Nature Policy Plan for The Caribbean Netherlands 2013-2017
Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius form the Dutch Caribbean within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a comprehensive sovereign state made up of four countries of which the Netherlands is one. Aruba, Curaçao, and St. Maarten each form one of the three remaining constituent countries, while the other islands, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba, are Dutch overseas public bodies and as such are part of the country of the Netherlands. Collectively these three islands are known as the Caribbean Netherlands and are the focus of the present Nature Policy Plan. Where possible, this Nature Policy Plan will be implemented in line with the Nature Policy Plans of the other constituent countries of the Kingdom.
The Dutch Caribbean islands show great biological diversity and support hundreds of endemic species and ecosystems some of which are globally threatened. These ecosystems are a source of clean water, food, coastal protection and medicine. Nature on the islands is vulnerable; populations are o en small on account of the size of the islands and the loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitats. The whole region is threatened by invasive species and the e ects of climate change. Ecosystems range from arid, cactus dominated landscapes, dry forests and evergreen limestone vegetation, to tropical rainforests and el n forests. The surrounding waters and coastal zones are rich with mangrove forests, seagrass beds and coral reefs.
The waters surrounding the islands are rich in marine biodiversity. The Exclusive Economic Zone around Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten encompasses the entire Saba Bank, which is the largest submerged coral atoll in the Atlantic Ocean and has some of the richest marine biodiversity in the Caribbean Sea. New species of sh, coral and algae that have never been described before are discovered here on a regular basis. The deep reef and deep-sea environment around the islands are as of yet essentially unexplored, but appear to be rich in species.
The evaluation of the Nature Policy Plan for the Netherlands Antilles was used as a starting point for the present plan. An assessment was made of the e ectiveness of its policy objectives and actions for 2000-2010 and the additional actions required. The limitations in terms of capacity, funding and political support turned out to be the chief challenges for implementation. It also became clear that there were new threats, such as climate change, which has a major impact on coral bleaching, and hurricanes and invasive species also posed a danger.
In accordance with the request from the Dutch Parliament, the Minister of Economic A airs decided that the new Nature Policy Plan had to be developed in close cooperation with the stakeholders in the Dutch Caribbean. Stakeholders included the Island Governments, nature conservation organisations (Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance), the business sector, the tourist sector, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, and the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. This ensured that the plan would enjoy a broad base of support.
Policy Objective and Function
The Nature Policy Plan 2013-2017 provides a framework for sound management and the wise use of nature in the Caribbean Netherlands. The Plan’s objective is to ensure that nature on the Caribbean islands is used in a sustainable way so that the island’s ecosystems and ecosystem services can be preserved.
It is intended as a basis for sound decision-making and the allocation of resources and funds. It embraces clear strategic objectives indicating the areas to be focused on for the adequate protection of nature. It provides a framework for the island speci c nature policy plans to be drawn up by the islands’ governing bodies.
The Plan is rooted in the international agreements, conventions and regional agreements the Kingdom has commi ed itself to and in national legislation on nature and biodiversity in the Caribbean Netherlands. The Nature Policy Plan is not concerned with the protection of species and areas not subject to international agreements.
It was designed as a key instrument to promote socio-economic and human wellbeing and encourage the integration of nature conservation in the various public and socio-economic sectors, ge ing nature conservation into the mainstream of society. All sectors in society depend on a whole range of goods and services produced by ecosystems. Conversely all sectors in society also have an impact on biodiversity. Many of them could pro t substanti- ally from be er integration of nature conservation in economic development, education, welfare, sport, art and culture.
In decision-making for the Dutch Caribbean the link between nature and the economy is crucial. Nature is a vital resource for economic development. The quality of the decision- making process will be improved by pu ing in place operational objectives for the wise use of nature and developing an evaluation framework to weigh the impacts of existing and planned activities on nature and the economy.
Sound nature management requires an active approach to the protection of areas and species, a focus on communication, education and awareness, active research and monito- ring, and interaction with stakeholders. Additionally, it requires an integrated approach to address serious anthropogenic threats such as the introduction of invasive species and climate change, as well as addressing the need for the rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems.
A concerted e ort is necessary to enable successful nature management in the Dutch Caribbean. The Nature Policy Plan is an instrument to ensure the continuous commitment and involvement of stakeholders and the recognition of their various roles and responsibilities.
The present Plan does not focus on environmental aspects such as water quality, waste management and soil protection. These issues will be addressed in the Environmental Policy Plan for Caribbean Netherlands and the separate environmental policy plans of the islands themselves, which naturally will be tied in with the present Plan.