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Bonaire launches program for International Year of the Reef 2008

Government officials from Bonaire joined coral reef experts and managers from the United States, Mexico and France to officially inaugurate the International Year of the Reef 2008 during a news conference as part of the International Coral Reef Initiative Meeting in Washington D.C. on January 24, 2008.

Joining the conference live from Bonaire via telephone were Lieutenant Governor Herbert Domacasse, Director of Tourism Corporation Bonaire Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, Director of STINAPA Elsmarie Beukenboom, and key stakeholders of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who were recently in Bonaire conducting research.

In 1997, Bonaire became IYOR’s first partner in the Caribbean to establish a comprehensive plan dedicated to executing a program of public education about coral reefs, assessing the conditions of coral reefs and collaborating with local communities and other reef managers to develop and implement plans for the use of irreplaceable reef resources. During that year Bonaire also hosted the International Year of the Reef’s inaugural Dive Festival event.

As a focal point destination for the 2008 celebration of IYOR, Tourism Corporation Bonaire (TCB) has joined forces with the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), Earth Echo International, STINAPA and NOAA to execute a program that will continue the work that the Island began eleven years ago.

On January 7, NOAA began a mapping project, titled “Exploring Coral Reef Sustainability with New Technologies” that will create a baseline for which all other Caribbean reefs will be compared. Bonaire is noted for having the most pristine coral reef environment in the Caribbean with the highest percent of coral cover and the lowest percent of algal cover. NOAA’s team of experts are conducting research using autonomous underwater vehicles and technical diving to explore greater depths than can be reached with conventional compressed air scuba diving. NOAA completed their research on January 30, 2008.

As part of the IYOR celebration, STINAPA recently announced the designation of two fish protected areas on Bonaire’s reef to encourage the population growth of large fish species. The locations were selected by a delegation including government officials and local fisherman using criteria that included the sites containing significant coral coverage and being easy to patrol by the Marine Park. Later this year, STINAPA will begin giving free reef ecology courses for residents and interested visitors. For more information, visit www.stinapa.org.

On January 31, Tourism Corporation Bonaire and STINAPA hosted an International Year of the Reef ceremony at Wilhelmina Park where Government officials to announce the Island’s slogan for IYOR, “Bonaire, Leading By Example.”

Additionally, the first of twelve paintings created by school children with an IYOR theme was unveiled. Each of the twelve paintings will be on display throughout the year at various locations for residents and visitors to enjoy.

The Bonaire Hotel and Tourism Association also celebrated IYOR during their 11th Annual Awards Ceremony on January 24, 2008. Guests were asked to dress in blue and green shades that represent the colors of the ocean.

Other IYOR activities taking place on Bonaire this summer during Bonaire Dive Into Summer 2008 include: International Year of the Reef Environmental Project: The Coral Reef Alliance, STINAPA, Earth Echo and TCB will work together to develop a summer-long overarching ecology project that will be launched during IYOR week, continued throughout the summer with monthly updates during each showcase week, and conclude during Love Our Planet Week with a press conference.

International Year of the Reef Week: Taking place June 21-28, IYOR week will feature guest speakers Jan and Alexandra Cousteau from Earth Echo International who will give seminars and lead dives, and experts from CORAL that will give workshops.

Love Our Planet Week: In conjunction with Clean Up the World Weekend, Love Our Planet Week will take place September 20-27 and will feature interactive presentations, activities and fish counts lead by CORAL representatives.

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