Hope for the Future of Curaçao’s Coral Reefs

Curaçao is an island (171 square miles) in the southern Caribbean about 35 miles north of Venezuela.
Curaçao is a 171 square mile island in the southern Caribbean, about 35 miles north of Venezuela.

Curaçao is one of the most culturally vibrant places I’ve been – a melting pot of the Caribbean. Papiamentu, the local dialect, reflects this diversity with its inclusion of Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, English, and African languages.

Underwater, Curaçao is similarly diverse and vibrant, with one of the healthiest coral reefs in the Caribbean. But, as my boss Mr. Ted Waitt would say, “It’s not as beautiful as it once was, or as it could be.” The amount of coral has declined by about 50% in the last 20 years, and formerly abundant fish are now scarce.

In late February we launched Blue Halo Curaçao to try to halt and then reverse this trend of marine ecosystem degradation. The Waitt Institute formally partnered with the Government of Curaçao and signed a memorandum of understanding, following unanimous support from the council of ministers and with the approval of the governor.

Dr. Ayana Johnson speaking about the newly launched Blue Halo Curaçao with local press.

Why Curaçao? Many reasons, but most noteworthy: political will, community support, and comparatively healthy reefs. Also, most of my Ph.D. research was conducted there, including extensive socioeconomic interviews, so when I say there is community support I can quantity that: 79 percent of fishers and 91 percent of SCUBA instructors think there should be more management of the reefs and fisheries.

So far, Curaçao’s reefs have simply been very lucky – they are south of the hurricane belt, are consistently flushed with clean water, and the undeveloped north coast and east end of the island serve as de facto protected areas. However, this luck will soon run out —> Read More