The Nature Foundation St. Maarten Reminds Residents of Existing Fishing Regulations


Recently, the Nature Foundation has received an increase in reports about illegal fishing from shore where there has been an increase in illegal speargun use, immature lobsters are targeted and protected species are caught, such as sharks and rays. The Foundation would like to remind residents and visitors to adhere to the fishing regulations, which, are implemented in order to ensure vital species will survive in our waters. Fishing regulations are internationally applied and extensively researched, all to prevent overfishing and the extinction of species. Without fish, lobster and sharks our coral reefs cannot thrive and coral reef destruction will lead to a serious decline in tourism, our health, storm protection and clear beaches and waters.

“Fishing regulations are not implemented to annoy fishermen or to make their lives difficult, fishing regulations are crucial for the survival of our fish stock and the survival of key marine species in order to prevent extinction and to prevent a collapse of our marine ecosystem and coral reefs. If you catch immature fish and lobster, you are the cause that we will not have these species in the following years, as the immature individuals you caught had no chance to reproduce and no baby fish and lobster will be born to be eaten in the future. Therefore, please adhere to the regulations in order to protect our marine life and safeguard their survival in our waters, providing fish for the future” explained the Nature Foundation Manager Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

This week the Nature Foundation met with the Coast Guard to discuss the current concerns regarding illegal fishing with spearguns, the fishing on protected species and the catching of immature lobsters. The Coast Guard will pay additional attention to the fishing regulations and the Foundation will increase their patrols, especially from shore, in order to examine any violators and also to educate the community about the importance of these rules for the survival of the species, tourism, as a food source and for our ecosystem. 

On St. Maarten spearguns are listened as weapons and therefore to be in the possession of a speargun a yearly renewed license is needed, otherwise it is considered illegal.  In general, the fishing regulations describe the prohibition of catching, killing and/or landing of all shark and ray species, all marine mammals and all sea turtle species in the territorial sea and land of St. Maarten. To fish with gill nets (killer nets) and/or trawling nets is prohibited in all St. Maarten waters, also the use of fish traps with a mesh size of less than 1.5 inches or 38 mm is prohibited. Fishing with chemicals, explosive substances and bait consisting of meat from marine mammals is considered illegal.

There are also some regulations regarding the fishing on lobster (species Panulirus argus), which describe the prohibition of catching lobsters smaller than 25 cm in length, have a carapace length of less than 9.5cm and/or a total weight of less than 680g or a tall weight less than 200gram. It is prohibited to retain lobsters if they are at the moulting stage or carry eggs, it is also forbidden to remove eggs from egg-bearing lobsters.

It is forbidden to catch, kill, hold, dead or alive for sale or delivery, to offer for sale, to sell, to buy, to trade, to give as a gift, to deliver, transport, import or export, lobsters which are below the minimum size mentioned. It is forbidden to buy lobsters for the purpose of selling, trading, delivering, transporting, importing or exporting, without having a license, the model of which is determined by the minister.

Any type of fishing, including trolling/towing and hand lines, is prohibited in the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area, the Marine Park Area is indicated as a square on the attached map. For more information on fishing regulations or the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected area contact the Nature Foundation at

Photo caption: Caribbean Reef shark swimming in the no-fishing zone Man of War Shoal Marine Park with fishing hook above the eye. Photo credits Ocean Explorers Dive center.