Bonaire’s East Coast (including 15 km adjacent to Plantation Bolivia) with its pristine reef is one of the most beautiful dive spots, although not known to many divers.
For divers around the world there are only a few places left like Bolivia.
Bonaire’s East Coast with its amazing reef is one of the most beautiful dive spots, although not known to many divers. This coast of Bolivia is wild and largely untouched due to natural barriers like large waves, currents, steep cliffs and almost zero land development.
On Bolivia’s reef you can find Queen triggers, sharks, migrating humpback whales, diverse species of small reef fish, large numbers of parrotfish in all stages of development, ocean trigger mating grounds and when the sargassum arrives large manta rays. Furthermore, there still are extremely healthy and diverse coral and sea fans.
Here you will not find large numbers of tourist divers, boat and land sewage and enormous development like on the West Coast.
Save plantation Bolivia
We think this site will give you a good impression as to why we have to save Plantation Bolivia.
The entire coastline of Bonaire is 120 km long (Jackson et al., 2014). The rough north-eastern coastline is exposed to the trade winds made up of rocky cliffs and small inlets, locally known as “bokas”. The Bonaire National Marine Park was established in 1979 and is managed by STINAPA Bonaire. The Marine Park includes all the water surrounding Bonaire and Klein Bonaire. The park starts at the high water mark and extends to a depth of 60 meters, covering an area of 27 km2. The coral reef around Bonaire is known to be one of the healthiest in the Caribbean. The north-eastern coral reef is of pristine quality and largely untouched because on this side of Bonaire there is almost no human activity in the form of development.
Coral reefs are home to such a vast array of animals and plants that only a small fraction of them have so far been described. On Bonaire the coral reef is home to 57 species of soft and stony coral and more than 350 recorded fish species. Coral reefs give us an unparalleled opportunity to marvel at the wonder of life and the beauty and complexity of the world we live in.
Researcher (E.H.W.G. Meesters, WUR October 2019) found a negative correlation between local human activity and the growth capacity of the reef. Coastal development, building near water’s edge, and even inland on a small island as Bonaire, causes sedimentation and nutrient enrichment of the marine environment which in turn smothers and kills reef organism.
Read the publication, Extreme spatial heterogeneity in carbonate accretion potential on a Caribbean fringing reef linked to local human disturbance gradients, here.
Caribbean reefs alone are worth around $ 2.1 billion per year in tourism dollars. So why take the risk of destroying the coral reef by developing Bolivia when there are excellent alternatives (SMB). Read the publication, Economic Values of Coral Reefs, Mangroves, and Seagrasses, Conservation international, A global Compilation 2008, here.
Elkhorn Coral (Acropora palmata)
The elkhorn coral is named for the antler-like shape of its colonies. It is a fast growing species and is one of the most important reef-building species in the Caribbean. It was formerly one of the most common corals on reefs throughout its range. Today, it is very rare and is considered critically endangered.
Elkhorn coral structures are actually colonies of several genetically identical animals living together. These colonies can reproduce both sexually and asexually, and they are hermaphroditic – each animal produces both eggs and sperm. During just a few days surrounding full moons in the fall, elkhorn corals release bundles of eggs and sperm that float to the surface, break apart, and mix. Sperm do not fertilize eggs from the same colony, so several colonies release their gametes at the same time, in a process known as broadcast spawning. The fertilized egg quickly hatches and the baby coral spends a few days in the water column before settling on the reef and beginning to form a new colony. Elkhorn coral colonies can also reproduce through fragmentation (asexually). When a storm or some other disturbance breaks apart a colony, each piece is able to reattach to the reef surface and begin growing again. Through this process, and as a result of its fairly rapid growth rate, 5 to 10 cm a year, the elkhorn coral was historically responsible for building large areas of Caribbean Reefs. However in recent years the numbers have declined by an estimated 97%. As a result of human activity (such as coastal development), disease, pollution, coral bleaching, and storm damage, populations of elkhorn corals have crashed.
Numerous species (including caribbean spiny lobsters, parrotfishes, tube blennies, and others) directly rely on elkhorn coral as their primary habitat.
Like most shallow-water corals, elkhorn corals have symbiotic algae living within their cells, providing the corals with excess energy that they make via photosynthesis (the use of sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into food/energy). Nearly all species of shallow-water corals and several other groups of reef invertebrates have symbiotic relationships with these algae, so it is important that they live in clear, shallow water. Like all stony corals, the elkhorn coral builds a skeleton of calcium carbonate – a compound that will become increasingly more rare as the ocean acidifies (a phenomenon caused by the ocean’s absorption of acidic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).
As it is a keystone species and ecosystem engineer, its endangerment threatens many other coral reef species. Without careful management of the threats that elkhorn corals experience, one of the most important species of reef-building corals in the Caribbean could be lost.
You can visit the IUCN red list here
Note on a closely related species: The elkhorn coral’s sister species, the Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis) is similar in appearance, biology, and ecology and is another ecosystem engineer on Caribbean reefs. Unfortunately, it has recently suffered a similar fate and is also critically endangered.
You can visit the IUCN red list here
In progress, it will be finished at the end of December.
In progress, it will be finished at the end of December.
I went under with primitive diving goggles tied around my head. What I then saw was a revelation to me. I had discovered a new world!
Each time I saw for a few seconds – because the glasses were leaking – a very small corner of an underwater paradise. I didn’t even see it properly.
My first goggles had another flaw: they were skewed on my eyes, so that everything seemed double. Yet the impression was so powerful that I immediately decided to spend my free time in the future on the seabed …..
Fish with the Fish, Paul van Venlo (pseudonym Paul Brenneker) 1953
Caribbean reef shark (Carcharinhus perezi)
Reef sharks are the most abundant shark species in the Caribbean, although their numbers have declined severely over the past decades. The status of its populations is currently assessed as endangered.
The Caribbean reef shark is a stereotypical looking reef dwelling shark. It occurs all throughout the Western Atlantic Ocean from the Southern United States down to Brazil. It is a tropical species that usually resides on the continental and insular shelves, staying close to the outer edges of the reefs. Its look is streamlined, with a sharp nose and slight yellowish and brown coloration on its side and back.
In spite of its reputation as a sleeping shark, the relatively large reef shark, that grows to up to ten feet (three meters) in length and can weigh up to 154 lbs (70kg), is a top predator in the Caribbean reef ecosystem. Only juveniles are sometimes preyed upon by larger fishes, for instance by tiger sharks. The wealth of the reef provides the reef shark with ample food, such as bony fish, invertebrates, and sometimes even rays, such as stingrays or eagle rays. On the reefs around our islands, reefs sharks are usually sighted during scuba diving, after being attracted by the bubbles of divers, but they always keep their distance. There is no need to fear the sharks, they are peaceful swimming sharks and not aggressive.
As for the majority of shark species, the reef shark’s reproduction is very slow. They only start reproducing after they grow to over five feet and then reproduce once per two years. They have a gestation period of approximately one year and only get three to six young each time. At birth, the pups are about two feet in length. In the Caribbean, the abundance of the reef shark is under pressure from fisheries, both from targeted fisheries, as well as from significant bycatches. The shark is targeted for its liver oil, meat, and fins, which are primarily, but not exclusively, sold to the Asian market. And in addition, coral bleaching, disease, and physical impact on the reef, may threaten the sharks because they could lead to a loss of relevant habitat for the reef-dependent species.
Queen Parrotfish (Scarus vetula)
Parrotfish are herbivores that graze the reef, using their beaks to scrape plants and algae from the reef surface. Oftentimes, this habit involves ingesting corals and other animals as well, but they are primarily herbivorous. Through their feeding strategies, parrotfishes create much of the sand around a reef. Upon eating some species of calcareous algae (i.e., algae with a hard skeleton), parrotfishes digest the soft parts and pass the hard parts, which essentially take the form of sand. Each parrotfish produces up to 320 kilograms (700 pounds) of sand each year. Through their constant grazing (90% of the day), parrotfish serve an important ecological function on coral reefs. While parrotfish eat a lot of coral, they also eat the algae that grow on top of coral reefs. This cleaning function is important to the reefs’ ecosystem survival. When the fish eat the algae that compete with the coral polyps, the coral is able to grow and is more resilient in the face of local stressors (like pollution or warming).
Each parrotfish has roughly 1,000 teeth, lined up in 15 rows and cemented together to form the beak structure, which they use for biting into the coral. When the teeth wear out, they fall to the ocean floor. This isn’t a problem for the parrotfish, though, because another row of teeth is right behind the first, just waiting to chow down on coral.
Parrotfish teeth are made of a material called fluorapatite which contains calcium, fluorine, phosphorous and oxygen, and is the second-hardest biomineral in the world. Fluorapatite scores a five on the Mohs’ hardness scale, making their teeth harder than copper, silver and gold. No biomineral in the world is stiffer than the tips of parrotfish teeth. The teeth can also withstand a lot of pressure. One square inch of parrotfish teeth can tolerate 530 tons of pressure-equivalent to the weight of about 88 elephants.
If you want to learn more about the research on teeth of the Parrotfish visit this website
The Parrotfish reproduces through a behavior known as broadcast spawning, where females release eggs and males release sperm into the water column above the reef, at the same time. This method increases the likelihood that eggs will become successfully fertilized and that fertilized eggs will not be eaten by egg predators on the reef surface. Interestingly, all parrotfish hatch as females. As they mature, the largest individuals become male. Only during that transition do they lose their drab, brown color and become the brightly colored individuals that we think of when imagining this species. Ironically, the “crowns” that give the queen parrotfish its common name are only found on males.There are about 60 species of parrotfish that live in reefs all around the world, but they all generally live about 5-7 years and grow to 30-120 cm (1-4 feet) in length.
Several species of large bony fishes and sharks eat Parrotfish both as juveniles and adults. At night, the Parrotfish is known to find protected places on the reef to sleep. Before sleeping, individuals of this species surround their bodies with a transparent cocoon-like structure of mucus secreted from an organ on their head. Scientist think the cocoon masks their scent, making them harder for nocturnal predators, like moray eels, to find and its likelihood of waking up the parrotfish if touched.
Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus)
Along with true crabs, prawns, and other lobsters, the Caribbean spiny lobster is a decapod; it has ten legs. It is covered with a spiny exoskeleton that provides it some protection from potential predators. During the day, Caribbean spiny lobsters remain hidden in caves, under ledges, and in crevices on the reef surface. During the twilight hours and at night, individuals are much more active and forage along the reef for small snails and crabs, decaying organic matter, and some plants. Caribbean spiny lobsters will eat most things that they find.
Caribbean spiny lobsters do not have enlarged front claws. Like in all decapods, the Caribbean spiny lobster’s shell really is a skeleton on the outside of its body. The exoskeleton does not expand, and therefore the lobster must molt (or shed) it regularly in order to grow bigger. Before molting, an individual begins building a new, larger skeleton inside the existing one. As it gets too big to be contained, it splits open the outer shell, and the new exoskeleton hardens. During this process, the new exoskeleton can be soft for several hours, and the lobster is highly vulnerable to predation.
Caribbean spiny lobster populations are declining throughout their range and have been mostly depleted in some areas, but scientists do not have sufficient information to understand whether or not they are vulnerable to extinction. They are highly sought after for their meat and are one of the most valuable species in the Caribbean. For this reason, they are vulnerable to overfishing.
Spiny lobsters breed and spawn when the ocean is warm during the summer and female lobsters may produce hundreds of thousands of eggs twice during the reproductive season. She lays the eggs and holds them under her tail for up to ten weeks until they are ready to hatch.
On Bonaire it’s strictly prohibited to take lobster during the summer to ensure their reproduction. Help the Caribbean spiny lobster by not buying, serving, selling, or eating lobster (in any case not during the summer).
You can visit the IUCN red list here
Caribbean reef octopus (Octopus briareus)
The Caribbean reef octopus is beautiful, graceful, an absolute master of disguise and one of the most intelligent known invertebrates. Individuals of this species can completely change their color from one moment to the next using specialized color cells called chromatophores. In doing so, they often perfectly blend with their surroundings, even when settled on a surface with multiple colors. They also have such amazing control of their skin and muscles that they can match the texture of their surroundings as well. A camouflaged Caribbean reef octopus can be nearly impossible to see.
These octopuses are foraging predators on coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea. They eat mostly invertebrates and specialize on clams, large marine snails, crabs, lobsters, etc. They are also known to occasionally be cannibalistic and eat individuals of the same species, most typically after defending territory against an intruder. Caribbean reef octopuses use their web-like arms, seven rows of teeth, and suckers to catch prey. Most hunting occurs during the night, when the Caribbean reef octopus can crawl around the reef without being attacked by predators. This species is eaten by most large bony fishes and sharks that live on the reef. In order to escape predation, Caribbean reef octopuses can eject a cloud of dark ink toward an oncoming predator. In addition to masking the octopus’s escape, the ink tastes bad and deters the predator from continuing its attack.
When a Caribbean reef octopus determines that it is facing a threat which is manageable, it turns into blue-green color. This is meant to appear menacing or frightening to its opponent. This particular defense tactic is used against creatures of an equal or smaller size than the octopus. The tactic is also used when staring down other octopuses who decide to get too close.
The Caribbean reef octopus has a mantle that averages 5 to 6 inches (approx 12 cm) in length and arms that can grow to be as long as 2 feet (approx. 60 cm) in length. Both sexes are similar in size and appearance. The Caribbean reef octopus has a life span of 12 to 18 months. Males reach sexual maturity at 140 days of age with females doing so in 150 days. Sexual maturation can vary slightly depending on water temperature. The warmer the water, the faster that both males and females can reach sexual maturity.
The Caribbean reef octopus is monogamous, and mates only once in its lifetime. Mating involves the male seeking out a female. While the Caribbean reef octopus prefers to be nocturnal, when it comes to mating, they only do so during the day. The actual mating process can look like the male and female are dancing or wrestling with each other. It takes 30 to 60 minutes. During that time, the male will insert his sperm packet into the mantle of the female using one of his arms which is specialized for that task. Soon after mating, the male dies. The female can carry that sperm packet with her for as long as 100 days.
When the female decides it’s time to lay her eggs, she will choose a hiding place, such as a crevice or cave along the reef surface. The nest is guarded by the female for more than two months until the eggs hatch. During this time, she does not leave her nest to feed or for any other purpose. That is the longest amount of continuous time that the female would have spent in any one location. Soon after her eggs hatch, she dies.
The Caribbean reef octopus females only lay 500 eggs. This is a very small number considering that other species of octopuses can lay thousands, if not tens of thousands, of eggs. Part of the reason for this small number is because the Caribbean reef octopuseggs are larger. Also, the hatchlings are larger and better developed. In fact, Caribbean reef octopus hatchlings skip the planktonic stage common with other species. They don’t have to go through a period which requires them to feed strictly off plankton. Being larger, they can hunt for small crustaceans and worms almost immediately.
The hatchlings are capable of secreting ink, walking with their arms, and using water jets to speed away — just like adults — from day one. Most other species require weeks or months for those characteristics to develop. By being larger and so well developed from the hatchling stage, their survival rate is much higher. This is why even though the female only lays 500 eggs, the species can still prosper.
Population trends across are not currently known. As this species lives on coral reefs, changes to that vulnerable ecosystem that result from climate change, coastal development or other human activities could risk the Caribbean reef octopus as well.
If this information has triggered your interest to learn more about the mind of the Octopus, a beautiful book to read is: Other Minds (The Octopus, The Sea, and The deep origins of Consciousness) by Peter Godfrey-Smith