Nov 162015
 

“If current rates of temperature rise continue, the ocean will become too warm for coral reefs by 2050.”  source, Living Blue Planet Report 2015, WWF

A Healthy Fijian Reef

A Healthy Fijian Reef

For those of us that spend considerable time diving the world’s oceans & reefs, this prediction is depressing in the extreme.  Yet it is only one consequence of our ongoing negligence when it comes to the management of our most precious asset on Earth.

Our oceans are under assault from a variety of stressors, including plastic pollution, overfishing and unsustainable tourism.  Many (if not most) of these threats are man-made.  It’s time we took a serious look at how we can undo the damage caused by our own drive to commoditize every square inch of our seas.

As a diver and conservationist, I was already aware of the gravity of these issues.  And still, I was left shocked after reading WWF’s Living Blue Planet Report.  The good news is that there is much we can do to change course and restore the health of our oceans.  Change starts locally, and it starts with you.  Even if you don’t dive, sail, swim, surf or otherwise enjoy watersports, your daily living and well-being are tied to our oceans in almost unimaginable ways.  Please take the time to read the report and learn about what you can do to help protect 75% of our planet.

Namena Marine Reserve, Fiji

Namena Marine Reserve, Fiji

 

 

 

 

Aug 192015
 

A large part of Bonaire’s tourists arrive on the island with dive gear in tow, ready to jump in and explore the reefs. Some come for the surfing – windsurfing or kitesurfing that is.  And others arrive on a massive ship, take part in an activity or two, and leave by sunset the same day.  One thing they all have in common is an agenda – a mental list of the many things they want to do during their short stay in paradise.

What often strikes me is the frequency by which these land-based tourists inquire about volunteer opportunities on the island.  Some stay for only one or two weeks, yet they selflessly give a precious block of their vacation time to help one of the island’s many causes.

With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of organizations that welcome tourists who seek to donate their time.

 

Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire

The mission of Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire (CRF) is to develop affordable, effective strategies for protecting and restoring the shallow water population of staghorn and elkhorn corals along the coastlines of Bonaire and Klein Bonaire.  In order to accomplish this mission, volunteer scuba divers are always needed.  Prior to volunteering, divers must become a certified Padi Coral Restoration Diver.  The course is designed with tourists in mind, and it’s both educational and fun (I’ve taken the course, and I wholeheartedly recommend it).

Contacts-

Email – info@crfbonaire

Phone – (+599) 717-5080 ext. 528

Facebook

Coral Restoration Foundation nursery at Klein Bonaire

Coral Restoration Foundation nursery at Klein Bonaire

Cleaning the algae from a tree in the coral nursery

Cleaning the algae from a tree in the coral nursery

Divers in the coral nursery on Klein Bonaire

Divers in the coral nursery on Klein Bonaire

 

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) has been protecting Bonaire’s endangered sea turtles since 1991. Their mission is to “connect people to sea turtle conservation in ways that inspire caring for nature”.  Among the ways that tourists can help are to participate in fishing line cleanups and beach cleanups.  For more ways to volunteer, visit http://www.bonaireturtles.org/act

Contacts-

www.facebook.com/bonaireturtles

Local Hotline – 780-0433

Phone – (+599) 717-2225

 

Klein Bonaire Reforestation

In 2006, STINAPA initiated a reforestation project on Klein Bonaire, with the goal of restoring the island’s once-dense flora.  Volunteers are always needed to help care for the young plants and trees.

Contacts –

Email – ebeukenboom@hotmail.com

Facebook private message to Elsmarie Beukenboom

A young plant receives water on Klein Bonaire

A young plant receives water on Klein Bonaire

Volunteers hard at work at the Klein Bonaire base camp

Volunteers hard at work at the Klein Bonaire base camp

 

Quarterly Clean-up Dives Hosted by Dive Friends Bonaire

Dive Friends Bonaire hosts a clean-up dive on a quarterly basis.  Scuba divers can volunteer to remove trash and fishing line from a rotation of sites in downtown Kralendijk.  As a thank you to the volunteers, a barbecue is held that evening at the Dive Friends location at Hamlet Oasis.

The next 2015 clean-up dive will be held on October 17th.

Contacts-

Email – info@divefriendsbonaire.com

Facebook – Dive Friends Bonaire

 

Animal Shelter Bonaire

The animal shelter of Bonaire is where the island’s homeless cats and dogs find a loving refuge.  Animal-loving volunteers work tirelessly to see that the animals are well cared-for, vaccinated, spayed or neutered and provided with necessary health care.  The shelter is always looking for volunteers and donations of cash, food and supplies.

Contacts – 

Web form

Facebook – www.facebook.com/animalshelterbonaire

Phone- +0599-717-4989

The Shelter's new Cat Palace

The Shelter’s new Cat Palace

The cats enjoying play time

The cats enjoying their new palace

Have you volunteered during your trip to Bonaire?  Do you know of other Bonaire-based organizations that welcome tourist volunteers?

Apr 272015
 

In my Part I of this series, I touched on the mission of Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire (CRF) and promised to show you how the restoration work is carried out underwater.

But first, I think it’s important to explain the meaning of coral restoration.  Simply put, coral restoration is the transplantation of nursery-raised coral fragments to needy reef sites where they are secured to the seabed with marine epoxy or tie wraps.

The coral nursery is the epicenter of activity for coral restoration.  “Coral Trees” are constructed using PVC pipes and fiberglass rods.  Then, coral fragments are hung from the tree on monofilament line.  A tree can hold as many as 160 coral fragments (all of the same coral species- staghorn or elkhorn in this case).

Divers in the coral nursery on Klein Bonaire

Divers in the coral nursery on Klein Bonaire

Here a diver prunes the coral.  The new fragment will be affixed to a new spot.

Here a diver prunes the coral. The new fragment will be affixed to a new spot.

Pruning the coral

Pruning the coral

A diver affixing coral fragments to a tree

A diver affixing coral fragments to a tree

Monofilament line for affixing coral to the tree

Monofilament line for affixing coral to the tree

Each coral fragment will be tied and affixed to monofilament line and hung separately on the tree

Each coral fragment will be tied and affixed to monofilament line and hung separately on the tree

A volunteer diver hangs newly pruned coral fragments to a tree

A volunteer diver hangs newly pruned coral fragments to a tree

New volunteer divers learning to hang coral

New volunteer divers learning to hang coral

Staghorn coral fragments affixed to a coral tree

Staghorn coral fragments affixed to a coral tree

Once the corals have been affixed to a tree, regular maintenance is needed for optimal health and growth potential.  The tree “branches” and the monofilament line both require frequent cleaning.

Closeup of monofilament line before cleaning.  Notice the algae build up.

Closeup of monofilament line before cleaning. Notice the algae build up.

Here I am cleaning the tree branches to remove algae build up

Cleaning the monofilament lines to remove algae build up

cleaning coral 2

A diver cleans the tree trunk, removing algae and other build up

A diver cleans a tree trunk, removing algae and other build up

Cleaning a tree branch

Cleaning a tree branch

Diver tending to a tree

Diver tending to a tree

Diver at work cleaning tree

In addition to cleaning the tree, predators and fire coral must be removed as part of its routine care.

A diver removes fire coral that has grown on a tree branch

A diver removes fire coral that has grown on a tree branch

Once the nursery-raised corals have grown to the appropriate size, they are carefully transported to a specially selected site for attachment to the sea floor.  They are then tagged and monitored routinely.

In Bonaire, both tourists and residents alike are encouraged to volunteer with CRF.  In order to volunteer, you must be a certified open water diver, and you must complete the PADI Coral Restoration Diver specialty course.  The course is offered weekly at Buddy Dive Resort, and it is designed so that tourists can have both a fun and educational volunteer vacation.  For more information, please visit Buddy Dive’s website or send an email to info@crfbonaire.org.

Steve and I are very excited to be involved with this organization, and we think it will have a positive and noticeable impact on the health of the coral reefs which surround Bonaire.  We would like to thank Francesca Virdis, the project leader for CRF Bonaire, for helping us become “coral lovers” and for her dedication to Bonaire’s reefs.

 

Important notes

-You may notice that some divers participating in coral restoration activities are wearing gloves.  This is due to the potential for coral cuts or fire coral injuries.  Recreational divers are not permitted to wear gloves on Bonaire.

-Divers volunteering with Coral Restoration Foundation are specially trained in handling coral.  In keeping with good diving practices, it is not OK to touch coral or any other marine species on recreational dives.

Apr 072015
 

Steve and I recently became PADI certified Coral Restoration Divers.  This means that we are now qualified to volunteer with the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) Bonaire.

CRF is a non-profit group “dedicated to creating offshore nurseries and restoration programs for threatened coral species.”  In Bonaire, CRF focuses on growing, harvesting and transplanting staghorn and elkhorn coral.  The PADI Coral Restoration Diver course was created to allow volunteer divers (both tourists and residents alike) to participate in this exciting program.

Elkhorn coral fragment in the nursery

Elkhorn coral fragment in the nursery

Young staghorn coral in the nursery

Young staghorn coral in the nursery

In 2012, CRF built the first coral nurseries on Bonaire and Klein Bonaire.  Today, Buddy Dive Resort and Harbour Village Resort sponsor and house the main nurseries.

A diver swims through the Klein Bonaire nursery

A diver swims through the Klein Bonaire nursery

coral restoration foundation bonaire

A staghorn coral tree in the Klein Bonaire nursery

A staghorn coral tree in the Klein Bonaire nursery

So now that you know a bit about the mission of CRF Bonaire, the next post will get to the exciting part – the underwater work in action!

Links

Coral Restoration Foundation – Main location based in the Florida Keys

Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire

Buddy Dive Resort

Harbour Village Resort

Contact Information – Learn more or become a volunteer

info@crfbonaire.org