Category Archives: Nature

Is Your Sunscreen Harming Bonaire’s Reefs?

The Jury is In–Chemical Sunscreens Are Guilty of Harming the Reefs.

It was just two years ago when scientists began increased discussions about the possibility of chemical sunscreens harming reef environments. Always at the forefront of reef preservation, the island of Bonaire, coordinated by STINAPA and funded by the island and national governments and WWF, commissioned research to further investigate this potential threat to reefs.
Dr. Diana Slijkerman of the Wageningen Marine Research Unit, in the European Netherlands, presented her findings at a recent Connecting People with Nature presentation by STINAPA. The use of chemical sunscreens is just one more threat to reef habitats around the world.

Reefs around the world are already stressed. They are dealing with many different threats, including:

Now humans are adding chemical sunscreens to the world’s already burdened reefs.

There are two main types of sunscreen.

Chemical Sunscreens.

Bonaire sunscreen awareness program.The popular ones used today are chemical-based. They might have, as their active ingredient, one (or possibly a combination) of these chemicals:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Octisalate
  • Octocrylene
  • Homosalate
  • Octinoxate
  • Helioplex
  • Parsol 1789
  • 4-MBC
  • Mexoryl SX and XL
  • Tinosorb S and M
  • Uvinul T 150
  • Uvinul A Plus

Note these chemicals may be found under other names as well.

These chemicals do not block the sun’s rays like physical sunscreens, but instead, they allow the skin to absorb the UV rays, transforming them into non-damaging wavelengths of light or heat.

Physical Sunscreens.

Physical sunscreens prevent UV rays from hitting the skin at all, by creating a reflective barrier using naturally occurring minerals. (Remember the days when lifeguards smeared white-colored zinc oxide over their noses?) These reflective barriers simply bounce UV rays away, so no sunlight is penetrating into the skin:

  • Zinc Oxide
  • Titanium Oxide

Different strokes for different folks–various regions use different chemicals in their sunscreens.

Dr. Slijkerman’s research uncovered an unusual fact. By sampling water in Lac Bay–which is somewhat contained by the barrier reef and not constantly getting refreshed by ocean currents as occurs on the coastlines or at Klein Bonaire–she tested for the presence of chemical sunscreens. Surprisingly, she could determine the origin of the people using Lac Bay at the time of sampling, simply by identifying which chemical was prevalent in the water.

Chemical sunscreens manufactured in the EU often use octocrylene for the active ingredient. Chemical sunscreens manufactured in the United States generally tend to use oxybenzone as the most popular active ingredient. Since oxybenzone was also the one chemical originally cited as having potentially deleterious effects on the reef, this is the chemical upon which high focus was given during the research.

Oxybenzone, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Actually, there is nothing good about oxybenzone.

Read the label on your sunscreen to see if it is chemical based.Oxybenzone acts as an endocrine disrupter.

Relative to reef environments, oxybenzone harms or kills coral larvae by inducing deformities.

Remember that with chemical sunscreens your skin absorbs all the ingredients as well–just imagine what the endocrine disrupters do to your body!

With many chemical sunscreens, the chemicals stay intact and are eliminated from your body via fluid waste after passing through major organs. That means, even if you are just sitting on the beach, the chemicals from your sunscreen are still added to the environment via wastewater.  Or, simply taking a shower at the end of the day washes additional contaminants into the ecosystem. Entering the ocean slathered with chemical sunscreens is causing real environmental damage.

Oxybenzone induces DNA damage and viral infections of corals.

Viruses live on coral reefs, just like they do in any terrestrial environment. The recent research has indicated that viral infections of corals are on the rise, and a correlation has been established between oxybenzone and increased infections.

Oxybenzone bio-accumulates in the tissues.

Oxybenzone may increase coral bleaching.

A 2008 study indicated that coral bleaching was exacerbated by viral infections (Danovero, Robert, et al.  “Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections.” Environmental Health Perspectives 116.4 (2008) 441-447.)

A further study in 2016 indicated that the endocrine disrupters affected corals (as well as fish, mammals, algae, crustaceans, and humans) with

  • reduced neurological function
  • development disruption
  • cell/cancer proliferation
  • DNA damage
  • coral bleaching
  • oxidative stress in the presence of sunlight

(Downs, C.A., Kramarsky-Winter, E., Segal, R. et al.  Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (2016) 70. 265.)

How much is too much?

  • Effects on corals were reported at oxybenzone concentrations of 72 ng/Liter.
  • Bonaire’s water samples taken from Lac Bay contained an oxybenzone concentration of 1,54 ng/Liter.  (ng=nanogram)

What if my sunscreen doesn’t list oxybenzone?

It is possible that the ingredients in your sunscreen use different chemicals, or they might use a different name for oxybenzone.

Furthermore, just because your particular sunscreen uses another chemical to provide sun protection, it still can be causing harm. There simply is not enough data yet on all the various chemicals used by sunscreen manufacturers to be sure.

How can I check if my sunscreen is chemical-based?

If either titanium or zinc oxides are listed, the sunscreen is good to go!The best way is to read the active ingredients on the label. If you see titanium or zinc oxides as the active ingredients, you are good to go!

If you see anything else, it’s best to search for another alternative.

A very simple test (although not foolproof) is to read the instructions for use: If your sunscreen says to apply it 15 to 20 minutes before sun exposure, then chances are it is a chemical-based sunscreen, and it’s best to find a natural alternative utilizing zinc and titanium oxides as physical barriers.

What can I do for sun protection while visiting Bonaire?

There are a number of methods visitors can employ to reduce the effects of hazardous chemicals in the ocean, while still having proper sun protection.

Choose your sun protection wisely.

  • Never use sunscreens which list oxybenzone or benzophenone-3.
  • It’s probably best to avoid sunscreens which list the other chemicals mentioned above, as there is not enough known about the potential for damage to corals.

  • Do use sunscreen products using natural minerals as a physical barrier to UV rays (zinc or titanium) such as the sunscreen produced by the local Bonaire company, Tropical Nature. Their sunscreen product provides SPF 40, and UV protection of 98%. It’s non-toxic to the environment and rich with essential oils and natural emollients. The Tropical Nature sunscreen, along with their other health and wellness products, can be found at MultiShop at the Sand Dollar Shopping Mall in Hato as well as at the MG Store on Kaya Grandi in Kralendijk.

Be aware of false marketing claims and read the ingredients.

Many sunscreen manufacturers these days use marketing ploys to make you think their products are environmentally friendly. Use of the phrases “all natural” or “safe for the reef” might be true. And then again, they might not. Read the labels.

If engaging in any watersport, wear sun protective clothing.

If swimming, diving, or snorkeling, wear a full-body skin or wetsuit, such as the ones sold at Carib Inn. A thin, lycra hood will also avoid sunburn to the neck. Utilizing such items will drastically reduce the amount of sunscreen needed and you’ll enjoy excellent sun protection, without worrying about sunburns ruining your vacation.

If you’re lounging on the beach, remember it’s not healthy anymore to have that nice tanned look, so check out SPF clothing. If you are not yet familiar with SPF or UPF clothing, there is a great guide to finding the right sun protection clothing.

Wear hats to avoid using chemical sunscreen when in tropical reef environments.Wear a hat.

Wearing a hat significantly reduces the amount of sun that can reach your face. Floppy, broad-rimmed beach hats are always in vogue for the ladies, while what guy wouldn’t want to wear a tropic-weight version of a Crocodile Dundee hat, complete with optional neck protection?

Help Bonaire keep our reefs the healthiest in the Caribbean.

So, if you only take away a few thoughts from this information, let them be these:
  • Read the label of your sunscreen. If it lists any of the chemicals noted above or requires that you apply it prior to sun exposure, it is most likely chemical-based and is probably harming Bonaire’s reefs.
  • Buy natural sunscreen products. These use a physical barrier of zinc oxide or titanium oxide to provide complete, immediate protection (no need to apply 15 to 20 minutes prior to sun exposure).
  • Plan to wear sun protective clothing and hats, or wetsuits or skins, to reduce your skin’s sun exposure instead of using sunscreen.

(Source:  Bonaire Insider Reporter)


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Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 


 

 

 

2017 Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight

If skies are clear on Bonaire, there could be excellent views of this year’s Orionid meteor shower.

 

Meteor showers over Bonaire.

Each year in November, those on Bonaire are normally lucky to have an excellent viewing of the Orionid Meteor Showers.  Normally, these meteor showers begin to appear in October and last four or five weeks, but there is only one night when peak conditions are expected, and that is tonight! The best time to view the Orionids, if the skies are clear, is usually just after midnight or just before dawn.

What causes the Orionid Meteors?

The Orionid meteor shower is 1 of 2 meteor showers created by debris from Comet Halley. The Eta Aquarids in May is the second meteor shower created by debris left by Comet Halley. Halley takes around 76 years to make a complete revolution around the Sun.

It will next be visible from Earth in 2061.

It’s called Orionids because the meteors seem to emerge or radiate from the constellation Orion.

A First Quarter Moon will make this meteor shower easy to see in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. While you can easily see a shooting star looking straight up, the table below shows the exact direction of the Orionids from your location.

How can I find the Orionid Meteors on Bonaire?

How to find the Orionid Meteors on Bonaire during peak viewing.

Direction to see the Orionids in the sky:

What is the best way to view the Orionid Meteor Showers from Bonaire?

One of the best aspects of nature lovers visiting Bonaire is that it is relatively easy to get close to nature and see some spectacular natural events. The Orionids are just one more example of this, and here’s the best way to enjoy them.
  • Check the weather: Meteors, or shooting stars, are easy to spot, all you need is clear skies and a pair of eyes.
  • Get out of town: Find a place as far away as possible from artificial lights.  Bonaire’s southern coastline is a good place.
  • Prepare to wait: Bring something to sit or lie down on. Stargazing is a waiting game, so get comfortable and enjoy it!

(Source:  Time & Date)


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Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 


 

 

The Fate of the Oil-slicked Boobies and Other Tales

Bonaire’s disaster management team works quickly to avert damage from oil spills.

 

For those Bonaire Insider readers who have been following our coverage of the oil spill from Trinidad that started coming ashore on Bonaire in May and June of this year, and whom read about the boobies which were rescued and covered in oil, we have some good news to share.

The fate of the six boobies.

The quick action on the part of all stakeholders averted a potential environmental calamity, but the work to save several seabirds was ongoing.

How to tell when the birds are waterproofed?

In August and September, these seabirds were clean and healthy. However, they could not be released back into the wild until it was ascertained that they were once again waterproofed.

Equipment and trained personnel arrive from the European Netherlands.

Monique de Vrijer, a specialist in treating birds that have been victims of oil spills, flew to Bonaire to assist Elly Albers of The Mangrove Center, who had been nursing the birds back to health. Monique arrived on Bonaire with equipment, including portable pools, necessary for checking the birds’ waterproofing.

Insuring the birds are ready for release includes their own private pools.

Monique and her team of responders and specialists in Holland had daily meetings and helped to train Elly, her volunteers, and a STINAPA biologist on how to wash, rinse, promote preening/waterproofing, and draw blood (to see if the birds are healthy).

And finally, after many months of care on land, the boobies are released.

This great story is now complete, as several weeks ago, three Red-footed Boobies and three Brown-footed Boobies that had been rehabilitated and recuperated were finally set free at Malmok in Washington Slagbaai National Park and are once again soaring over Bonaire’s eastern coastline.

But the next threat arrives with a diesel transport truck overturning at Karpata.

 

On September 14th, 2017, Bonaire was once again faced with a crisis, and the island’s disaster management team and first responders sprang into action.

Another oil spill calls for fast action by Bonaire.

A transport vehicle carrying hundreds of liters of diesel, had an accident at Karpata. The fuel storage area was compromised, and diesel was pouring out onto the land and into the sea.

Workers toiled tirelessly for the whole day to contain the spill.

After extricating the driver, who was transported to San Francisco Hospital for treatment, the team went into action to minimize damage. Personnel from STINAPA, Bopec, the Harbourmaster’s Office, and related disaster management team members worked tirelessly in the scorching sun to contain the spill.

Containment booms were deployed.

Bopec quickly offered their containment booms (temporary floating barriers used to contain an oil spill), which STINAPA staff deployed via their boats on the water. Throughout the day, the diesel from the spill area was vacuumed out of the water.

Environmental assessments.

The next day, STINAPA biologists and marine park rangers once again returned to the spill site to begin assessing damage to the environment.  Baseline studies are available, and the area will continue to be monitored to ascertain any long-term damage.

In both of these situations, quick action by Bonaire’s disaster management team averted massive damage.  The team meets regularly, and trains for a variety of different calamities which might occur, and their training has been put to the test in recent months. They have passed with flying colors. Big thanks go out to all who helped.

(Source:  OLB, STINAPA, Mangrove Info Center)


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Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 


 

 

 

 

The 2018 Calendars are Here Featuring Bonaire’s Underwater and Avian Worlds

This year’s calendars feature Bonaire’s underwater world, as well as the avian world of birds.

 

It’s September, and that means it is time to start thinking of 2018!  For Bonaire Insider readers, or their Bonairephyle friends, who wish to keep Bonaire in their hearts all year long, there is no better way than to display one of these nature-related Bonaire 2018 wall calendars.  These calendars make the best stocking-stuffers!

Ellen Muller’s Underwater Bonaire 2018.

For those who just can’t get enough of Bonaire’s marine creatures, InfoBonaire is highlighting Ellen Muller’s Underwater Bonaire 2018 Calendar.  Ellen not only takes stunning underwater images, but she manages to find the un-findable!  These calendars actually become collector’s items, because the images are just too wonderful to throw out at the end of the year.

Learn how to order your copy of Ellen’s Underwater Bonaire 2018 Calendar.


The Pure Bonaire 2018 Calendar

To celebrate Bonaire’s membership in the Caribbean Birding Trail, the 2018 Pure Bonaire Calendar is featuring the wide diversity of birds that can be discovered on Bonaire. Most of the various birds illustrated throughout the calendar can be easily seen when traveling around the island.

The Pure Bonaire 2018 Calendar can be ordered individually or in any quantity online, and the calendar normally ships within five business days of placing an order.

Buy the Pure Bonaire 2018 Calendar now.

(Source:  Ellen Muller, Pure Bonaire)


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Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 


 

 

The Hunt for Big Bird, the Great White (Oops) Blue Heron!

Finding “Big Bird,” the white morph of the Great Blue Heron; not just another big, white bird!

In the latter part of 2016, I applied to participate in a very special, week-long course held on Bonaire sponsored by BirdsCaribbean relating to Bonaire’s membership in the Caribbean Birding Trail. There was only room for twenty participants, so I was thrilled to be accepted and assigned one of those spots. A team from BirdsCaribbean led the workshop, and we had knowledgeable lecturers from Panama who work within bird and nature tourism in that country.

Learning about Bonaire’s birds.

During the intensive five-day program, we enjoyed twice-daily birdwatching sessions at various points around Bonaire, classes on how best to impart our knowledge to visitors, bird photography, and interactive projects. We were tutored in the types of birds found on Bonaire, and I had flashbacks to when I had to “learn my fish” back in the 1980s as a first-time diving tourist.

It was during the lecture on bird photography, given by local bird photographer extraordinaire, Sipke Stapert, that set my fate. He informed the group that he had recently seen the very rare white morph of the Great Blue Heron on Bonaire’s southern lee coast. I sat up and took note–before he had completed his sentence, I promised myself I would find and observe this rare bird for myself.

Birding to Bonaire’s southern lee coastline.

And so, I set off to do just that.  Whenever I found some time to go birdwatching, I set my compass southward. As I got past Cargill, along the coast road, I slowed down to a crawl. I’m sure the divers, eager to get to their dives sites, were not happy with me! But they passed, and I continued with my search.

As I slowly drove along the coast, carefully watching for oncoming traffic, or unhappy shore divers behind me, my head slowly swiveled left to right, and back left again in a continuous loop. I was watching for any dot of white.

You’ll see many big, white birds!

Now, it should be noted that Bonaire has a number of big, white birds, so just because I saw a flash of white in the distance, it didn’t necessarily mean I had found “Big Bird,” as I had by now affectionately dubbed my quarry.

Note the bill and legs and feet to identify your bird.

At first glance, all these big, white birds look alike! One really must study them to tell them apart. A way to quickly ascertain which bird you are viewing is to note the bill (beak) and legs and feet. Note the size, shape, and color of the bill and the color of the legs and feet, and you are on your way to identifying your feathered friend.

The Snowy Egret.

For example, on Bonaire, we often can see the Snowy Egret. The Snowy Egret can be discerned by its black bill and startling yellow feet on black legs. However, during breeding season, they tend to try to confuse us birders, with their feet turning bright red!

The Reddish Egret in the white morph.

Then we have the Reddish Egret, which one would think should be reddish. And some are. However, they also come in white, and they can be distinguished by their pink-and-black two-toned bill and rather bad hair days, along with dusky blue legs.

The Cattle Egret, and other big, white birds.

If that is not enough to confuse the newbie birder looking to find Big Bird, one might also stumble upon the Cattle Egret, which occasionally visits Bonaire as well. So it’s easy to understand that finding Big Bird can become quite an obsession! Along the way, I came upon nearly every other type of big, white bird that lives on Bonaire. (For those who wish to learn more about identifying big, white birds, the Cornell Lab is a great resource.)

The Great Blue Heron in the white morph.

So, what’s the big deal about the white version (“morph” is a better word) of the Great Blue Heron? The big deal is that they are very rare. Further, they are also hardly ever sighted in the southern Caribbean. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says this about Great Blue Herons in the white morph:

“The largest heron in North America, Great White is very rare outside central and southern Florida (and quite rare elsewhere in its range; confined to the Caribbean). Though they are regular throughout most of the southern half of the state, Florida Bay holds the majority of known Great White Herons, with about 850 breeding pairs. Very few are known to breed anywhere else in the world.”

— The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The majestic “Great White Heron” is actually a subspecies of the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias occidentalis). These large, elegant birds are all white and have a massive yellow-orange bill, long neck, pale-pinkish-to-dull-yellow legs and bluish facial skin. They are much larger than Great Egrets which have a slimmer yellow bill, black legs and yellow facial skin. They are very rare in the Caribbean islands, locally common only in Cuba (in addition to south and central Florida). They prefer salt water habitats such as mangroves, shallow tidal areas and coastal ponds and lagoons. They stand still, waiting until their prey comes near, and then strike at it, swallowing it live, or, when large, beating it on the water or shaking it until subdued. 

Bonaire also hosts the normal coloration of the Great Blue Heron, and this large bird often can be seen feeding in shallows or marshy areas, especially close to dusk.

Finding Big Bird.

And so I hunted. A week after my search began, Hurricane Matthew brushed by north of Bonaire and the storm surge generated by the weather system rearranged Bonaire’s coastline, taking away sand where it had been, and re-depositing it in areas which previously had none. I feared Big Bird might relocate and seek quieter surroundings somewhere else.

I searched and searched. Five months into my search, I was ready to cease and desist. One Sunday morning, I grabbed my binoculars, spotting scope, and, of course, camera and tripod, and headed out to bird. As usual, my car was on auto-pilot to the south. It was a great session, with many migratory birds making appearances. I had been out for several hours, and decided it was time to turn back for home. “I will just go to Willemstoren Lighthouse, and then turn back,”  I told myself.

It was high noon, and very warm, and the birds became scarce, as if they, too, were seeking cooler temperatures. I passed Willemstoren and was getting ready to turn around and head for home, when I spotted a flash of white in the distance! Dare I hope? I grabbed binoculars and jumped out of the car, but the flash of white was still so far away as to be hardly discernible. I grabbed the spotting scope and plopped it onto the tripod and tried again–still too far, this big white bird was just a smudge of white.

But as I watched, the flash of white took flight and flew toward me! It landed about half way between its first location and where I was standing. Now I could see it!  It was Big Bird! Hardly containing my excitement, I swiftly set up the camera, but even with a super zoom, the white morph of the Great Blue Heron–my quarry for many months–was still too far away to photograph.

I HAD to get an image, if only to prove I found it! Lady Luck was with me that day, because Big Bird took flight one more time, and flew directly to me. I held my breath…….it flew past and landed on the other side of road, just in front of the rough eastern coastline. It seemed to settle in, and so I set up my camera, and, finally, after a five-month search, my Mission Impossible became Mission Possible!

Great Blue Heron in the white morph, found at Willemstoren Lighthouse, Bonaire

Most visitors to Bonaire do not take the time to study the birds they see while driving around the island for their diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, or kiting activities. But it is easy to incorporate birdwatching into your vacation! Just keep your eyes open as you drive, and you’ll be amazed at the diversity of birds you will see. As birdwatching is a tourism sector without negative environmental impact, Bonaire’s tourism officials hope to realize an increase in birding tourism for the future.
And, if you find Big Bird, my big, white bird?  Log in your sighting!

(Source:  Bonaire Insider reporter, BirdsCaribbean, Cornell Lab of Ornithology)


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Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tail of Two Towers on Bonaire

Bonaire says ayo to Flamingo’s Airport iconic tower, Washington Park says bon bini to a new birdwatching tower.

 

It’s often said that when a door closes, another opens, and thus it was with Bonaire this week. After 42 years of service, yesterday, Bonaire International Airport began the dismantling of its iconic and historic flamingo-pink control tower. But just last week, Washington Park officially opened the new birdwatching tower at Boca Slagbaai.

Bonaire says “ayo” to Flamingo Airport’s control tower.

After 42 years of service, the iconic Flamingo Airport tower comes down.

Time marches on, and progress must continue. And so, Bonaire is saying goodbye to its beloved flamingo-pink control tower at Bonaire International Airport. Yesterday, the tower, which has been in use for the past 42 years, was decommissioned, and dismantling began. Many are sad to see this iconic part of Bonaire’s aviation history go away, but the new control tower provides more safety as it complies with the Safety Standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and will be officially inaugurated in September.

Bonaire says “bon bini” to Washington Park’s new birdwatching tower.

But Bonaire has another new tower, just officially inaugurated last week by Lt. Governor Edison Rijna located in the area of Boca Slagbaai in Washington-Slagbaai National Park.

Lt. Governor Edison Rijna opens the new birdwatching tower in Washington Park, Bonaire.The construction material for the tower was sponsored by Cargill. The watchtower design was based on the Donkey Sanctuary watchtower and built by the Dutch Army with the help of Washington Slagbaai National Park rangers.

The watchtower, situated at the Saliña Slagbaai in the Washington Slagbaai National Park, will provide excellent birdwatching opportunities. Informational signs with bird photos were placed to assist visitors with easily recognizing the most common species of birds.

During the upcoming migration season, one can find 90 different species of birds, in addition to our popular flamingos, parrots, and parakeets.  Be sure to check out Bonaire’s new tower on your next visit to Washington Park.

So, although Bonaire’s newest tower in Washington Park cannot claim to be flamingo-pink, it can claim to give an excellent view of the pink flamingo!

(Source:  Bonaire International Airport, STINAPA)

 


Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 


Chasing Bonaire’s Corals–Four Tactics to Help Bonaire’s Corals Survive the Coming Heat

With warmer sea temperatures in the coming months, Bonaire’s corals needs some special help from divers.

The third-ever global coral bleaching event.

The good news out of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is that there are indications that the third-ever global coral bleaching, which began in 2015 in all three ocean basins–Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian–is likely slowing or no longer occurring. This is very good news for all divers, as some reefs have been particularly effected by this long ocean-warming-coral-bleaching event.

Scientists will closely monitor sea surface temperatures and bleaching over the next six months to confirm the event’s end. NOAA declared the beginning of the third-ever global coral bleaching event in 2015. Since then, all tropical coral reefs around the world have seen above-normal temperatures, and more than 70 percent experienced prolonged high temperatures that can cause bleaching. U.S. coral reefs were hit hardest, with two years of severe bleaching in Florida and Hawaii, three in the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands, and four in Guam.

The first global bleaching event was in 1998, during a strong El Nino that was followed by an equally very strong La Nina. A second one occurred in 2010.

“This global coral bleaching event has been the most widespread, longest and perhaps the most damaging on record,” said C. Mark Eakin, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch Coordinator. “NOAA is working with scientists, resource managers and communities around the world to determine what the true impacts of this event will be on coral reefs.”

Read the entire article: Global coral bleaching event likely ending.

Another great source of information about coral bleaching is the newly released Chasing Corals, available on Netflix.

NOAA's Infographic on how to help corals.

 

Warmer sea temperatures on Bonaire are coming in the next months.

We here on Bonaire have been particularly lucky during this global event, with only minimal bleaching on an interim basis, and many corals recovering.  But while indications show that the global event is lessening, Bonaire is going into its hottest months of the year, and this is a time when corals can become stressed.

When corals become stressed for any reason, high temperatures of seawater being a prime factor, the corals expel the symbiotic zooxanthellae, single-celled dinoflagellates, that live within them. These little microscopic bits of algae actually provide the color to the corals, but when they are expelled due to the coral’s stress, the coral becomes white, or “bleached.”

On August 21st, 2017, NOAA upgraded the status of Bonaire’s reefs from “Watch” to “Warning” which means that thermal stress is accumulating.  There are two more dire statuses:  Alert Level 1 (bleaching is expected) and Alert Level 2 (significant bleaching expected; mortality likely).

Four tactics for divers to help Bonaire’s corals get through the season of warm sea temperatures.

Divers can assist by employing the following best practices to keep contact with the corals at a minimum.

Use proper buoyance techniques when diving on Bonaire's reefs.

Excellent buoyancy skills!

1.  Employ proper buoyancy.

It’s critical now in the coming months that incidental touches to coral be minimized. Err on the side of caution and put a larger buffer between you and the reef. Breathe regularly to avoid an “up and down” motion that could occur from particularly deep breaths. Divers always need to maintain proper buoyancy, and don’t be bashful about asking for help and tips from your dive guides.

Be sure you are properly weighted for scuba diving.2.  Employ proper weighting.

If you are under-weighted, you will be struggling your entire dive. If you are over-weighted, you will sink to the bottom substrate and be kicking around in the corals. Divers need to be optimally weighted to enjoy their dives to the maximum. Again, check with your dive facility for tips; all those who work in Bonaire’s dive industry want to help you get properly weighted!

Keep a mental image of where your fin tips are. Don't be this diver with his fins in the sand.

This diver’s fin placement is not something to emulate!

3.  Keep a mental image of your fin tips.

Don’t get so enthralled with what is in front of your eyes, that you forget about what your fin tips are doing! Don’t be the diver in this image, with his fins in the sand. Here on Bonaire, there are many organisms that live in the sand as well as on the coral reefs, so keep their well being in mind, and have a mental image of where your entire body is–including all gear–in relation to the reef and/or bottom.

Stay well above the reef when shooting images or video.

This photographer is using good judgment and keeping a good buffer zone between the reef and her camera.

4.  If shooting with a camera, add in a buffer zone and use your zoom.

Sometimes underwater photographers get a bad rap, but many times it is deserved!  If you are shooting either still images or video on your dives, be sure to keep a little larger buffer zone between you and the reefs in the coming months, and use your camera’s zoom capabilities.

For another perspective, Bruce Bowker of Carib Inn has published an excellent post that encompasses all of these main points.

Recent research on Bonaire has indicated that Bonaire might just have one of the world’s most resilient reefs, as recovery from stressful events has far out-paced mortality, when compared with other reef ecosystems.  Let’s help our reefs stay resilient in the coming months as they endure warmer sea temperatures.

 


Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 


5 Special Places to Spend Dawn in the Forests of Bonaire

How to experience dawn in the forests of Bonaire.

This morning, as I settled in behind the computer, I came across a beautiful blog post, written by Louis Shoultz. It’s all about the special awakening of the natural fauna in Bonaire’s forest areas at dawn.

Bonaire has a certain something–some intangible essence–that reaches out to all whom step foot on this island. For repeat visitors and those who make Bonaire their home, we feel it immediately upon the opening of the plane’s doorway when the trade-winds caress our faces. First time visitors may not feel it upon arrival, but during their visit, this essence insinuates itself into their hearts and souls, so that, by departure time, it has become part of them. It’s the reason why nearly everyone returns to Bonaire.

Dawn in the forests of Bonaire.

As I read Louis’ wonderful blog post, it occurred to me that her writing clearly communicated that special essence–that elusive something–that is why we love Bonaire:

Just before light chases them away, geckos chirp their farewells from tree to tree and branch to branch. As the blackness of night dissolves in to the brightness of day, the first bird begins to sing. The Northern Scrub Flycatcher without fail, is first to wake, starting the day with short, but loud tweets. At around fifteen minutes later, the Venezuelan Troupial joins in, whistling to the sun, encouraging it to rise. Then, as if the Troupial said it’s all alright, the ornithological orchestra commences.

A lizard wakes up with the dawn in the forests of Bonaire.

As the sky begins to burn with the colors of fire the cold blooded reptiles arise from their hideouts. The endemic Bonairian Anole, scampers up a sapling to flare his yellow throat. In a rather robotic fashion, he juts his head up and juts his head down, until he is quite suffice. Suddenly he darts back down, as though he’s just proudly raised the flag of his nation. The last of the nocturnal hermit crabs, late back to bed, scuttle across the floor like drunken youths out on the town.

Five locations to experience dawn in the forests of Bonaire.

Next, I started pondering on the many hidden areas of northern Bonaire where one can sit quietly in the island’s dry forests and watch the awakening of creatures getting ready for their days. These are my favorites:

Dos Pos

A Blue-tailed Emerald Hummingbird rests for a moment.

Blue-Tailed Emerald Hummingbird

Just outside the gate of Echo Conservation Centre, you’ll see and hear many loras (parrots) squawking as they wake up and begin to feed. But don’t just look skyward; watch carefully around you for hummingbirds as well; you’ll find Blue-tailed Emeralds and Ruby Topaz.

Hiking Trails of the Rincon Valley

For those who don’t mind walking a bit, there are two hiking trails (follow the pink markers) which are available, both starting at Dos Pos. The Montaña Hiking Trail which borders Echo’s Conservation Centre, and the Dos Pos Hiking Trail. You don’t need to hike the entire trails (1 to 1-1/2 hours), but just head down the trail a bit before you stop for dawn.

Nukove

Bonaire's lora, the Yellow-Shouldered Amazon Parrot

Bonaire’s lora, the Yellow-Shouldered Amazon Parrot

It’s a bit of a drive on dirt roads to get to the dive site, Nukove, but along the way you’ll have vegetation on both sides of the road, and you’ll be passing a wetland area which attracts many species. At Nukove, pull in and sit quietly waiting for the dawn, and you’ll be amazed at what occurs around you. You’ll find loras (parrots) in the forest area, as well as waterbirds on the shoreline and you’ll be comfortably ensconced between the two. The Crested Caracara will be active early at dawn.

Gotomeer Scenic Overlook

Often considered one of Bonaire’s most scenic locations, the Gotomeer Scenic Overlook offers the convenience of a parking area and benches on which to sit, and you’ll be surrounded by vegetation with all sorts of animals that will be very curious about you. Don’t forget to climb the concrete stairs for even a better bird’s eye view of dawn.

Seru Largu

Pearly-eyed Thrasher

Pearly-eyed Thrasher

Closer to Kralendijk, but still with easy access, is Seru Largu with panoramic views of both coastlines of Bonaire–eastern and western, choose your view! Even with sweeping vistas, you’re still positioned in forest, and, in fact, this location is one of Echo Conservation Centre’s reforestation projects. Keep your eyes peeled for the Pearly-Eyed Thrasher!

Do you have a special place in Bonaire’s dry forests where you experience dawn?

(Source: Wildlife Articles)

 


Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 


Upcoming Solar Eclipse will be Partially Visible from Bonaire

Bonaire will view a partial solar eclipse on August 21st, 2017.

Partial solar eclipse visible from Bonaire.This month the skies above Bonaire will be filled with some unique celestial events with the Perseids meteor showers (peaking the night of August 12th to 13th) as well as the star of the show, the upcoming partial solar eclipse on August 21st, 2017.

The partial solar eclipse will begin at 2:22 PM on August 21st, 2017 and end at 4:50 PM on the same day.  The maximum effect for those on Bonaire will be at precisely 3:41 PM.

What will be visible from Bonaire.

When the eclipse begins, the moon will start to touch the sun’s edge.  The altitude is 64.0º.

At the maximum eclipse, at 3:41 PM, the moon is closest to the center of the sun.  The altitude is 44.8º.

At completion of the eclipse, the moon leaves the sun’s edge, and the sun will return to normal.  At this point, the altitude is 28.0º.

Read more about this celestial event.

How to safely observe the eclipse.

Since Bonaire will not be experiencing totality, it is necessary to protect one’s eyes when viewing the partial solar eclipse.

Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality.

  • Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched or damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.
  • Always supervise children using solar filters.
  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device.
  • Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
  • Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device. Note that solar filters must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, camera lens, or other optics.
  • Outside the path of totality, you must always use a safe solar filter to view the sun directly.
  • If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.

Read the entire article on how to safely observe the solar eclipse.

 


Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 


2017 Coral Spawning Schedule–Making Baby Corals in the Old-Fashioned Way and the New!

2017 Coral Spawning Predictions for Bonaire.

It is always this time of year when the thoughts of all divers on Bonaire (including those who have plans to visit shortly) turn to making babies. Baby corals, that is! August, September, and October are prime months to witness this miracle of undersea life as many invertebrates are spawning.

Spawning timetable for corals and other invertebrates.

Thanks again to Carmabi, and many years of divers providing eye-witness research, there is now a fairly accurate timetable which can assist with predicting when corals and other invertebrates will spawn in the southern Caribbean.

Download the 2017 predictions for coral spawning, available in PDF.

To see the spawning, and witness baby corals being made in the old-fashioned way, it is recommended to plan on spending lots of time underwater during prime spawning forecasts.  STINAPA has specified these dates as being “hotspots” of potential spawning activity:

Most of our star corals spawn 6-8 nights after the full moon in September and/or October (when the sea surface temperature is the highest). Since the full moon falls on the evenings of September 5th (actually early morning on the 6th) and October 5th, the spawn will occur one week later. Those who have always wanted to see coral spawning for themselves, this October will be a good time to visit, and especially the night of October 12th! Both months will probably have spawning corals and different corals spawn at different times.

Coral gardening makes babies with new technology.

But luckily for the world’s coral reefs, making babies in the old-fashioned way is not the only manner anymore! Bonaire has been at the forefront of testing new technology which allows coral gardening with its Coral Restoration Foundation.

2017 Coral Spawning Schedule--Making Baby Corals in the Old-Fashioned Way and the New!

A new study from the University of Miami finds coral restoration efforts are beneficial.

According to a new study from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, coral gardening, the process of replanting laboratory-raised coral fragments to restore coral populations, is proving to be a benefit for Caribbean reefs. An article from CaribJournal recently cited the study:

The school said the research had important implications for the long-term survival of reefs worldwide, which have been in global decline. “Our study showed that current restoration methods are very effective,” said UM Rosenstiel school coral biologist Stephanie Schopmeyer, the lead author of the study.

According to the findings, “current restoration methods are not causing excess damage to donor colonies as a result of removing coral tissue to propagate new coral in the lab, and that once outplanted, corals behave just as wild colonies do.”

This was the first study to collect baseline coral restoration survival and productivity data at regional scales.

So, it really doesn’t matter if new corals are produced in the eons-old manner, or if they are propagated using today’s technology, the end result will be healthier reefs for the world, including Bonaire.

(Sources: Carmabi, CaribJournal, STINAPA)


Susan Davis, Bonaire InsiderSusan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog. 


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