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Collective Individual Action for Ocean Protection

By Endirah Palm

Site Manager, Blue Halo Curaçao

“What does the ocean mean to me? Life! It not only the water that we need to stay alive, but also what lives in the ocean’s waters and its ecosystems. The sea provides us ways to relax, to practice our hobbies, and last but not least, provides numerous jobs and economic security. We couldn’t live without the sea, that is for sure.

Curaçao is a 444 square kilometer island in the Caribbean Sea. We could not imagine life as know it without the sea that surrounds us. It is part of our culture to relax at the sea, to fish, to appreciate the ocean view, just to name a few of the benefits it provides us. We love the calmness that the sea offers and the delicious fresh fish for our meals. Our community relies on income from the sea—not only the fishers, but also the tourism industry and divers.

I currently serve as the Site Manager for the Blue Halo Curaçao initiative advocating for sustainable ocean management. This initiative is a partnership between the Government of Curaçao and the Waitt Institute. We are working together to protect at least 30% of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). That is a great target, and we are working hard to have it realized, if possible, by the end of 2021. Implementation involves a legislative process which needs to pass several governmental departments and Ministers in order to have comprehensive legislation in place which is will benefit our ecosystem and create more Blue Economy activities.

Current efforts

I remain optimistic by seeing organizations and our government becoming more involved in protecting the sea and its resources. There are several organizations on the island coordinating educational activities to maintain our beaches and organize coastal and dive cleanups.

The government is simultaneously implementing laws to protect our sea from overfishing and to reduce the amount of pollution being dumped into the sea. It is a long road to protect our ocean, but it is worth continuing to push further.

The path forward

When we look at how to protect the sea, I think it is important to take into consideration

short-, medium- and long-term goals.

When I think of short-term goals, there is the implementation of protected fishing areas (i.e. fish reproduction zones). The ministerial decree to designate these zones has already been approved, so now we are awaiting the official passage of the decree so these important fish reproductive areas will be protected to support our fisheries.

We also need to manage our current protected areas like the Marine Park at Eastpoint and the RAMSAR area at Klein Curaçao. It is also important to organize awareness campaigns so that all of Curaçao knows why the ocean is important to them and what we are doing to support their livelihoods. I hope the fishers’ communities will organize these events so that they can inform the larger community of the negative impacts of a polluted sea for their income and lives. Clean up campaigns are also very important to bring us together to help our oceans and we should keep organizing them on a regular basis at several bays.

There are several organizations doing their best to keep the island clean right now, but we also need to get the greater part of the community involved in these activities. One method for community engagement is to organize activities during school vacations or other holidays when the beaches are crowded. When we catch people enjoying the sea, we can better convince them of the need to protect it.

Medium- and long-term goals involve focusing on legislation to protect the sea and seashores against long term threats, like the effects of climate change. Another point of attention is also the sea water pollution caused by dumping waste and pollution from sewage pipes. Protecting the sea also means keeping it clean and healthy from pollution.

Although it seems like a monumental task, it is collective individual action that will help us achieve our goal of protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030.”

Endirah Palm is the Site Manager for Blue Halo Curaçao. She serves as the on-the-ground liaison, working closely with government officials and stakeholders in Curaçao.

Before leading Blue Halo Curaçao, Endirah Palm has worked in the areas of environmental protection and technology since 1993, offering environmental consulting, project coordination, and change management services to public and private clients. Endirah organized and coordinated several clean-up and awareness campaigns in cooperation with other local organizations, and worked with Curaçao’s first waste glass recycling company, Curexglass Ltd. She also consulted on several projects focused on illegal wastewater dumping in Curaçao, and represented several international manufacturers of waste processing technologies from Europe, USA and Latin America.

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