Lac Bay, Bonaire

Site description (2007 baseline):

Site location and context
Lac Bay on the southeastern side of the island is a shallow bay protected from the open ocean by a fringing reef at its mouth. The only significant mangrove habitat (about 100 ha) on the island is located here. A small resort and two windsurfing centres are located on the south side of the bay and there is a small harbor for small fishing vessels (that fish outside of the bay) with a set of buildings and a bar/restaurant on the north side of the mouth of the bay. Scattered farms and homes ring the edge in the northwest corner of the IBA. The bay has become popular for a variety of recreational watersports (jet-skis and kite-surfing are banned) and for guided naturalist kayak trips among the mangroves.

Key biodiversity
Numbers of Greater Flamingo at Lac Bay regularly but less frequently exceed (several times per year) the 200 threshold. meets 1% global threshold for Yellow-shouldered Amazon (important roost location) • meets or nearly meets 1% regional threshold for Greater Flamingo, Least Tern Snowy Plover 14 adults at Lac Bay in 2001. Wilson’s Plover - The largest concentration noted in 2001 survey was of 8-10 adults at Lac Bay. Least Tern – Lac Bay was estimated to hold at least 30 adults in July 2001. Area was known to host a roost of approximately 100 Yellow-shouldered Amazons in Sept/Oct 2001. Lac Bay has historically been known to host breeding herons and egrets including Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, and Snowy Egret and likely Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. It is also the location of a night roost of Magnificent Frigatebird that historically is said to have sometimes numbered over 100 birds. On at least one occasion 10-15 adult male Magnificent Frigatebirds were seen displaying and defending territories in mangroves at Lac but no confirmed breeding. Up to 500 Black-necked Stilts have been observed in mangroves at the southern side of Lac Bay and small numbers undoubtedly breed here as well. The area is an important feeding area for non-breeding shorebirds of a variety of species including Semipalmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Red Knot, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Hudsonian Godwit, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone and Willet.

Non-bird biodiversity: The lagoon is important as nursery habitat for various reef fishes and the CITES listed queen conch and contains seagrass beds used by sea turtles. Several scientific papers available on reef fish, algae, sea turtles.

Habitat and land use
Under the shallow seaward waters of the bay there is an important sea grass bed dominated by Thalassia testudinum. On the landward side but still in tidal waters the vegetation is dominated by Rhizophora mangle (red mangrove) with increasing amounts of Avicennia germinans black mangrove) and Laguncularia racemesa (white mangrove) as one moves more landward. On the north side of the bay on the inland side there are large expanses of open salt flats and small salinas that sometimes have water in them. Vegetation here though often patchy is usually of low-growing salt-tolerant herbaceous plants like Sesuvium portulacastrum (Sea purslane) and Salicornia perennis.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Greatest potential threats probably from pollution and increased nutrient loading from septic leaching and increased sedimentation from, land clearing and poor construction practices, especially from hotel development. Lac Bay has also seen greatly increased recreational use of the area by windsurfers, kayakers, and snorkelers, activities which may cause disturbance of foraging flamingos and other birds though this has not been carefully documented. Roost sites for Yellow-shouldered Amazons and other birds should be carefully mapped out to ensure that they are within areas protected from cutting since this could be a threat if they lie outside such areas.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Through STINAPA and the Marine Park, a multiyear management and education program for Lac Bay was undertaken with funding from WWF Holland, focused on addressing concerns including overexploitation of conch, continued exploitation of turtle, balancing of user interests in Lac, and ensuring the integrity of the seagrass and mangrove systems. There are significant reef monitoring programs, education programs for local school children around marine biology and conservation and issues like recycling, and sea turtle monitoring, research, and conservation programs.

Protected areas
Underwater portion is protected with Bonaire National Marine Park with specific regulations related to activities within the area and use of natural resources including mangroves. Has been proposed to become formally part of National Park system. Lac Bay is a recognized RAMSAR site as well.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Lac Bay, Bonaire. Downloaded from on 28/02/2024.