Last week during a Nature Foundation Patrol on the Patrol Vessel Yellowtail Nature Foundation staff found a vessel called Vagansa and belonging to a French-side dive operator to be anchored illegally at the Charlie’s Shoal dive site. Like the Marine Park and based on the Ministerial Decree establishing the Marine Protected Areas for Sint Maarten it is illegal to anchor at all registered dive sites. The use of anchors negatively impacts the marine environment and can damage coral and seagrass beds.
Upon approaching the vessel it was noticed that the vessel had five divers on board about to commence their dive. The captain and dive leader was requested to exit the water but ignored said request. After repeatedly requesting staff to stop diving the captain appeared on the surface. It was communicated to him that all divers should be removed from the water and that the captain should be prepared to show documentation, however the captain initially refused. At this point the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard Cutter Poema was contacted for assistance.
The Captain was ordered to board his vessel and show registration forms and user-fee tags which he failed to do. In order to dive on any dive site on Sint Maarten visiting divers need to provide proof of having paid user-fees and all diving vessels need to register at the Nature Foundation.
A boarding vessel was sent by the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard Cutter Poema and Nature Foundation staff explained the situation and showed photographs of the anchor damage. Vessel Vagansa was requested by the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard to follow to Coast Guard station where it was processed for illegal anchoring.
The Nature Foundation would like to remind all dive operators to register their vessels at the Nature Foundation and to ensure that all divers pay their user-fees.