Carrying capacity vs. usage, re: Bonaire

Melissa Keyes mekvinga at
Mon Feb 10 15:11:03 EST 2003

Hello Listers,

  Concerning recreational divers on Bonaire in microcosm, I have been diving
these reefs daily since mid-August 2002.  The damage done by thousands of
recreational divers cannot compare to the daily damage done by the local
fishermen who are liscensed to drop big rocks on the coral as anchors for
their little boats.  They do not use the old bent-rebar anchors, which cause
much more damage, but they systematically go along the entire reef system,
moving from place to place by lifting their rocks, or cinderblocks, and
letting them bounce along the coral to the next stop. Or sometimes they
actually pull the rocks out of the water onto their boats, which is hard
work, as these are twenty pound monsters, not pebbles.  And when the
?-quarter inch cotton string that's their anchor line breaks, or gets
tangled, whoops, there it goes into the sea, strangling and scraping, unseen
to them, everything it catches on.

  I've wished I could stay in fourty-fifty-sixty feet of water on Scuba for
the entire morning to video and document just one day's damage one fisherman
does.  I bet if the broken and upturned stony corals, 'soft' corals, and
sponges could be quantified into year's growth destroyed, it would be in the
low hundreds for each day's catch, which soon will be nothing but Damsel

  A standard piece of dive equipment for me is scissors to cut fishing line
off coral.

  I really like this Island, but the Park gets much more credit than it
deserves. The residents, fish and critters, have not been protected. I won't
go into the issue of the locals who I've seen illegally spearfishing, the
dearth of sizeable fish, or the near-total absence of fish in the "Reserve",
in which I dove once to help out with a yearly survey.

  But then, the Reserve did have really beautiful coral.  No fish larger
than three centimeters, an amazing sight, but really beautiful coral.

  My question:  Does a coral reef need fish?


  Melissa Keyes,

  s/v Vinga, Bonaire/St. Croix

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