2014. The ultimate goal of the management plan is to bolster local incomes and traditions by replenishing and reviving local marine resources – a grassroots approach to rural development and conservation of natural resources. Management plans are developed via participatory techniques and include the establishment of community-based no-take marine protected areas (MPAs), fisheries enforcement and compliance activities, addressing pollution threats, enterprise development, and biological and socioeconomic monitoring for use in adaptive management of the community’s conservation and development activities. Some 6 to 10 years after their establishment, MPAs now have 500% more live coral cover and 50% greater species richness of coral than adjacent fished areas, little to no seaweeds, and 30% more food fish, 50% more species of food fish, and 500% more biomass of food fish than the adjacent fished areas (Technical Report).
The development of small-scale coral cultivation and restoration efforts is one of the activities that Reef Explorer has been assisting district villages with. This initiative began in the village MPAs, largely as an educational and economic tool, but has evolved to become an integral and growing part of village management activities, particularly to engage village youth in marine conservation efforts and marine ecotourism. As corals are a keystone species to the reef ecosystem providing essential habitat and otherwise supporting an amazing diversity of life, the restoration of coral communities is necessary for the recovery and resilience of local fisheries and the conservation of marine resources.
Capitalizing on the success of MPAs in assisting the recovery of coral communities, small coral colonies are propagated from corals located in the MPAs through fragmentation of selected donor colonies or collection of unattached coral fragments. Fragments are then grown out attached to cement, rope, or wire in ‘coral nurseries’ until they are larger and later transplanted back to the reef at restoration sites. Areas of the reef that are lacking in living corals despite otherwise being suitable habitat are selected as restoration sites where propagated corals are transplanted. By assisting areas of the reef to recover in terms of coral cover and species richness, coral restoration can play an important role in the recovery of the coral communities necessary to support fisheries enhancement and recovery in these areas. By providing an attraction that can be developed into an ecotourism opportunity for the local community, coral restoration can also help provide economic opportunities that reinforce the sustainable use and conservation of marine resources.
A grant from the Sylvia Earle Alliance – Mission Blue in 2015 has provided funding to further develop the coral restoration initiative. Cost-effective, glue-free propagation techniques that have been previously trialed at a small scale have been scaled up. With the assistance of village youth groups, coral nurseries containing 1000+ corals have been established in four Korolevu-i-wai MPAs and one fished location with a total of 7500 new coral colonies propagated in the nurseries. Additionally, this recent effort has vastly expanded the species of corals that have been propagated.
Generally, corals of the genus Acropora have been selected for propagation as they are fast growing and contribute greatly to the habitat complexity and overall coral species diversity found on healthy reefs. However, other coral genera (Porites, Montipora, Pocillopora, Echinopora, Merulina, Stylophora, Hydnophora, Psammocora, and Seriatopora) have been propagated as they are dominant genera in the reef community, can be used to help secure and consolidate substrate, and/or are resilient to thermal stress and less affected by crown-of-thorns starfish predation. In 2015/16 during the summer season when seawater temperatures are hot causing annual bleaching events, coral colonies that show tolerance to thermal stress (i.e. don’t bleach when other corals of the same species around them are bleached) will be identified and marked (Technical Report). These corals will be used as donor colonies for propagating new corals in the 2016 season thus helping to increase the abundance and hopefully reproductive success of these thermally-resistant genotypes of corals on the reef. In conjunction with the establishment of the coral nurseries, youth groups are being assisted by Reef Explorer to develop plans and capacity for operating snorkeling tours in their respective MPAs of the coral nurseries and restoration sites.
How Successful Has it Been?
Since 2006, over 14,000 corals consisting of more than 25 species have been propagated and transplanted back to the reef in village MPAs and village youth have received basic training in cost-effective coral propagation techniques, reef ecology and fauna, and integrating this work into guiding snorkeling tours. As the coral restoration work has progressed, a variety of international guests have visited specifically to observe the project and assist with coral transplanting efforts including the Governor of Tokyo, Locally-Managed Marine Area (LMMA) country representatives from all Asia-Pacific member countries, American and Australian Travel agents, study abroad programs from at least 15 U.S.-based universities, and numerous international conservation practitioners and marine educators from around the Caribbean and Pacific. Guest visits have provided thousands of dollars of income to the village fund, village youth, and have been used to further develop coral restoration efforts. Additionally, the propagation technique was adopted by American researchers studying the effects of seaweeds on corals in the district for several years providing further income generating opportunities for the local community through the preparation for and propagation of corals for use in experiments.
The coral restoration program being undertaken by the Vanua Davutukia with support from Reef Explorer serves as a pilot effort for other communities to learn from, and has resulted in improved local marine management capacity and compliance, and ecotourism strategies. These efforts have brought thousands of dollars into the hands of villagers and supported the continuation and expansion of coral planting efforts and capacity building for snorkeling guides. Overall, coral restoration activities have enhanced local marine conservation efforts by:
- Providing economic incentives for conservation;
- Bolstering participation of village youth in marine conservation efforts;
- Improving local knowledge of coral life history and reef ecology through ‘hands-on learning’;
- Further integrating community-based resource management efforts with Fiji’s growing tourism industry; and
- Helping coral communities re-establish to support local fisheries and coral community resilience.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Key lessons learned from the coral restoration efforts over the last 10 years include:
- Simple asexual coral propagation methods can be quickly learned and effectively implemented by community members for coral restoration efforts.
- Corals in the genus Acropora, though often utilized in restoration efforts, have been those that are most susceptible to disease and predator damage. Propagating a variety of genera intermixed throughout the nursery helps reduce predation and improves overall success.
- Restoration efforts are much more effective and successful in well-established no-take areas, areas with good water quality conditions, and/or reef areas with healthy herbivore populations.
- Strong local governance and community support and participation are critical to the success of coral reef management and restoration efforts. Involving village youth in the efforts along with community leaders and elders promotes compliance and sustainability of the outcomes.
- Economic incentives foster greater community support for and participation in coral reef management.
- Combining coral restoration with income-generating activities such as snorkeling tours can improve community interest in coral restoration and conservation activities while providing financial support for the effort.
Until 2015, funds to support coral restoration efforts have been sourced and provided by Reef Explorer through the facilitation of associated educational tourism and research programs. In May 2015, the Sylvia Earle Alliance – Mission Blue provided a one-year grant to support the further development of coral restoration activities in the Korolevu-i-wai District, which has substantially aided the continued implementation of the project. Additional funds are being sought to support the implementation of associated research, educational, and ecotourism development activities as well as to engage with youth groups in adjacent districts.
University of the South Pacific, Institute of Applied Sciences (also a co-management partner)
Creation of a Marine Protected Area Network to Protect Underwater Habitats in the British Virgin Islands
British Virgin Islands MPA Network
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are located 100km east of Puerto Rico in the northeastern Caribbean and are part of the Leeward Islands, which stretch from the BVI to Antigua. Composed of over 60 islands and cays, the BVI represent a total land area of 153.67km² (59 square miles). Every island in the BVI is surrounded by coral reefs of varying size, health and composition. The Anegada Horseshoe Reef is the third largest continuous reef in the Eastern Caribbean at 63km long, containing both patch reefs and barrier reefs. There are 63 popular dive sites in the BVI, which include 57 coral reef sites and 6 artificial reefs that have been created by shipwrecks. Tourism accounts for about 45% of the national income.
The BVI has been threatened by both natural disasters and anthropogenic impacts. Hurricanes have frequently impacted the area over time, and flooding from torrential rains has resulted in landslides, which subsequently harm marine resources due to increased sedimentation. Most recently, the bleaching event of 2005 has had devastating impacts, resulting in almost 90% of the BVI reefs being bleached. Hurricanes in 2008 and 2010, and an extreme wave event in 2010 also affected the reefs. Human impacts on the BVI are vast and include the following: anchor damage from boats and ships; coastal development; increased sedimentation due to development on steep slopes, the creation of unpaved roads, and improper erosion control; sewage discharge from charter and private vessels and ocean outfall disposal of terrestrial waste; overcrowding of vessels; overharvesting of conch, spiny lobster and whelks; destructive fishing practices.
The British Virgin Islands has declared 14 protected areas, including one marine park managed by the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands (NPTVI) and 13 fisheries protected areas, managed by the Conservation and Fisheries Department (CFD). Another 40 areas have been identified for inclusion in a Marine Protected Area Network. The primary goals of the British Virgin Island MPAs are:
- To create a Marine Protected Area network that reflects the major marine and coastal habitats of the BVI;
- To protect 30% of the important biological habitats across the BVI, including hard and soft corals, seagrasses, mangroves, turtle nesting beaches, and fishery habitats;
- To cluster protected areas together so that they can be easily managed; and,
- To ensure that there are protected areas across the BVI to enhance resilience.
The overall goal was to create a system of protected areas for the BVI, in order to have a more comprehensive approach to protected area planning. The National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands, the Conservation and Fisheries Department and The Nature Conservancy collaborated to train relevant staff on MARXAN, marine reserve design software. Four potential MPA networks that included areas identified as important due to their biodiversity, importance as fish nurseries or breeding habitats were created using MARXAN. Each potential MPA network included 30% of each biological habitat type and varying levels of clustering of MPA areas and locked in areas (areas that are intended to be protected regardless of outcome). The BVI was divided into three geographic units to build resilience into the network through even distribution of MPAs in each unit. This process eliminated the potential to place heavy reliance on an extensive reef system around the island of Anegada to the detriment of other areas. These maps were then taken to stakeholders for feedback, including fishers, dive operators, charter boat industry and relevant government departments. To ensure participation in the stakeholder review process, meetings were organized on the four main islands in the BVI using existing organizations such as fisheries associations, the Charter Yacht Society, the Dive Operators Association, and the Marine Association. As the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands has a long established relationship with the charter and dive industry, due to over 25 years of managing mooring buoys in sensitive reef sites, it was relatively easy to ensure the participation of this sector of the marine industry. However, the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands did not have a similar relationship with fishermen. The fisheries extension officers at the Conservation and Fisheries Department were critical in assisting with this process because the fishers recognized and responded to their requests to attend the stakeholder meetings. Separate meetings were held for fishermen and the dive/charter industry due to the potential conflict of interests, and to make participants feel more comfortable when providing feedback. The main focus of the meetings was to have stakeholders draw on large printed maps that displayed the four MPA network models, indicating areas they currently use for fishing, diving, and anchoring, in addition to making suggestions of areas that should be protected. Stakeholders were also asked to select the MPA network model they preferred the most. One MPA network model was selected based upon all feedback, which was the one with the highest level of clustering and locked-in areas, and was slightly modified based on all stakeholder input. This map was then included in the overall proposed System Plan of Protected Areas for the BVI, and approved by the Cabinet in early 2008.
How successful has it been?
The Trust is now collaborating with the Survey Department to create the legal maps for these areas so that they can be officially designated as MPAs. These maps will then be used to consultatively create the zoning plan for the MPAs. In addition to this the boundaries of the MPAs and zones will be identified in the marine environment using marker buoys. As the MPA network is very extensive, a public relations campaign will be required to inform all stakeholders of the zones and permitted use. This will include all media sources, such as internet, newspapers, publications and brochures in the BVI and the US Virgin Islands. As of early 2014, the MPAs had not yet been implemented.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Lessons learned and some key recommendations include:
- Selecting areas that are naturally protected from use due to location, rough seas, or depth assisted in achieving conservation goals with less stakeholder conflict.
- Stakeholder meetings and government involvement throughout the planning process ensures that everyone is aware of the MPA goals (the 30% goal became very well known in the BVI and regionally).
- A greater understanding of the stakeholder groups is important. As the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands did not traditionally have a relationship with fishermen, it was not always possible to engage fisherman. Therefore, working with the Conservation and Fisheries Department fisheries extension officers was essential and helped improve these relationships.
- Stakeholder meetings must be located in the communities where fishermen live and a relationship must be created with community members.
- The way in which information is presented to stakeholders can affect how much feedback is provided in return. For example, using large paper maps laid out on tables enabled people to look at, draw on, and talk informally about the areas. People were also more inclined to attend meetings when they saw that their opinions were being recorded and taken into consideration.
- It is critical to build trust between the government and the community. This entails continued engagement of stakeholders throughout the MPA planning process, particularly when zoning areas. In some cases, areas may have to be swapped (e.g. if 30% of a habitat can still be achieved by protecting another area and there is less conflict, then it may be wise to swap).
- Many small island nations do not have access to university experts or scientific researchers so field work can be limited by capacity issues and resources. Therefore, scientific, management, and monitoring training is an important part of the long term project goals. Finding the right people to undergo training is equally important to ensure that capacity is retained within an organization.
- Building in resilience using geographic distribution across an area and natural features can reduce conflict between stakeholders and conservationists. For example, some areas that have been included in the MPA network are located on the north or south sides of islands that are naturally too exposed, deep or rough to be utilized by stakeholders, therefore there is no conflict involved in protecting the area, but the 30% goal of habitat protection is still being achieved.
National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands Conservation and Fisheries Department Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour
University of Warwick Life Sciences
The Nature Conservancy Eastern Caribbean Program
Wastewater Treatment and Fishing Legislation in Bonaire
Bonaire National Marine Park, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
Collectively, the island of Bonaire and the Ramsar areas of several satellite islands (Klein Bonaire and Lac) form the Bonaire National Marine Park (BNMP). The park encompasses 2,700 hectares of fringing coral reef, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems and contains diverse habitats from the shore to intertidal environments, and from coral reefs to deep water environments.
Bleaching and hurricane events have affected this area in the past. Only mild bleaching occurred in association with the 1998 El Niño bleaching event, resulting in good recovery. In 1999, Hurricane Lenny affected the shallow reefs of the leeward side of Bonaire and Klein Bonaire; however recovery was similarly high, with recruitment rates 3.5 times higher than the rest of the Caribbean, and high survival rates. More recently, the 2005 and 2006 bleaching events resulted in bleaching of approximately 9% and 10%, respectively. However, in both events the recovery rate after the thermal stress subsided was almost 100%. After a bleaching event in 2010, 10% of corals bleached and died leading to a sharp decline in coral abundance in 2011. Combined with losses of herbivorous parrotfish to overfishing, this has led to an increase of macroalgae.
Aside from these natural disturbances, this region is threatened by pollution, coastal development, invasive species (lionfish and halophila seagrass) and growth in tourism activities.
The mission of the Bonaire National Marine Park is to protect and manage the island’s natural, cultural and historical resources, while allowing ecologically sustainable use for the benefit of future generations. The BNMP strongly believes that the first step to ensure healthy and resilient corals is to protect water quality and reduce all stresses. Within this framework, the BNMP has been taking different conservation and management actions to address the distinct problems of overfishing, coastal development, pollution, and negative impacts of tourism.
In 2010, legislation was passed to improve environmental protection, and as of 2014 was still in place and starting to show improvements in the environment. The legislation includes protection of identified resilience factors like: full protection of herbivorous fishes, full protection of many carnivorous fishes, and stronger rules and regulations on fisheries. The new legislation also includes improvements in procedures for coastal construction and more stringent construction guidelines.
To address the documented decline in predator fishes like groupers, grunts and snappers, the BNMP started lobbying the government and different stakeholders in 2004 to create fish protected areas (FPAs). Within this lobbying work, a group of fishermen, dive operators, government officers and others stakeholders from St. Lucia visited Bonaire to explain to their counterparts how FPAs in Bonaire would benefit both fisherman and tourism operators. A few months later a group of fishermen, government officers, BNMP Rangers and tour operators visited St. Lucia with the same purpose. In 2008, after intensive negotiations, two FPAs were established on the leeward side on Bonaire, encompassing approximately 4 km of a no-take zone. In 2010 the harvest of parrotfish and use of fish traps were banned.
Coastal Development and Pollution
In addition to fishing pressures, Bonaire is experiencing rapid coastal development. To minimize the impact of construction practices, the BNMP developed an officially approved booklet of Construction Guidelines, together with the Department of Physical Planning, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the local waste management company, construction companies, land owners, developers, and local NGOs. The BNMP ran an intensive nutrient monitoring program during 2006-2008, and Nov. 2011- May 2013 that covered the entire leeside of Bonaire and all around Klein Bonaire. This nutrient monitoring program was run in cooperation with the Central Government, the Department of Physical Planning of Bonaire and the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Florida. Preliminary data show that the levels of dissolved nitrogen are high and that the most probable cause is due to sewage and unsustainable irrigation practices in the coastal zone. To mitigate this sewage water input to the sea, the BNMP worked with resort operators to establish “water balances,” and to improve fresh water and waste water management. This work has ended with the establishment of a local sewer system.
With over four years of nutrient monitoring data indicating high levels of nutrients in the area, a wastewater treatment facility is under construction. The facility plant is designed to move wastewater away from the shoreline and is anticipated to be in operation by late 2014. A temporary plant is in place and has been operating since 2011 while construction continues on the main plant.
Dive tourism is an essential component of the economy of Bonaire, generating significant income and creating employment, and it is vital that dive operators and their clients are well educated about potential negative impacts and means of reducing them. In 2008, the BNMP developed a “Reef Ranger” course. This course has been mandatory since 2010 but not yet fully implemented. The goal of this program is to maximize active support for coral reef conservation by providing standardized training for dive staff, tailored to local circumstances. BNMP recognized that dive operators and divers can be natural ambassadors for coral reef conservation since they have a vested interest in maintaining healthy and diverse marine ecosystems.
Effective communication is also a fundamental goal of Stichting Nationale Pareken (STINAPA) Bonaire, which successfully manages two nature parks of Bonaire National Marine Park and Washington Slagbaai National Park. Communication with the general public and stakeholder groups is a main priority for the BNMP, prompted by a group of residents who indicated a decrease of awareness and involvement, and no sense of ownership of the BNMP. As a result, an on-going communication campaign titled “Nature is our livelihood,” was developed to provide knowledge and change attitudes about conservation issues. Providing adequate information concerning the importance of nature conservation and the sustainable development of Bonaire was considered of utmost importance. The campaign has been successful in some areas and is currently undergoing an evaluation.
How successful has it been?
Monitoring has taken place regularly since 2003 in Bonaire. The ban on fishing of parrotfish (and use of fish traps) has led to an increase in parrotfish population density and biomass after 2011, and, despite a decrease in coral abundance due to bleaching, coral cover began to increase again (while macroalgae cover decreased) in 2013. Perhaps due to an increase in predation, Diadema urchin populations have decreased.
Coastal Development and Pollution
A temporary water treatment plant was built on Bonaire and began operation in late 2011, and a second will be in operation in late 2014. It is estimated that a total of 17.5 to 35 tons of nitrogen a year will be removed from waste water. However, recent nutrient monitoring in late 2013 showed that water quality indicators on the west coast of Bonaire signal eutrophic conditions, though levels of nitrogen have been decreasing slightly. Some sampled sites had high levels of fecal bacteria numbers, and increasing levels of phosphorous. Generally, sampling has showed a slight improvement since 06-08 values, but nutrients remain at threshold levels.
A strong conservation ethic persists in Bonaire, mainly due to the large revenue from tourism focused on SCUBA diving and snorkeling. The focus of this environmental work has been on local people rather than tourism, although tourism has increased in the last few years.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Lessons learned and some key recommendations include:
- Involvement of key stakeholders is critical. No conservation plan will succeed long term without complete support of interested parties.
- Involve all stakeholders from the beginning; demonstrate that what you want to implement (with their help) has unique value, and that they are the beneficiaries of this plan/action.
- Set up an implementation plan (simple is better), discuss it with the stakeholders when ready make it public, and follow it step-by-step with little improvisation.
- Once the plan is implemented, inform stakeholders about news of progress as well as failures. Transparency is critical!
- Create clear rules, laws and procedures. People are more willing to support what they understand and trust.
- Communication campaigns can help provide updated information to the general public and government officers.
- The development of Integrated Coastal Management can reduce the amount of stressors on the reef to improve resilience to future climate change.
- The development of a course similar to the “Reef Ranger” program can improve the sustainable practices of reef divers and other water sport practitioners.
- Nutrient Monitoring program funded by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the 2011-2013 monitoring was funded by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment
- Reef Ranger Course funded by Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA)
- Communication Campaign “Nature is our Livelihood” Funded by WWF and local sponsors
Bonaire National Marine Park
Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment
Ministry of Economic Affairs
DROB—NMB (Local environmental planning department)
Sea Turtle Conservation of Bonaire
Council of Underwater Resource Operators
The Nature Conservancy
Bonaire construction guidelines formulated by the BNMP, Department of Physical Planning, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the local waste management company, construction companies, land owners, developers, and local NGOs.
Results of the nutrient monitoring program, conducted in cooperation with the Central Government, the Department of Physical Planning of Bonaire, and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution.
The Establishment of a Marine Eco-Park to Conserve Reefs and Support Environmental Education in Tanzania
Chumbe Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania
Chumbe Island is a small coral island in East Africa just west of the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania. Chumbe Reef has been well recognized as one of the most diverse in all of Africa, and is believed to host 90% of East Africa’s hard coral species, as well as 425 reef fish species, the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the endangered Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas). The island’s coral-rag forest also possesses numerous rare, threatened and endangered species, such as the Aders’ duiker antelope (Cephalophus adersi), Coconut crab (Birgus latro), and various species of birds, trees and reptiles.
The western reef of Chumbe Island has been traditionally closed to fishing due to its proximity to the shipping channel between Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania. However, overfishing and destructive fishing practices such as dynamite fishing, smashing corals to encircle fish in nets, and beach seining are common in the region. With rapid population growth and the advent of mass tourism in Zanzibar, coral reefs are under pressure from overfishing, poaching and the use of illegal fishing methods. The situation at Chumbe Island is not uncommon for developing countries in the tropics: insufficient capacity for effective marine governance and enforcement, poverty, and lack of alternative livelihoods make it difficult to balance a sustainable environment and a sustainable community.
Recognizing the high level of biodiversity in both reef and forest habitats, Sibylle Riedmiller, a conservationist and former aid worker, spearheaded the establishment of the uninhabited island and surrounding marine habitat as the Chumbe Island Coral Park (CHICOP) in 1992. The focus was to create a marine park where profits from tourism would help support conservation and environmental education. Ms. Riedmiller further realized that in order to take fishing pressure off of the reef ecosystem, she could offer local fishermen employment as park rangers, who would also be trained to educate fellow fishers about the spillover effect of a no-take zone that would benefit them by restocking over-fished adjacent fishing areas and thus increase catches.
Today CHICOP includes the fully-protected, 30-hectare Chumbe Reef Sanctuary (including coral reef, pelagic, coastal shallows and intertidal habitats), a 22-hectare coral-rag forest reserve (Closed Forest Habitat), a visitor’s center, a small eco-lodge, nature trails, and historic ruins. Any extractive uses such as fishing, anchoring, and the collecting of specimens (even for research) are prohibited. Recreational and educational activities such as swimming, snorkeling and underwater photography are permitted. The mission statement for Chumbe Island Coral Park is:
“To manage, for conservation and educational purposes, the Chumbe Island Reef Sanctuary and the Forest Reserve. This is also supported by eco-tourism activities which are directly related to the non-consumptive uses of the natural resources.”
How Successful Has it Been?
CHICOP has become a successful ecotourism destination and an internationally recognized conservation success. As of 2013, the Park employs and trains 41 local people from Zanzibar (93% of total staff) for positions such as park rangers, guides, and hospitality workers. The rangers and guides, eight of whom are former fishers, educate fishermen about the importance of coral reefs and of a small no-take zone as a breeding sanctuary for fisheries. As a result, CHICOP has been able to demonstrate that protection of the Chumbe reef helps restock overfished reefs beyond the waters of the sanctuary (1 km) within 3-5 years.
Chumbe Island has won many prestigious international awards and become a center of exceptional biodiversity and a breeding sanctuary for endangered and rare species. The Forest Reserve is the last undisturbed semi-arid ‘coral rag’ forest in Zanzibar, particularly after successful rat (Rattus rattus) eradication in 1997. With support from the Zoo Munich-Hellabrunn, Flora and Fauna International, and the Chicago Zoological Society, a translocation program in 1999 made Chumbe Island a sanctuary for highly endangered endemic Aders’ duikers (Cephalophus adersi), which are threatened by poaching and habitat destruction elsewhere in Zanzibar. Chumbe also harbors the world’s largest known population of rare Coconut crabs (Birgus latro). Attracted by abundant fish in the reef sanctuary, rare Roseate terns (Sterna dougallii) bred on Chumbe in 1994 and 2006.
Another outstanding feature of the Chumbe project is the application of state-of-the-art eco-architecture and eco-technology in all developments and operations. Rainwater catchment provides shower water that is heated by solar power. Photovoltaic energy is used for lighting, refrigeration of food and drinks, and communication. Composting toilets eliminate sewage and save precious water, while vegetative greywater filtration cleans shower and kitchen water before it is released. Water pollution is also minimized through biodegradable soaps and cleaners. Organic waste is composted and reused in the composting toilets, while other waste is removed from the island, and laundry is washed off the island. Guests are given solar torches for walking to the restaurant at night to avoid light pollution and protect feeding and breeding patterns of nocturnal animals.
According to the Chumbe Island Coral Park’s Conservation and Education Status Report 2013 (pdf), numerous biological, socio-economic and educational successes have been observed by Park staff and management, and acknowledged by the conservation community, the Government and people of Zanzibar.
Biological and Habitat Monitoring
CHICOP has hosted and conducted extensive research, some in cooperation with the University of Dar es Salaam’s Institute of Marine Sciences and the Zanzibar Departments of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries. CHICOP, in collaboration with its partners, have been conducting on-going monitoring in the following areas: sea water temperature monitoring since 1997; coral reef monitoring since 2006; seagrass monitoring since 2006; and humpback whale monitoring since 2008. The following are some of the key monitoring results in the Chumbe Reef Sanctuary (CRS) reported in the CHICOP’s 2013 Status Report:
- In April 1998, due to El Niño sea surface temperatures were 2°C higher than average (over 30°C) causing severe bleaching and coral mortality events throughout the Indo-Pacific. The CRS was also affected, but its coral health, diversity and absence of anthropogenic stress are believed to have helped the reef recover more quickly and with more coral diversity compared to surrounding reefs in Zanzibar.
- Comparing the abundance of large commercial fish (more than 30 cm in length) between Chumbe and the fished control reef reveals that larger fish are found in the CRS.
- Compared to the fished control reef, Chumbe shows a much higher abundance of corallivore (coral polyp eating) butterfly fish. This abundance is linked to a high abundance of live hard corals in the sanctuary that provide a diverse reef habitat and food source for indicator species like the butterfly fish.
- When increased densities of crown-of-thorns (COT) starfish were noticed inside the CRS in 2004, CHICOP management initiated a manual COT removal program which involved park rangers who collect, count and measure all COTs detected during random swims inside the CRS. This removal program has proven to be a very effective management tool as a total number of 3898 COT starfish have been removed since 2004, which had a very positive effect on the health status of the CRS. The COTs are buried on island once they have been counted and measured.
CHICOP has become a pioneer in the field of environmental education on coral reef ecology and nature conservation for teachers and school students in Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania. Though Zanzibar is a coral island and Tanzania has extensive coral reefs, school syllabi do not cover coral reef ecology and the general public has little awareness of their importance as a valuable natural resource.
CHICOP has offered one-day school excursions to Chumbe Island to more than 5600 students, 980 teachers and 346 community members and government officials since the establishment of the Environmental Education (EE) Program in 2000. Field excursions to the island provide hands-on experiences for students and teachers in marine biology, forest ecology, and conservation. The following educational outcomes have been reported in the CHICOP’s 2013 Status Report:
- The number of different schools applying each year to participate in the program has increased significantly, reflecting the program’s popularity.
- The number of total education trips per year has constantly been increasing since its initiation in the year 2000.
- Increased interest from national and international universities to participate in the education trips has been reported.
- Teacher evaluation seminars, held after each EE season, confirmed in early 2013 that awareness about environmental issues has increased among students after their participation in the Chumbe Field Excursions.
- Inspired by the Chumbe Field Excursions, many secondary schools have started environmental clubs, aiming to increase environmental knowledge and awareness in their communities.
- CHICOP is often used as an example of good practice for other projects wishing to initiate and develop environmental education, e.g. Misali Island (Pemba, Tanzania) or Lamu Island (Kenya).
Long-term staff have noticed an increased awareness after years of educating fishermen about the benefits of protecting coral reefs. Park rangers have also reported a decrease in poaching and trespassing, with less than 50 incidents per year since 2008, as opposed to as many as 170 per year in 1994.
Within the Chumbe Education Program, CHICOP strongly supports Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which is a lifelong learning process. Through ESD, CHICOP helps students and community members to develop the knowledge, skills, and action competence needed to create and sustain a viable future for human and other living things in Zanzibar and on the planet. Thus the Chumbe Education Program contributes to the Millennium Development Goals, especially on resource management and strategies for addressing poverty.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Lessons learned and key recommendations include:
- Private management of a marine protected area can be effective and economically viable, even in a challenging political climate.
- The park has benefited local communities by generating income, employment, market for local produce, developing new work skills, demonstrating sustainable resource management, and restocking commercial fish species in adjacent areas (spillover).
- Extensive work with government agencies in establishing the park has enhanced the understanding of environmental issues among local and national authorities.
- Private management has strong incentives to achieve tangible conservation goals on the ground, co-operate with local resource users, generate income, be cost-effective, and keep overhead costs down.
- Long-term secure tenure, together with a favorable political, legal and institutional environment, is needed to attract more private conservation investment in the developing world.
- Ambiguous regulations and wide discretionary powers of civil servants in the area of land leases, building permits, business licenses, immigration and labor laws encourage corruption, and are hurdles to doing business by drastically delaying development and increasing costs.
- Investment in conservation and in environmentally sound technologies, as well as the employment of additional staff for park management and environmental education programs, raises costs considerably, making it more difficult to compete with other tourist destinations. Favorable tax treatment could encourage such investments, but is not granted in Tanzania.
- To avoid user conflicts, it is easier to preserve a resource that is not being used to a major extent for subsistence or other economic endeavors by local communities.
The pre-operational phase (1991-1998) of CHICOP cost a total of $1.2 million (US). Of this, approximately 50% of the start-up and development costs were funded by the project initiator and main investor, Sibylle Riedmiller; 25% by a variety of small donors for non-commercial components (i.e. baseline surveys, visitor center, ranger training, nature trails, education program); and 25% from volunteers, including individuals and agencies.
Commercial operations opened in 1998. The minimum management costs for running CHICOP are approximately $250,000 (US) annually, which have been fully funded from the proceeds of ecotourism since 2001 (a minimum occupancy rate of 30% is required for this to occur, which has been met and exceeded every year thus far).
Volunteers have helped with a wide range of tasks, such as: conducting baseline surveys and developing monitoring systems, rat eradication, training local fishermen as park rangers in marine science and teaching English language, training hospitality staff, designing nature trails and educational materials, designing the eco-lodge, and installing and repairing photovoltaic and other technical equipment.
Several donor agencies have supported specific projects:
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ): including GTZ German Appropriate Technology Exchange, GTZ Centrum für Internationale Migration und Entwicklung, and German Tropical Forest Stamp Program
The Netherlands Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
World Wildlife Fund Tanzania
Flora and Fauna International
Chicago Zoological Society
Schloss Buchhof International School, Munich, Germany
Educational program funders include:
World Wildlife Fund—Marine Education, Awareness and Biodiversity Program
Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
International Coral Reef Action Network
Southern African Development Community / Regional Environmental Education Program
Chumbe Island Coral Park
Using Resilience Assessments to Inform the Design of Marine Protected Areas in Australia
Keppel Bay Reefs and Islands, Southern Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Keppel Islands are a group of 16 continental islands lying 18 km off the coastal town of Yeppoon, in the southern Great Barrier Reef. Located in the shallow basin to the north of Keppel Bay, the islands are host to a patchwork of fringing reefs in various forms of development. Coral communities are abundant in some locations, with coral cover as high as 70%. Additionally, some of these reefs are dominated by extensive stands of branching Acropora that extend into shallow water.
Reefs within the Keppel Bay area have been affected by a devastating series of climate-related events over the last 25 years. Particularly severe flooding events occurred in 1991 and again in 2010. Both of these events devastated shallow reefs in the area. The mass bleaching events of 1998 and 2002 also impacted local reefs, and in the summer of 2006, most sites experienced at least 30% bleaching-induced mortality of corals due to a highly localized and severe warming event. Furthermore, during the latter half of 2006 an extremely low tide coincided with a heavy rainfall event killing many of the reef-flat corals throughout the reefs of the Keppel Bay. During summer 2009-2010, flooding led to a localized coral bleaching event. The flooding that began in 2010 extended through to May 2011 as a result of the record rainfall in the watershed. This most recent flooding caused 40-100% mortality of corals on the mostly fringing reefs, due to prolonged exposure to the freshwater flood plumes.
Increasing development and the impact of climate change threaten the ability of the reefs to recover from these disturbances. The broad objective and vision of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is to provide for the protection, wise use, understanding and enjoyment of the Great Barrier Reef in perpetuity, through the care and development of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This will involve implementing both routine and reactive strategies to mitigate stressors that interact with those of climate change, in an effort to build resilience of the reef to future threats.
The Keppel Islands and surrounding waters are popular with a range of users. Historically, tourism has mainly focused around Great Keppel Island, and camping is available on seven other islands. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) jointly manage the area. Many of the islands are also National Parks, and together with the Marine Park form part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Although there is increasing residential development along the mainland coast, there is also increasing participation in community groups, including the Capricorn Coast Local Marine Advisory Committee (LMAC), that have interests in the management of local environmental issues.
Resilience is a central goal in the management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and specific resilience-building activities have been part of the management response from the earliest stages of planning and consultation. The Climate Change Group at the GBRMPA developed a resilience assessment and monitoring protocol in late 2007 that was applied to 31 sites within the Keppel Bay region. The initial focus was to test and refine a method for assessing the resilience of reef sites, as a basis for implementing spatial management tools (such as no-anchoring zones). The preliminary resilience assessment involved an identification of reef sites important to local users and assessed them against a suite of broad-scale and local-scale putative resilience indicators derived from preliminary resilience measuring protocols developed by The Nature Conservancy, IUCN Working Group on Climate Change and Coral Reefs, and the GBRMPA. The results of the resilience assessment were integrated into a numerical score that was used to rank sites on the basis of likely resilience to climate change.
Based on the outcomes of the resilience assessment, a ‘Resilience assessment and capacity building’ workshop involving the GBRMPA, QPWS, Traditional Owners, the LMAC, and local stakeholders was held in 2008. This workshop identified candidate sites for the installation of voluntary no-anchoring zones as a mechanism to restrict anchor damage (and hence increase resilience) due to the increase in recreational use of the Keppel Bay region. In late 2008, 16 no-anchoring buoys were installed by QPWS staff at four sites in the Keppel Bay region.
Broad-scale conservation initiatives implemented in recent years have been aimed at restoring and maintaining system resilience. Some initiatives in place in the Keppel Islands include:
- A comprehensive network of marine protected areas in the area.
- The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, which includes an extensive Reef Water Quality Monitoring Program, works with farmers to reduce amounts of fertilizers and sediments entering reef waters.
- Voluntary moratorium (at some locations) on commercial collection of some aquarium fish species, identified through risk assessments as potentially vulnerable to the combined impacts of disturbance (bleaching and flooding) and fishing. This moratorium was lifted in 2013 in response to signs that corals in key collecting areas had returned to a stable condition.
- There is generally low take of herbivorous species by recreational and commercial fishers throughout the Great Barrier Reef, which helps to protect the ability of reef areas like the Keppels to recover after damage.
Community engagement is also a key aspect of this resilience-based management initiative. Local reef users are an important source of knowledge on patterns of use, resource condition and dynamics. Also, effective restoration of ecosystem resilience requires active and willing participation of reef users in efforts to reduce local stressors. Finally, meaningful engagement by the local community in development and implementation of resilience-based management actions also help ensure that social and economic impacts are minimized.
How successful has it been?
Follow-up monitoring assessments in 2010, 2011, and 2012 revealed that the no-anchoring areas appear to be having a positive influence on coral health. Surveys indicate reduced anchor damage inside all four no-anchoring areas from ~80 instances per 1000 m2 in 2008 to high levels of voluntary compliance with the no-anchoring areas.
MPA network success
A 2010 report on the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan found that progress towards water quality targets was good, but that positive impacts on the marine environment are expected to take longer to manifest. There was a reduction in sediment and nutrient discharge in the Fitzroy watershed, which is the source of floodwaters for the Keppel Bay area.
The local community has become more aware of the vulnerability of the reefs in the area due to involvement in the resilience surveys and participation in the process of identifying sites for no-anchoring areas. This has resulted in a general increase in stewardship in the region, as evidenced by increased compliance with the voluntary no-anchoring areas, and strong willingness to assist researchers working in the area. Building on the knowledge about reef conditions and resilience concepts, the local community has developed organized and well-informed campaigns in response to development proposals in the area.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Lessons learned and some key recommendations include:
- Resilience is a relative concept. For example, a site within one reef region having ‘high’ resilience, may have only ‘low’ or ‘medium’ resilience when compared to sites within other regions, and vice versa. This suggests that absolute values such as high and low should be used with caution. A relative approach (higher or lower), applied within a defined context, is likely to be more meaningful in most situations. In general, GRBMPA now ensures that the spatial context for any resilience assessments is clearly defined and communicated.
- Quality standards for monitoring protocols should be developed, to reduce biases introduced by differing perspectives and expertise, therefore improving the use of these data for management decisions. The experience from the Keppels has provided the foundation for subsequent initiatives to formalize protocols for assessing system resilience. This includes a project in the Caribbean to develop a rapid resilience assessment protocol (monitoring multi-tool) for coral reef managers.
- The Keppel Bay project first brought to light the value in using a simple, semi-quantitative approach to assessing resilience, using local and scientific expertise to estimate values for resilience indicator variables. Although coarse, this approach provides sufficient resolution for prioritizing management actions. Subsequent work has helped identify a more manageable set of resilience indicators, and the project in the Caribbean to develop a rapid resilience assessment protocol is designed around use of community members and local knowledge.
- Community engagement at every step of the process was highly beneficial and as such, the no-anchoring zones appear to be having a positive influence on reef health despite being voluntary and non-enforceable.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Australian Institute of Marine Science
James Cook University
University of Queensland
Central Queensland University
Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport, and Racing
Pro-vision Reef Inc.
Biophysical assessment of the reefs of Keppel Bay: a baseline study April 2007, Climate Change Group, GBRMPA (pdf)
Keppel Bay Case Study, GBRMPA (pdf)
Zoning map of the Capricorn section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (pdf)
Levels of atmospheric CO2 continues to rise and threaten coral reefs globally. This is because atmospheric CO2 reacts with water in the ocean to produce carbonic acid which in turn forms bicarbonate ions that react with carbonate ions to produce more bicarbonate ions (reducing availability of carbonate in the ocean). Declines in available carbonate can reduce the calcification of coral reefs and marine organisms. The authors describe the consequences of increased atmospheric CO2 and subsequent warming, as predicted. Even under the best case scenario, ocean acidification will likely cause contractions of carbonate coral reefs if CO2 levels exceed 500 ppm. Although these global threats require changes at a global scale, local factors such as poor water quality, coastal pollution, and overexploitation of certain organisms, should be reduced to lesson the overall stressors to coral reef communities. The authors also suggest that healthy grazing populations should help to improve a coral reefs ability to bounce back from future disturbances; thus, healthy herbivore populations should be managed for explicitly.
Author: Hoegh-Guldberg, O., P.J. Mumby, A.J. Hooten, R.S. Steneck, P. Greenfield, E. Gomez, C.D. Harvell, P.F. Sale, A.J. Edwards, K. Caldeira, N. Knowlton, C.M. Eakin, R. Iglesias-Prieto, N. Muthiga, R.H. Bradbury, A. Dubi, and M.E. Hatziolos
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Science 318(5857): 1737-1742. doi: 10.1126/science.1152509