In November 2010, Zach Zarillo, an Eagle Scout from Watertown, Connecticut, spent a week in Bonaire diving and performing conservation work, which resulted in him being the first recipient of The Triton Society’s Bronze Award. Zach personally worked over 50 hours and his team of volunteers contributed another 80 hours towards marine conservation.
Zach recruited several members of his dive team and, along with volunteers from the Sea Turtle Club of Bonaire, helped clean seaweed and other growth off of floating lines and small floats that mark and protect the sea grass beds in Lac Lagoon. Maintenance of the 1,250 meters of line and 1,250 floats is critical to prevent the lines from moving and sinking.
The work involved consisted of using knives, scrapers and steel wool to remove the seaweed and grime from the lines and buoys, which was infested with numerous crabs that had become aggressive during the cleaning effort. Many crabs crawled on the volunteers and repetitively pinched them, and some even managed to crawl under the volunteers’ clothing. Even crabs that were tossed from the line managed to swim and/or crawl back to again attack the volunteers with their claws.
Sea grass provides an important food source for Bonaire’s juvenile green turtles. Lac Lagoon’s sea grass beds also provide shelter, food and oxygen for other marine life, from microorganisms to fish, crabs, shrimp and queen conch. Additionally, sea grass roots in the near-shore beds prevent Lac’s sand from eroding. Areas with dense sea grass bottoms have been in jeopardy in Lac Bay due to heavy recreational use. The line-and-buoy boundaries are visual markers to warn bay users of the sea grass beds below the waterline and to alert them not to walk in those areas which will harm the sea grass.
Additionally, while diving in the Bonaire National Marine Park, Zach volunteered to mark the locations where he found lionfish. Lionfish are voracious carnivores that consume many other indigenous fish species and, if left unchecked, can kill three-quarters of a reef’s fish population. The invasion of the non-native lionfish in the Caribbean poses a major threat to the coral reef systems. The markers used were made with bottle cork floats attached to the end of three-feet-long bright yellow plastic lines. A diver who spots a lionfish is instructed to attach the marker to a rock near the fish so that the cork floats the line above that area, identifying it so that when park officials return they can quickly find the lionfish and remove them.