Delta Plan for islands’ coral reefs presented

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A report from The Daily Herald.

The Dutch Caribbean coral reefs featured prominently during a mini symposium in Den Helder on Friday, organised by aquatic ecology and water management expert Prof. dr. Han Lindeboom of Wageningen University and Research WUR.

In honour of his retirement, Prof. dr. Lindeboom organised a mini symposium on the future and protection of the sea for future generations prior to his farewell speech. During the symposium, Lindeboom, who is also connected to Netherlands Institute for Maritime Research NIOZ, presented his Delta Plan to save the Dutch Caribbean coral reefs and to arrive at a sustainable balance between economy and ecology.

Fact is that the coral reefs are under severe threat worldwide. Fact is also that the small economies of the Caribbean islands very much depend on tourism, which in turn depends on a healthy sea and the life therein. The dying coral reefs will have an adverse impact on tourism.

The Kingdom is facing a giant challenge to save the coral reefs of the Dutch Caribbean islands which are threatened by pollution from solid waste and waste water, coastal construction, over-exploitation, erosion and climate change. Much of the coral reefs close to the coast will have died in the next 15 years if no substantial measures are taken.

That is why a Delta Plan is needed, a comprehensive plan that encompasses improving of the water quality, strengthening of the local economies, combating erosion, the harmonious use of space, sustainable fisheries and the support of nature management, both on land and at sea.

The Delta Plan requires the active involvement of all governments in the Kingdom, according to Lindeboom, who for more than 30 years has been an advocate to protect both the Caribbean Sea, as well as the North Sea.

A task force would see to the execution of the Delta Plan which requires adequate financial support to achieve sustainable solutions that also contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN).

Lindeboom especially called on the Dutch Government, as the biggest partner in the Kingdom, to get moving on this matter. “A lot can be done on the islands, but it turns out to be very difficult to get things off the ground. Too often, we don’t take that last step. We are not coordinating sufficiently, and we are not doing things effectively,” he said in an interview on Radio 1.

“I have visited all six islands twice in 2017. There are enough people who want to achieve this goal. We must involve the local populations and stimulate the governments to accomplish the Delta Plan to save the corals. If we don’t do that, it will not only be to the detriment of the corals, but the local economies will also hurt because tourism will collapse. We need to do this for the future generations,” he said.

Lindeboom shared two positive points: very healthy corals were recently discovered near the Saba Bank where the sea water is cooler, and the reefs suffer much less from pollution and climate change, and the recent findings of American ecologist Jeremy Jackson, an emeritus professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and senior scientist emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution.

“Professor Jackson, who has been working with coral reefs his whole life, thinks that the corals in the Caribbean are a little more resistant to climate change than those in South-East Asia. That is a very interesting story we can make use of to save the Caribbean corals. We should grab that golden opportunity within the Kingdom,” said Lindeboom on Radio 1.

Lindeboom specifically mentioned his recent visit to St. Eustatius where he was pleasantly surprised by the solar park, which generates electricity for the island. He noted that the solar park was not only hurricane-proof, but it also contained a system to catch rainwater and that underneath the panels vegetables could be grown. He called it a “fantastic project.”

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