NOAA Names Bonaire Most Pristine Coral Reef

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designated Bonaire as having "arguably the most pristine coral reef environment in the Caribbean."

Bonaire's reef will now become the benchmark for which all other coral reefs will be compared, given that research has shown Bonaire as having the highest percentage of coral cover and the lowest percentage of algal cover compared to other Caribbean reefs. Additionally, an official study revealed that Bonaire is inhabited by more species of fish than any other Caribbean island.

To collect further benchmarking data, NOAA initiated an Ocean Explorer signature exploration titled "Bonaire 2008: Exploring Coral Reef Sustainability with New Technologies," which took place January 7-30, 2008. The exploration was conducted by a team of researchers and scientists from the College of William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the University of Delaware and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. STINAPA, the organization that oversees the Bonaire National Marine Park, coordinated the expedition.

The expedition consisted of mapping Bonaire's reef using methods beyond the capabilities of conventional compressed air scuba diving including technical diving with mixed gases and using three autonomous underwater vehicles to explore greater depths, where little to no survey work has previously been conducted. This unique mapping of the biological and physical environment will document patterns of biodiversity in shallow and deep parts of the reef.
For more information about the NOAA Ocean Explorer Bonaire expedition, visit http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/08bonaire/welcome.html.

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