Lac Bay, Bonaire is the most important mangrove and seagrass area of Bonaire and has been undergoing steady ecological decline in the last decades. Based on an initial assessment of conservation management issue and potential solutions, as, conducted by IMARES in June 2010, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) asked IMARES to return to Bonaire to work with Stinapa Bonaire to choose narrower priorities and jointly make a short-list of topics as a working document for cooperation and action. In the beginning of September, site visits and discussions were held in Bonaire with the manager of Lac Bay and various stakeholders to identify and agree on priority issues for action. This working report gives the results of that visit.
Four action spear point projects were identified, based on urgency and feasibility based on local Bonaire and Dutch IMARES expertise. The projects are as follows:
1. Mangrove restoration demonstration pilot study
The basic objective is to reestablish water depth and tidal connection in high marsh salt areas that have resulted from infilling with sediment, and restore them as effective mangrove and low marsh fish nursery habitats. By collecting baseline data before the restoration activities take place, it will be possible to monitor and compare and assess changes in fauna and flora at the restoration sites and hence evaluate the effectiveness of the measures implemented.
2. Baseline ecological study of the zonation of aquatic communities
The goal is to complete a scientific description of Lac’s aquatic community zonation as it exists at landscape level today. This will provide the framework against which large-scale community change and effectiveness of mitigation measures can be monitored and evaluated.
3. Recreational and land use survey for Lac Bay and its catchment area
The goal is to identify user problems and potential solutions by mapping and assessing user density and pressures in Lac
4. Study of avifaunal habitat use of Lac Bay
The goal is to identify bird habitat use problems and potential solutions by assessing habitat use of Lac by birds during the migratory season.
(A fifth project for implementation by Stinapa and Dienst LVV was identified)
5. Lac mangrove channel clearing project
Re-establish water flow from the Bakuna dam to Lac using a pipe system.
The Lac mangrove channel clearing project of Stinapa was reviewed and judged to be valuable and important. The baseline study of zonation of aquatic communities (project 2) is urgently needed in this respect to allow short and long-term evaluation of this project which need to become a structural part of Lac Bay management. Routine mangrove channel maintenance was identified as ideal work for involvement of Bonaire youths and volunteers, to rekindle public involvement in caring for Lac and its rich natural and cultural-historical heritage.
A project plan is presented by which all four projects can be delivered by December 2012. These projects can count on government and broad community support. In this all, Stinapa indicated to be willing to provide basic free lodging to interns and scientists at their science accommodations at the entrance of Washington-Slagbaai National Park. The ability and willingness of IMARES to recruit and guide students and interns for these projects was an important selection criterion to help restrain total project costs. The action spear points will, nevertheless, require funding as well as permits from the Island Government of Bonaire. With LNV various funding options were reviewed and discussed, and the need for permits was discussed with DROB (Dienst Ruimtelijke Ontwikkeling en Beheer) Bonaire. DROB envisioned few problems with the required permits. The visit was concluded by the joint resolve to work out ways to maintain momentum and proceed towards the implementation phase.