BES Parks Funding at Stake

BONAIRE — With five newly designated National Parks as of last week, the Island Governments of Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius are now finalizing their project lists for the €10 million funding allocation for nature that the Dutch government has reserved for 2013.

The Director General with Saba Conservation Foundation officially establishing the Saba Marine Park and the Saba Bank as Dutch National Parks.

The non-profit nature conservation community, including the park management organisations, which has taken the lead on nature conservation on the islands for years is awaiting an opportunity to offer input.

“This is a particularly sensitive time for nature conservation on the islands,” said Kalli De Meyer, Executive Director of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, a nonprofit organization that provides a united voice for the conservation organizations of the Dutch Caribbean. “There has been little or no dialogue between the Island Governments and the local nature conservation organisations and park management bodies who have successfully managed island conservation efforts for decades.”

The Director General of Nature and Regional Policy for the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, Annemie Burger, last week called for cooperation among local and national entities working to improve nature conservation on the islands. Her remarks were made at DCNA headquarters to a packed room of conservationists, including representatives of STINAPA Bonaire, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, Echo, Project Green Bonaire, and Coral Restoration.

“Our ecosystem and our economy can gain by people and a society which care for the ecosystem,” said Director General Annemie Burger. “What you do as NGOs is extremely important in that process. Cooperation between NGOs, stakeholders, knowledge institutions and the government [is essential]. We as a government have a responsibility and a role, and I will do my utmost to make it possible for you to do your work.”

De Meyer pointed out that the NGOs’ work has led to healthier reefs around the Dutch islands than in many parts of the Caribbean. Coral reefs are facing the cumulative effects of overfishing and development, she noted, and the islands’ ecosystems are intrinsic to the physical and economic well being of every resident.

Burger concurred in her remarks. “It is my belief that economy and ecology are two sides of the same coin,” she said. “A sustainable economy is impossible if we don’t preserve our ecosystem.”

De Meyer said that using the NGOs’ experience and supporting their work are key to continuing that preservation.

“We were heartened by this show of support from the Director General,” De Meyer said. “Based on the Director General’s comments, we are now very hopeful that our perspectives and input will be respected and will find a place in this process of allocating funds for nature conservation in 2013.”

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