One of Sint Maarten’s most important wetlands, Mullet Pond, has been listed and protected as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Treaty on the 13th of October 2016. The Ramsar Convention, signed in Iran in 1971, is a global commitment to maintain the ecological character of global wetland areas, including in the wider Caribbean region.
Wetlands, including Mullet Pond, are vital for human survival. They are among the world’s most productive environments; cradles of biological diversity that provide the water and productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival. They also provide countless benefits or “ecosystem services” ranging from biodiversity, to flood control, groundwater recharge, and climate change mitigation.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands has designated Mullet Pond in Sint Maarten as its 55th Ramsar Site. Mullet Pond (Ramsar Site no. 2270) is a semi-enclosed area of permanent shallow marine waters within the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The site holds some of the few intact seagrass beds in the wider Lagoon as well as 70% of the mangrove forest remaining on Sint Maarten, the Dutch part of the Caribbean island.
The mangroves and seagrass beds act as a major nursery area and important habitat for juvenile fish species which develop in the lagoon before moving to local coral reef ecosystems including in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park. The nationally critically endangered buttonwood Conocarpus erectus is found on Mullet Pond. The site is also the last remaining habitat in the wider Simpson Bay area for Anolis pogus, a species endemic to the island, and the last intact foraging grounds in the Lagoon for the globally endangered green turtle Chelonia Mydas.
The mangroves provide coastal protection during hurricanes and tropical storms, and help to cycle nutrients in the larger Simpson Bay area. As well as supporting the fish stocks which local fisheries depend on, the Site is also used for eco-tourism activities such as kayaking tours.
The area is under continuing pressure from development, while other threats related to dredging, recreational and tourism activities, storms and flooding and invasive alien species including the red lionfish Pterois volitans.
From left to right: Former Senior Policy Advisor for Environment Claire Hooft Graafland, Nature Foundation Director Tadzio Bervoets and EPIC Board Member Fleur Hermanides in the Mullet Pond Ramsar Site. (source: Daily Herald)