Plasterk suggests joining forces to protect corals

THE HAGUE–Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk is a proponent of joining forces within the Dutch Kingdom to protect the fragile Caribbean coral reefs. He is willing to put this topic on the next Kingdom Conference.

The Minister stated this in response to written questions submitted by Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party. Bosman had inquired about the protection of the coral reefs following a symposium on this topic at the Dam Palace earlier this month.

Plasterk stated that he was aware that the situation of the coral reefs in the Caribbean was worrisome and that the diversity and size of the reefs has quickly gone down in the past ten years. Global warming, but also regional causes such as overfishing, tourism/economic developments close to the shores and the deficient sewer system play an important role in the rapid deterioration of the reefs.

The coral reefs are of great importance to nature and biodiversity. At the same time the reefs are of a great economic importance as local fisheries and tourism depend on this underwater nature. In comparison to surrounding islands, the coral reefs in the Dutch Caribbean are doing relatively better, stated Plasterk.

Nature protection is a responsibility of the individual Dutch Caribbean countries, “and not of the Kingdom or the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations,” Plasterk made clear. This is different for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba where the local Government and the State Secretary of Economic Affairs are responsible for nature protection, above and under water.

The Minister mentioned the various organisations and citizens on the islands that played an active role in protection of nature and the reefs. He stated that he also saw an increasing awareness that a further deterioration of the reefs would have far-reaching consequences for both the biodiversity and the local economy in the sense of “killing the goose that lays the golden egg.”     

“It seems to me that protecting the remaining reefs and the restoration of corals is crucial to all islands. I can imagine that we try to join forces within the Kingdom, and to jointly look at how to deal with the complicated consideration between the interests of nature and economic welfare and what the effective measures are to protect the reefs,” stated Plasterk.

Within the Caribbean region, Dutch and local knowledge institutes are already engaged in important research, both jointly and separately. In an effort to bring all parties together a coral reefs task force similar to the Children’s Rights Task Force could be established to discuss the matter and to arrive at a joint approach, suggested Plasterk.

The Minister stated that he was willing to discuss these possibilities with the relevant Dutch Ministries and the three Dutch Caribbean countries. He was also willing to have the protection of coral reefs put on the next Kingdom Conference. He remarked that this initiative was up to St. Maarten as this country is supposed to host the next Kingdom Conference.

Plasterk has furthermore brought the matter to the attention of the Dutch State Secretary of Economic Affairs Martijn van Dam, who is in charge of nature policy. “He is and remains fully willing to discuss this with the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.”

The protection of the Caribbean coral reefs is on the agenda of the Caribbean Sustainable Development Forum which will be held in Aruba from February 21 to 23, 2017. Sustainable energy, global warming and the environment in the Caribbean will be discussed at this forum which will be attended by Plasterk as well as Government officials from dozens of countries, non-government organisations, the private sector and interest groups.

Source: The Daily Herald