There are both plant and animal species on Bonaire which are protected under either international agreements or local laws.
Internationally protected marine species on Bonaire.
The species of marine animals that are protected are listed below and these can be important for reef fishermen to know about.
All whales, dolphins, sharks, rays, and sea turtles that may be found in the waters of Bonaire are protected by treaties (international agreements). All the soft and hard corals are also protected. In fact, the entire underwater park and all that is in it is protected, alive or dead.
In the underwater marine park, except for the two fish reserves, fish may be fished with traditional fishing gear. However, a number of fish and other marine animals are protected according to international and local law. Most of the mentioned fishes occur on the red list of endangered species of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). It concerns CR (critically endangered), EN (endangered) or vulnerable (VU) categories. The government is more or less obliged by the international community to protect these fishes.
Parrotfish are protected because of their ecological importance. They play a key role in the ecosystem. Parrotfish are grazers needed to keep our coral reefs free from algae. Groupers are getting rarer and are at the top of the food chain. They also have a touristic value, like the sea turtles, sharks and rays.
Lobsters are over-fished. Separate management measures are required to maintain and improve the lobster numbers. Lobsters may only be caught between 1 November and 30 April and only along the east coast between Malmok and the Willemstoren. A lobster whose head and trunk together (carapace) is less than 12 cm/4.75 inches may not be captured or killed. Also, egg-bearing lobsters must not be caught or killed, for obvious reasons. The conch (locally known as karko) is on the list because this mollusk is also over-fished.
Locally protected sea creatures
● Balistes vetula, pishiporko rabu di gai, koningstrekkervis, queen triggerfish
● Dermatolepis inermis, olitu, zeebaars, marbled grouper
● Epinephelus itajara, djufes, itajara, Goliath grouper, jewfish
● Epinephelus striatus, jakupepu, Nassau tandbaars, Nassau grouper
● Lachnolaimus maximus, hòkfes, everlipvis, hogfish
● Lutjanus analis, kapitán, snapper, mutton snapper
● Lutjanus cyanopterus, karaña, snapper, cubera snapper
● Scaridae, gutu, papegaaivissen, parrotfishes
● Thunnus obesus, buni wowo grandi, grootoogtonijn, bigeye tuna
● Panulirus argus, kref, kreeft, Caribbean spiny lobster
● Panulirus guttatus, kref, gevlekte kreeft, spotted spiny lobster
● Panulirus laevicauda, kref, kreeft, smoothtail spiny lobster
● Strombus gigas, karkó, grote kroonslak, queen conch
Susan 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.