Preserving Cultural Heritage and Coral in Curaçao

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On Wednesday, our Pace documentary team prowled ancient alleys reflecting Curaçao’s extraordinarily rich history, then got a closeup view of a remarkable effort to restore an endangered coral species, devastated by a mysterious disease, by growing it in tanks and then “planting” small corals back in the sea.

FullSizeRender_3(1)                   photo by Yumeng Ji

We spent the morning learning about the history of this amazing island, marked by big moments: the arrival in the early 1600s of the Dutch West India Company, which our tour guide Michael Newton referred to as the first “multinational” company, the oil industry’s arrival in 1915 and the urban revitalization that began at the end of 1980’s. Also, we learned Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao, is on the World Heritage list of UNESCO.

The oil generated a boom by creating jobs and modernizing the island after World War II when the population quintupled. But industrial development has positive and negative consequences: economic growth and pollution, respectively. On that subject, an article published in 2008 by the Christian Science Monitor provides a picture of the tarry consequences for wildlife and a lake.

In the afternoon, we returned to the core theme of our documentary: the fate of coral reefs. We went to the Curaçao Sea Aquarium where we spoke to researcher Valerie Chamberland about her successful efforts to grow coral from larvae in tanks and then transplant them into the sea.

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Pursuing Ancient Trees and Thriving Corals in Curaçao

pacecoral cassie coral swim

Another great day of shooting for our documentary on coral conservation in Curaçao tested our limits with new experiences and challenges – and more than a few scrapes and bruises.

We were able to explore some thriving reefs around Westpunt (the western end of the peanut-shaped island) and focused our cameras on green sea turtles munching algae in a cliff-lined cove.

We had a bus for the entire day so we could hit many locations. To avoid the time and expense of a restaurant stop, we stocked up on food at a local supermarket before hitting the road.

At first, we faced frustration at the turtle cove, as the green turtles dove and surfaced repeatedly but unpredictably, forcing us to continually adjust our focus and zoom.

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photos by Yumeng ji

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What Protects Curaçao’s Healthiest Reefs? Mud and Mosquitoes

pacecoral cassie coral swim

Another great day of shooting for our documentary on coral conservation in Curaçao tested our limits with new experiences and challenges – and more than a few scrapes and bruises.

We were able to explore some thriving reefs around Westpunt (the western end of the peanut-shaped island) and focused our cameras on green sea turtles munching algae in a cliff-lined cove.

We had a bus for the entire day so we could hit many locations. To avoid the time and expense of a restaurant stop, we stocked up on food at a local supermarket before hitting the road.

At first, we faced frustration at the turtle cove, as the green turtles dove and surfaced repeatedly but unpredictably, forcing us to continually adjust our focus and zoom.

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Exploring Curaçao Above and Below the Waves

We had a hectic, varied and fruitful shooting schedule on Monday, splitting into two groups and filming both underwater and above. Our day began with an interesting interview with Glenn Sulvaran, a longtime Member of Parliament in Curaçao who is committed to limiting environmental impacts from development and particularly passionate about protecting the island’s coral reefs. His love of the sea was born when he learned spearfishing from his father, and has steadily built throughout his life. (He stopped spearfishing long ago, of course, and the reef-depleting practice has been banned on the island since 1976 – with invasive lionfish made an exception.) In addition to that, Sulvaran mentioned Oostpunt should be preserved because coral reefs are valuable for the community. Also, he talked about the importance for citizens, not just tourists, to know Curaçao beneath the water.

Photo Mar 16For the second part of today’s taping, we went snorkeling near Carmabi Research Station, and got to see at first hand the coral reefs. Our expectations of the coral reefs were very high because we normally associate them with the movie Finding Nemo, but we were disappointed to see they were sparse and small in the busy tourist area around the hotel. We used our GoPros for underwater footage.10347098_1573314726264592_8525050466097662321_nOur second interview was with Faisal Dilrosun, who works for the environment ministry, spoke to us about concerns with flows of sewage from faulty sections of the island’s sewage system. He pointed out an area where raw sewage flowed into a creek lined with mangroves. The trees were twice the size of similar stands elsewhere, nourished by the nutrients in the untreated water. But that was the only up side to the pollution. He explained how pathogens flowed freely to the sea, carried along the beaches of nearby resort hotels.vlcsnap-2015-03-16-20h57m54s127Dilrosun said that one way to boost concern about pollution and coral conservation would be to build public awareness of the wonders beneath the waves and the value of clean water. He noted that very few residents have ever dunked their faces under water to marvel at the coral.  Continue reading

Day 2: Kayaks, Mangroves, Reef Repair and More

By Dallas, Brianna, Lissette, and Grace

Our first full day on Curaçao was packed with action and information. Early this morning we met Ryan de Jongh, a local tour guide and environmentalist with family roots on the island going back more than 200 years. He led us on a kayak tour through windy and wonderful Piscadera Bay, showing us green mangrove patches that he’d planted in recent years and floating “islands” of young mangrove trees that he’d anchored hoping to create a man-made “tunnel” once the tiny saplings take root in the mud below. He said his goal was to restore as much mangrove cover as possible, making up for the destruction of most of the nation’s mangroves by settlers and, more recently, development.

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After lunch, Mark Vermeij, science director of the Carmabi Research Foundation, gave a presentation about the ecological and economic benefits of the surrounding coral reefs. While some are seriously damaged, the reefs at the undeveloped eastern end of the island – called Oostpunt – are a living “gem” that helps seed the rest of the island’s coral areas and fish stocks. After the presentation we were able to get him on camera to explain the ecology of coral reef restoration.

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To wrap up our day at Carmabi, we were able to interview a local fisherman, Robert Flameling. He had just returned from a successful day at sea. He spoke to us about the significant challenges fishermen face – ranging from competition from foreign longline boats that set out miles of line with 10,000 hooks to high fuel prices. Right from the bed of his truck, he revealed his catch of the day — including a huge yellowfin tuna and a torpedo-shaped wahoo. Tonight we will spend time logging footage and we’re looking forward to another productive day of shooting tomorrow.

TZ3Eio5LcGOUxykZ8A6GVv3QdFu3q8b4bxpYNX3kJbs                     photo by Yumeng Ji

 

Ready, set, action! The filming begins

by Jhennifer Moises

Even though it was 6:00 am when we all met at JFK International Airport, on March 14th, the excitement was shown on everybody’s faces. The anticipation to reach our destination – Curaçao – built up, as we got close to boarding.

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Photos by Yumeng Ji

And only two hours after landing in Curaçao, we were in gear, walking to Carmabi Marine Research Station, where we talked about our schedule and plans for the week, which includes snorkeling on reefs, kayaking in mangroves and an architectural tour. Also, we got to learn a lot about lionfish after talking to fishermen. Cassie and Professor Revkin even tried fresh lionfish sashimi.

Keep up with our adventures in Curaçao as we shoot the documentary on coral reef’s conservation. Curacao’s Coral Challenge – Reviving the Rain Forests of the Sea is in the making!

Looking forward to the great week ahead of us! Make sure to watch our vlog:

Using the GoPro: Filming Underwater, and Launching our YouTube Channel!

With just three days to go until we fly out to Curacao, we had a dry-run of our underwater filming last night during our class time. We took to Pace University’s pool in the Goldstein Fitness Center to test out the cameras for when we go snorkeling in Curacao this coming week.

We have also launched a Pace Coral Youtube channel and created a Vlog that includes some of the highlights form last night’s shoot.

Make sure to follow our channel, as well as our other social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) to “Keep it Coral” with us over Spring break!