The current state of Cuaçao's Coral Reefs
The coral reefs of Curaçao represent one of the best reef systems left in the Caribbean at present. However, this does not mean that these reef systems are doing well. On the contrary: increased coastal development has resulted in pollution of near shore waters through the release of (untreated) sewage, nutrients and chemicals and overfishing represent some of the factors that have contributed to a near 20% decrease in the abundance of corals on the island in the last 25 years. Fish communities have been impacted similarly through uncontrolled fishing practices and Curacao presently holds an intermediate rank among Caribbean nations in terms of fish abundance. Coral reef systems provide the foundation for the island’s tourism and fishing industry and protect near shore developments against storms. Furthermore, healthy reefs prevent the rise of disease-causing bacteria in near shore waters preventing people, locals and visitors alike, from becoming ill. At the current rate of decline, coral reefs will have virtually disappeared around Curacao around the year 2060. Presently, it is estimated that Curaçaoan reefs bring in at least $1.6 million per kilometer per year through revenue from tourism, fishing and coastal protection alone. The decline of reefs will thus come with severe economic consequences for a recently formed country that finds itself still in a position to avert such catastrophe.
This report summarizes some of the information currently available to illustrate a potentially dark future for Curaçaoan reefs. Hopefully this report helps to illustrate some of the factors contributing to this decline so directed management strategies can be designed and put in place in order to maintain a unique aspect of Curaçao that makes it stand out in the region: its coral reefs.