On November 24th 2015, the Committee for the joint management of Marine Biodiversity and Fisheries (CMBF) of the Dutch Caribbean (aka EEZ Committee) met on Bonaire for its twice yearly meeting. The EEZ Committee consists of representatives of each of the islands and the Netherlands, who have signed the agreement for joint management of the EEZ waters (EEZ agreement).
Currently the members are Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius and the Netherlands. Permanent observers to the meetings are the Dutch Caribbean Coastguard, the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (I&M), which is responsible for shipping and marine pollution. Aruba, as yet not a signatory member to the EEZ agreement, was present as an observer at the meeting. Other invited observers at the meeting were the French Agoa Sanctuary of Marine Mammals and the PEW Charitable Trusts Shark Conservation Program.
The main news at this 8th meeting of the Committee was of course the establishment of the Yarari Marine Mammal & Shark Sanctuary two months earlier in September. One of the objectives of this meeting was to develop a Plan of Action for the Sanctuary, both for sharks and for marine mammals. The French Agoa Sanctuary of Marine Mammals and the PEW Charitable Trusts Shark Conservation Program gave presentations of their work as background information for this. DCNA presented their shark conservation program.
The meeting agreed to a first outline of a Plan of Action for the Yarari Sanctuary that will be refined and discussed further at the next meeting. The PoA outline has four main objectives to direct its actions to improve protection of marine mammals and of sharks. These are: 1) cooperation to strengthen regional protection; 2) improve knowledge through research and monitoring; 3) develop guidelines and regulations to reduce impacts of human interaction; and 4) outreach to sensitize and engage the general public, fishermen and other stakeholders to get their support, and, particularly in regard to shark conservation, improve compliance with protective regulations.
This was the first time that Curaçao participated as a signatory member of the Committee. Representatives from the island provided an overview of their recent activities in the marine environment. This was an impressive list, ranging from the establishment of four new Ramsar sites—three of which include the marine environment—to a survey of the coral reefs at 150 sites around the island, making Curaçao probably the best surveyed island in the world. Curaçao has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Waite foundation to develop an Ocean Policy Plan and has committed to subsequently implement that plan. Curaçao is also working on strengthening its research institutions, CARMABI and the Sea Aquarium/Curaçao Substation, so as to become a regional leader in the natural (marine) sciences.
The next EEZ Committee meeting is scheduled on Curaçao in March 2016.