Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire 2021 Annual Report
As I compose this message in 2022, reflecting on Reef Renewal Bonaire’s accomplishments during 2021, and during its first ten years of operation – I find it impossible not to be captivated by the impact that RRFB’s work has had on the shores of Bonaire and Klein Bonaire. For the diver and snorkeler, this work is now easy to see - acres of restored Staghorn corals, stands of majestic Elkhorns thriving and spawning, and providing habitat for a teeming biodiversity of reef life. If you have been lucky enough to tour the Jeff Davis Memorial dive site, just a few yards off Bonaire’s northern coast, you get a sense of what years of hard work and actively managed, successful restoration work can achieve on Bonaire. When RRFB started, these accomplishments were the dream of our Board of Directors, and specifically of our founding President, Martien Van der Valk. As I assume the role of President in 2022 from Martien, I want to take this opportunity to thank him for his hard work, his broad vision, his get-things-done attitude, and for his ability to assemble the diverse team that has executed on behalf of Bonaire’s coral reefs for the past decade. From the beginning, Martien insisted that this vision could not succeed if it was the initiative of a single dive operation or resort. Rather, the whole of Bonaire needed to embrace the restoration vision for RRFB to succeed. Today, RRFB boasts more than 9 dive operators and resort partners who work together on the mission of protecting, restoring, and giving the reefs of Bonaire a helping hand. Together with the Bonaire government, hundreds of volunteer divers and donors, the Bonaire Tourism Board, STINAPA, DCNA, WWF, and other key island partners, the work of RRFB can truly be categorized as a whole, island-wide initiative. Martien helped define RRFB’s “Secret Sauce” – focus on practical goals that are informed by science but made successful and sustainable by a powerful engine of cooperation between local businesses, government, NGOs, volunteers, and the dive community. As we move forward into 2022 and our next decade, we are setting some very ambitious goals, but we will be guided by Martien’s recipe and his standards as we move forward. Our second secret – in this case, our Secret Weapon - is our Chief Operating Officer, Francesca Virdis. From day one of RRFB, she has been making RRFB’s ambitious vision a reality. She has tirelessly led RRFB’s efforts, pushing it forward in the water, in the lab, and with the scientific community. You will see the impressive results of Francesca’s and her team’s work in this report on our activities in 2021 – but know that RRFB is just getting started. Yes, we will grow more and get more corals in the water but are also looking to significantly scale our outplanting efforts, to push restoration science with new partnerships and new techniques (including building Bonaire’s first full-featured coral Wet Lab), and to continue the push to make Bonaire the global Center of Excellence for coral reef restoration. Thank you to all our partners, donors, and volunteers. As a team, we will continue to execute for Bonaire’s coral reefs and their biodiversity.
David J. Fishman President, RRFB Board of Directors