Kralendijk – The DCNA convention on Bonaire was recently the backdrop for the start of a new phase of international nature management in the Dutch Caribbean, with a special focus on the future. The recently held convention was a resounding success, with the protected area management organizations from the six islands leading nature organizations and scientific institutions from the Netherlands, local stakeholders and youth nature ambassadors in closer collaboration. Participants joined forces for “our” nature, the most unique ecosystems of the Dutch Kingdom.
The protected area management organizations of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Maarten and Statia are increasingly working together to enact pragmatic conservation actions in the Caribbean part of the Dutch Kingdom. Expertise has been shared, experiences have been exchanged and a great deal has been learned from each other, fulfilling one of the main tasks of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance: the wide-scale collaboration to safeguard nature in the Dutch Caribbean. This in light of the increasing evidence that the issues threatening nature affect all islands jointly and are interconnected including the decline of the coral, the warming of the sea water, the rise in sea level, soil erosion on the islands, the arrival of invasive exotic species, the nuisance caused by stray cattle and the damage to nature caused by unsustainable tourism.
Unfortunately, the list of concerns and risks can even be further extended and the challenges that lie ahead are significant. However, a serious basis for action has been established during this convention and all parties have set their sight on a joint approach for conservation management This approach has been given more substance through strategic workshops facilitated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-NL), Bird Protection Netherlands and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN-NL), which all protected area management organizations and the DCNA board attended. This highlights another main task of DCNA: bringing the parks into contact with international stakeholders in the field of nature protection and conservation. The Dutch Caribbean Bird Conservation Work Group was therefore established during the Convention.
A common vision and direction have been established and tasks based on a common direction have been assigned. The following applies to all islands: investing in nature and the environment is not a luxury, but a crucial to the future social and economic well-being of island rresidents.
Valuable nature lessons for the youth
During the DCNA convention there was also special attention for the youth of the six Dutch Caribbean islands. From the youth nature programs of Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba, STINAPA Bonaire, CARMABI on Curaçao, Saba Conservation Foundation, Saba Nature Education (SNE) and Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, four teenagers per island have been brought together. Thanks to the co-financing of the World Wide Fund for Nature, Rabobank and STINAPA, a weekend-long program was organized with overnight stays, field excursions and workshops in the Washington Slagbaai National Park specially organized for the younger generation. It was a unique weekend where participants experienced and learned a lot about Bonaire’s nature, corals, birds and plastic pollution, which they will remember for the rest of their lives. The young nature ambassadors will take this knowledge and experience with them and will spread that knowledge on all six islands with the support of the local nature management organizations. Youth participation will become a permanent part of the annual DCNA program for the six islands. We want to thank everybody that helped organizing this amazing event, and the Warehouse Bonaire for generously sponsoring with groceries.
Coral, NWO and (citizen) science workshops biologists
Biologists from the local nature organizations on all six Dutch Caribbean islands also had the opportunity to get first hand expert knowledge from coral restoration expert Francesca Viridis of Reef Renewal Bonaire, coral scientist Erik Meesters of Wageningen University & Research, (citizen) science platform Observation.org expert Hans Verdaat and Arjan de Groene of the World Wildlife Fund in the Netherlands. The knowledge that participating biologists will take back to their respective islands is invaluable. Additionally, important steps have been taken to enhance the working relationship between the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), scientists and local actors. The day ended with a well-attended public lecture about the status of the coral reefs.
After a difficult period, DCNA shows with the new developments that it forms a unique network of leading and cross-disciplinary organizations, and a refocus on the actual conservation needs of the parks on the six islands is now a fact. In the coming months there will be a lot of hard work to get the action plan going.
Next steps DCNA convention
One of the outcomes of the DCNA convention is that several joint statements, presently in draft, will soon be submitted to local and Dutch governments. The statements concern the conditions that are necessary to safeguard nature management for the future on all six islands.