To what extent are marine conservation and economic development reconcilable in Bonaire National Marine Park?
Bonaire National Marine Park (BNMP) is a marine protected area (MPA) surrounding Bonaire, a small coral island in the Caribbean. Its purpose is to protect the marine environment from increasing human pressures, while still allowing for sustainable use. MPA effectiveness depends on community support and legitimacy, which is often gained through stakeholder participation. However, BNMP faces governance challenges because bringing state, market and civil society actors together is difficult due to their conflicting interests. This study examined to what extent nature conservation and economic development are mutually exclusive or reconcilable in BNMP by applying the image analysis framework by Jentoft et al. (2012) to a case study. According to the authors, the framework maps how stakeholders perceive MPA governance and is a tool for identifying governance challenges. The analysis revealed several governance challenges for BNMP, such as outdated or ambiguous policies, lack of a master plan for the island, and enforcement issues. However, the analysis gave no indication of the governance challenges’ significance. Additionally, this study set out to assess to what extent image analysis could be applied to this case study as it differs from the case studies it was developed for. Research showed that one of the biggest differences was the type of stakeholders involved, resulting in the need for adjusting the framework. Because all stakeholders recognized that nature and economy are interdependent, the study concludes that conservation and development are reconcilable. The extent to which marine conservation and economic development are reconcilable depends on the marine park’s ability to balance legitimacy and efficiency issues. As the analysis revealed governance challenges but did not provide solutions, the study recommends future research to focus on finding solutions for the challenges that BNMP faces.