Expedition update: Bonaire

The first sites we visited today for the Shallow Reef Survey were sites situated on the exposed side of the island, near Lac Bay, a large shallow lagoon on the east coast of Bonaire. Because the weather forecast is predicting strong winds in the next week, we took our opportunity to start out with these more difficult sites. The sites were in pretty good shape with beautiful sea fans and the usual suspects, such as schools of 'Black Durgons' (Melichtys niger), seen in abundance. We were overwhelmed and excited by the amount of Green Turtles we saw (approx. 20 per dive). The Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) enjoy the area around Lac and frequently visit its seagrass beds. The turtles' annual average growth rates here are 8cm compared to 3cm in the wider Caribbean, which emphasises the ecological importance of the Lac area. Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire has been protecting sea turtles since 1991 and runs several research programs such as the in-water survey and tagging program that monitors sea turtle growth rate. Besides the turtles we saw more fish compared to the reefs in Curacao such as; Oceanic Triggerfish, green Moray Eels, Barracudas and large Groupers. Interestingly we didn’t spot too many of the invasive Lionfish, which is likely linked to the efforts of the Bonaire National Marine Park. We are staying at the CIEE Research Station Bonaire.