Identifying the cultural value of Bonaire’s marine resources

The island of Bonaire in the lesser Antillean islands is economically dependent on the tourism industry. A majority of tourists who visit the island are scuba divers, drawn by Bonaire‘s coral reefs. Increased development, tourism, fishing, and pollution threaten Bonaire‘s marine resources. Survey questionnaires and oral interviews were conducted to determine the interactions between the inhabitants of Bonaire and marine resources, specifically the coral reefs. Four sub-cultures (fishermen, divers, researchers, and others) were identified through their use of marine resources. These subcultures were asked to identify major threats to the reefs and changes in the reefs over the past decade. Overall, 81% of Bonairean residents were able to identify changes to the reef over the past decade, and 77% of residents were able to identify at least one threat to the reef. The freelisted responses were analyzed to determine how sub-cultures interact with marine resources, and although the nature of interactions varied between sub-cultures, the threats listed were similar, identifying a shared communal knowledge of reef ecological importance. Through the advent of the Bonaire Marine Park and the increased access to scuba technology, the Bonairean culture has adapted to include the reefs as part of the cultural identity. Residents on Bonaire have a vested interest in the preservation of Bonaire‘s marine resources. Public education and increased access to research conducted on the island is suggested to promote community engagement with marine resource management.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science XIII (Spring 2013)19: 23-32 from CIEE Bonaire.

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