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“I try to make people aware of the beauty and vulnerability of nature through my photos.”

Ocean Witness Casper tells his story.

Six years ago, Casper moved from the Netherlands to the Caribbean in search for a place where he and his family could spend more time outdoors. On the small island of Bonaire he is living the dream, but he also experiences environmental problems: construction sites and overtourism are threatening the island’s beautiful marine life. He became a photographer and through his photos he wants to make people more aware of the importance of taking care of our oceans.

become an ocean witness
05 March 2020 | Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands

What is your first memory of the ocean? 

I remember being in France with my parents when I was ten years old. We were on holiday in Collioure, a small coastal town in the south of France, and enjoyed a walk along the Mediterranean Sea. I was amazed by the beautifully coloured fish in the sea and remember thinking: “One day, I’ll go in there to see them up close”.

 

What does the ocean mean to you today?

The ocean is very important to me, also in my daily life. From my house I have a beautiful view of the Caribbean Sea and it’s priceless to see my son enjoying time on the beach and in the ocean. When I go diving, I enter a completely different world and I realise once again: we have to preserve our oceans. It’s very important that people can still see all this beauty in 100 years. Therefore, I often take my son diving so he can see with his own eyes why we have to take care of the sea.

“When I go diving, I enter a completely different world and I realise once again: we have to preserve our oceans.”
Casper

You live in the Caribbean, what changes are you witnessing that affect the ocean?

Since I started living here six years ago, more buildings have been constructed along the coastline, like beach bars and houses. This is really bad for sea turtles because they have fewer places to nest in peace. I think this will become an even bigger issue in the future, which is a huge problem for a species that is already endangered. 

Another development is that more cruise ships are coming to the islands, having an enormous impact on the Bonaire National Marine Park and the rest of the Caribbean Sea. This causes more ocean noise and there are many more people snorkelling and diving to admire the underwater world of the island. If this won’t be organised in a sustainable way it will be just too much for Bonaire’s beautiful – but fragile – underwater world. 

“I think we need to adjust laws at a quicker pace to be able to protect nature.”
Casper

How do these changes affect you?

Witnessing how Bonaire’s coral reefs are dying is very difficult to me. The reefs are very fragile: heavy rainfall can already endanger coral reefs because of dirt from the land ending up in the sea, suffocating coral. Luckily, there are projects that protect the coral reefs around Bonaire, but these are still baby steps – I think we need to adjust laws at a quicker pace to be able to protect nature. An example is the use of non-biodegradable sunscreen that should be banned sooner than later. Although small steps are being taken, I think the local government must consider sustainability as a higher priority and take more decisions based on protecting the environment. 

 

What do you do to contribute to healthier oceans? 

I try to make people aware of the beauty and vulnerability of nature through my photos. This way, I hope to motivate them to take better care of our natural environment. For my latest project Bonaire in 50 Pictures I share a photo of the island every day for 50 days: tropical beaches, dumped garbage, local fishermen and carnival celebrations – it’s all part of the life on Bonaire. By visualizing each aspect of the island, I want people to admire Bonaire more and stimulate them to take care of the island. 

“I want people to admire Bonaire more and stimulate them to take care of the island.”
Casper

Let’s look ahead: how do you think the ocean will look like in 2030? 

I think we have to make real changes real soon, otherwise life in the oceans will change for the worse. Of course, I want to be positive and I hope that our oceans will be less polluted and will have more fish, sea turtles and other marine life in 2030. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are important to protect our oceans, we need more of them to conserve marine species and important habitats, like coral reefs. Now only 5,3% of the oceans is protected by MPAs, let’s make this 30% by 2030!

Thank you for sharing your story, you’re an Ocean Witness now. What would you like to say to other Ocean Witnesses?

Awareness of the value and vulnerability of nature is a very important step towards a more sustainable world, let’s make people more aware by sharing stories and photos. By influencing others we can save our beautiful world together!

“It’s important to be aware of your impact on your holiday destination.”
Casper

And what would you like to say to other readers, how can they contribute to healthier oceans?

It’s important to be aware of your impact on your holiday destination. For example, when you’re visiting a small island, like Bonaire, minimise your ecological footprint and help local people recycling garbage. An island like Bonaire doesn’t have the same recycling facilities as your home country likely has and it may be better to take some things back home, like used batteries. 

About Casper

Casper Douma (42) is a freelance photographer from the Netherlands who moved to the Caribbean island of Bonaire six years ago. Together with his family, he enjoys the beach life on the tropical island. Casper makes photos on land and below the ocean surface, and also when he is not working he enjoys diving in the Caribbean Sea together with his wife and son to admire the beautiful coral reefs and colourful marine life in the area. Through his photos he aims to increase awareness about the importance of our natural environment.

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Casper Douma

Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands

Casper Douma (42) is a freelance photographer from the Netherlands who moved to the Caribbean island of Bonaire six years ago. Together with his family, he enjoys the beach life on the tropical island. Casper makes photos on land and below the ocean surface, and also when he is not working he enjoys diving in the Caribbean Sea together with his wife and son to admire the beautiful coral reefs and colourful marine life in the area. Through his photos he aims to increase awareness about the importance of our natural environment.