To dive in St. Maarten, each visitor must purchase a diving tag and vessel operators
must register and pay for their personal boat. Learn more here.
Please take care of our ecosystems and fellow divers when diving! A variety of measures are in place to protect the safety, stability, and longevity of our reefs, wrecks, and marine life. Follow the following regulations and recommendations when on any dive site in St. Maarten, but especially the Man of War Shoal Marine Park.
This page details the regulations for diving within and outside the Marine Park, as well as rules for vessels and recommendations regarding diving gear and sunscreen to protect our coral reefs.
Marine Park Regulations
When you are scuba diving in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park, follow these simple guidelines:
- Visitors must have purchased dive tags and registered their personal vessels.
- Use dive site moorings and follow the vessel regulations.
- Do not chase, harass, damage, remove, or try to ride marine life.
- Do not remove anything living or dead from the water, except recent trash.
- Do not throw anything overboard or sink any objects.
- Never discharge chemicals or waste.
- No type of fishing is allowed within the park boundaries.
- Do not feed marine life — it changes natural behavior and diet.
- Leave historical artifacts undisturbed to allow future divers to enjoy them.
- Maintain buoyancy control — do not stand or kneel on the bottom, unless it is sand.
- Secure all gauges so that they cannot get caught on or drag along the bottom.
- Do not wear gloves unless you are going up or down a mooring line or wreck diving.
- Always pass seaward of mooring buoys, and always steer clear of dive vessels.
- Always place ‘diver down’ flag when diving.
- Never leave your vessel unattended.
Please follow the rules established for the Marine Park, even when diving outside the conservation zone:
- All visitors must register to dive in St. Maarten, even if visiting sites or using moorings outside of the Marine Park.
- No type of fishing is permitted in a distance of 50m/150ft from any dive sites.
- It is illegal to possess or fish with a speargun on St. Maarten without a license, and it will be confiscated by the Coast Guard. Check local fishing legislation prior to fishing in SXM.
Private Vessel Regulations
When using a personal boat to enter the Marine Park or use public moorings, vessel operators must follow additional rules:
- Use dive site moorings.
- The maximum acceptable overall length for vessels tied to moorings is 15m/50ft and the maximum acceptable weight is 30 tons.
- Only one boat is allowed on each mooring, first come first served priority. There is a maximum stay of 2 hours.
- Your bow line needs to feed through the loop of the yellow floating line of the mooring, tie your bowline back onto your boat. Do not tie the yellow floating line directly onto your boat. The boat bowline must be at least as long as your vessel.
- Respect that some dive sites are more popular and refrain from repeatedly using the same dive mooring.
- Boats must display the ‘alpha’ flag at all times when divers are in the water.
- Dive boats must respect other boats that have an ‘alpha’ flag on display and should not go closer than 30m/100ft to the boat for safety reasons.
- All boats should expect Nature Foundation staff to approach them at a safe distance at any time.
- Boats are not to be left alone on dive site moorings without surface support.
- No anchoring or use of anchors on the reefs.
- It is prohibited to place, move or remove anchor buoys or moorings. No sinking of any vessels or other objects without written permission from the authorities.
- All boats must adhere to applicable regulations and codes of conduct for boats operating in St. Maarten with appropriate safety equipment.
Stony Coral Tissue Disease Rules
Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) is an aggressive and deadly coral disease that has greatly affected the health of the coral reefs of St. Maarten since 2018. This disease can be spread in several ways, including physical contact by divers of a diseased colony, who then touch a healthy coral. The disease can also live on diving gear, even after traveling for several days. To help stop the spread of this deadly coral disease, the Nature Foundation asks all divers to practice the following recommendations:
- In order to protect our coral reefs and prevent the spread of the disease a 100% NO TOUCH policy is in effect on all St. Maarten dive sites. Scuba divers found touching coral reefs could risk a fine.
- All scuba diving gear entering our island must be soaked in a 5% chlorine bleach solution, rinsed in plenty of fresh water, and dried in the sun. Dive schools will need to forward this message to their customers, and we recommend that visiting divers rent local gear or use dive shop-provided gear.
- Do not use any single-use plastic item onboard a boat or close to the ocean.
The presence of chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate in some sunscreens are considered a threat to coral reefs and other marine organisms. The chemicals have been associated with signs of distress in coral, including coral bleaching, DNA damage, and growth abnormalities. The Nature Foundation recommends that visitors to the ocean:
- Use “physical” titanium dioxide and zinc oxide-based sunscreens when entering the water instead of “chemical” sunscreens.
- Wear UV-protective items such as sun shirts and hats to limit the amount of product entering the water.