New Coral Reef Breeding Nursery on Bonaire

A brand new, innovative floating coral fish breeding nursery is being tested at the Dive Friends Sand Dollar location on Bonaire.  This project, led by the startup company RoffaReefs, hopes to improve local coral reef fish populations to enhance the overall coral reef health for the Bonaire National Marine Park.

RoffaReef Floating Nursery. Photo credit: Casper Douma

Coral reefs are extraordinarily dynamic yet fragile ecosystems.  From the microorganisms working to build the reef’s foundation to the more recognizable reef inhabitants at the top of the food chain, this diverse ecosystem faces an incalculable number of threats. It is widely known that globally, reefs are struggling to keep up with the changes due to climate change and increased human activity. Sander van Lopik of RoffaReefs has a unique approach to help strengthen coral reefs in the future.

Photo credit: Casper Douma

Floating Fish Nursery

As part of the larger World Wide Fund for Nature the Netherlands (WWF-NL) “Dutch Caribbean Marine Strategy”, RoffaReefs has designed a system to breed marine fish larvae both in controlled aquarium environments and in the wild. Founded in the Rotterdam Zoo Diergaarde Blijdorp, RoffaReefs will begin testing its fish breeding system in the Bonaire National Marine Park through the use of a floating fish nursery. The goal of this project is to strengthen the overall health of the coral reefs by bolstering the local fish populations. Reef fish help maintain balance throughout the coral reefs as herbivorous fish graze on algae which would otherwise smother the coral while carnivorous fish aid in keeping overall populations in balance.

The floating fish nursery is being tested at the Dive Friends Sand Dollar location along the western coast of Bonaire. Throughout the pilot study, data will be collected to aid in improving the breeding system for the next series of trials. This research is a collaborative effort involving WWF-NL, the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), STINAPA, TU Delft, Diergaarde Blijdorp and KKV lijn in water B.V.

DCNA office lab. Photo credit: Casper Douma

DCNA-office lab

During the project, the researchers have their laboratory set-up at the DCNA office on Bonaire. Here, they are bringing fish eggs to determine the species. The goal is to develop an automatic imagery recognition tool to recognize the species with the ultimate goal to develop a “fish spawning calendar” so we know when and where fish species reproduce during the year.


Projects, such as the RoffaReefs fish nursery, can contribute to healthier coral reefs which is important amongst others for local fisheries, tourism, and to mitigate the effects of sea level rise and worsening storm conditions.

Stay up to date on the projects latest developments by following along with the RoffaReefs Facebook page or by signing up for the DCNA monthly newsletter BioNews (

Photo credit: Casper Douma




Published in BioNews 59

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