Little known fact: Curaçao’s numerous inland bays are structural components of its extraordinary coral reef ecosystem. (#2 on Google’s Virtual Underwater Map!)
These inland bays are home to mangroves and seagrass beds, nurseries for many Curaçaoan reef fish as well as nesting habitats for a wide variety of local birds. Per Carmabi’s research, mangroves currently cover 55 hectares, representing about 0.12% of the island’s surface.
But that number used to be a lot higher 400+ years ago, before humans started cutting down mangroves — the buffer between land and sea — for development purposes.
Marine Biology aficionado Ryan De Jongh (42) came to realize that Curaçao’s rapid real estate development of the past 20-30 years was posing a serious threat to coral reefs. [‘Geek out’ with this 2001 Carmabi / University of Nijmegen research report: Dependence of Caribbean reef fishes on mangroves and seagrass beds as nursery habitats: a comparison of fish faunas between bays with and without mangroves/seagrass beds.] “See, it’s all interconnected, you take away the mangroves, other living creatures are bound to suffer: 60% of all fish live on coral reefs and lay their eggs in the roots of mangroves. And that beautiful clear blue water we market in our tourism brochures? The fish consume the algae to keep our water clear, otherwise it would be an unsavory greenish color.”
Eight years ago Ryan decided to start re-planting mangroves to help fish lay more eggs. “80% of our mangroves have been cut down over the past 20 years, [my mangrove project] has replanted 40-45%. It’s just plain horse work, nobody sees it, but in the meantime we’ve planted over 100,000 mangroves!” As a matter of fact, Ryan is the first to plant mangroves in the world.
Ryan hosts kayak tours of Curaçao’s mangrove ‘jungles’, to schedule a Mangrove Kayak Adventure and help re-plant some mangroves, please visit: http://www.carmabi.org/news/activities/34-mangrove-kayak-tours or call 5999-561-0813.
Check out Curaçao Vacation Blogger, Sheedia Jansen’s kayak adventure with Ryan around Santa Cruz, Blue Room and Piscadera Bay: