On Tuesday, May 9th, 2023, the Minister for Climate and Energy, Drs. Rob Jetten, and his delegation visited Bonaire’s mangrove forest at Lac Bay. He was received by the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) and the Mangrove Maniacs Foundation that gave him a tour. He learned about the forest and the mangrove restoration taking place as well as the seagrass and coral restoration efforts by STINAPA. The Minister also got into the mud helping the volunteers with opening a channel.
Mangrove ecosystems are very important for biodiversity and strengthen coastal areas against extreme weather conditions. They are important for tourism and fishery, and they are true carbon storage champions. Together with sea grass and wetlands, mangroves can play an important role in nature-based solutions to climate change, both in adaptation and mitigation strategies.
The mangrove forest on Bonaire, the largest of the Kingdom, is struggling. Erosion and siltation cause bad water quality – including high salinity. This has resulted in continuing die offs of mangrove trees. Based on fisherman’s knowledge, satellite imagery, and local research, the Mangrove Maniacs open up channels to restore water circulation. A tough job, hence, their name ‘Maniacs’. In the last 10 years, the volunteers have already maintained more than 3km of channels by hand.
The Minister for Climate and Energy, Drs. Rob Jetten, is co-hosting the Caribbean Climate & Energy Conference on Aruba from the 10th to the 12th of May. Before traveling there, he visited Bonaire. On the 9th of May 2023, the Mangrove Maniacs and the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) escorted the Minister and his delegation on a tour through Bonaire’s mangrove forest in Lac Bay. During this tour, the Minister and the two organizations discussed the importance of mangrove forests, the stress the trees experience, and the need for mangrove and seagrass restoration. Not just for Bonaire, but also for the other five Dutch Caribbean islands.
Globally, research is being conducted into how mangroves, sea grass, coral and wetlands can play a role in tackling the climate crisis. Through the local park management organizations and many other local NGOs in conservation, the Dutch Caribbean islands already possess a lot of knowledge and expertise on these ecosystems, how they can be restored, and how they can be used in climate mitigation and adaptation. The DCNA emphasized, however, that capacity building and structural financing is necessary and that cooperation between and with the six Dutch Caribbean islands is key.
Besides the fruitful conversations between the Minister and his delegation, the Mangrove Maniacs, and the DCNA, the Minister also got his hands ‘dirty’ while helping the volunteers of the Mangrove Maniacs with opening a channel.