Nature Foundation Cooperating with Coast Guard to Apprehend Poachers
The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has been recording a number of incidents of poaching within the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area. The Foundation has been noticing evidence of poaching and have been sent pictorial proof of poaching incidents in the MPA. The area of the Marine Park has been off limits from fishing since 2010 and the intentional hunting and harming of sharks has been made illegal in Sint Maarten Waters since 2011. Since 2012 there were 7 incidents of sharks being harmed or killed in the waters surrounding St. Maarten, two of which occurred in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park. The practice of intentionally fishing for sharks has been forbidden since October 12th 2011, when the Ministry TEATT banned the practice of intentionally poaching sharks in the territorial waters of St. Maarten. The act of trying to catch by tracking, stalking, baiting, chasing, trapping, hooking, netting, shooting or otherwise hunting – sharks, rays and skates is prohibited and therefore the animals may not be wounded, caught, landed, or killed. Violators may be punished with jail and a considerable fine may be issued. If Sharks are accidentally caught all steps should be taken to release the animal with as little harm as possible. The ban on intentionally harming sharks was further reinforced in June 2016 with Government announcing St. Maarten’s territorial waters as a shark sanctuary. The Nature Foundation has been in communication with the Coast Guard on how to tackle the poaching in the area. The Foundation will also be implementing increased weekend and early morning patrols.
“It seems as if people are again fishing illegally just inside the Marine Park both during the day and at night. We have been working hard in changing the perception within the community in general and the fishing community specifically about the importance of not fishing in the Marine Park and protecting shark species to our economy and to keeping healthy fish stock in balance,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.
Previous Nature Foundation research has shown that the value of the protected Marine Park is worth fifty-million dollars to the economy annually. We also did research that shows that a single live shark is worth up to USD $884,000 to the economy of the island, as is opposed to just a few dollars dead. “The majority of divers who come to the island pay top dollar to see the Natural Environment of the Marine Park. These divers also rent cars, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and drink in bars. Taking all of that into account and based on research conducted by the Nature Foundation the Marine Park is not only important ecologically but also to the economy of the island. Sharks are also an apex predator and are essential to the health of local coral reefs. If we do not have sharks we will lose our coral reef ecosystem. Sharks keep the reefs clean of unhealthy fish which in turn keeps the ecosystem in balance,”
The Nature Foundation is investigating the incident together with local law enforcement organizations.
Picture caption 1: Photo of vessel fishing illegally in the Marine Park
Picture Caption 2: Shark with fish hook embedded in eye