Nature Foundation Again Expresses Concern on the Unsustainable Use of Sint Maarten’s Beaches. Residents Being Restricted from Using Certain Beach Sections

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has again expressed concern regarding the way beaches, beach access and beach recreation have been managed in the country. The Foundation has had to respond several times to issues affecting beaches on the island ranging from beach construction, heavy equipment and other vehicles driving and parking on the beaches, structures such as fences and buildings being built, significant amount of trash being left on beaches, and beach access being restricted.

“Over the past few months we have again been continuously faced with having to respond to issues occurring on the beaches. We would like to remind both the public and decision makers that beaches are our most important natural resource and all must be done to protect and sustainably develop this resource. Unsustainable activities such as beach construction, driving on beaches and littering on beaches not only has significant environmental effects but also affects the economy and the image of Sint Maarten as we are trying to rebuild, ” stated Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.

Bervoets continued by stating that the protection, conservation and proper management of beaches should be established in law, “The Nature Foundation would like to again call on Parliament to come with concrete legislation on how beaches should be managed and protected in terms of their ecological and economic importance. There is, or was, a Beach Policy in place but for all intents and purposes this policy is non-functioning or not being taken into consideration. Poor trash pick-up, parking and driving on beaches, the unrestrained placement of beach chairs, and beach construction are fundamental issues hampering the sustainable use of one of our greatest natural assets and is hampering our recovery post hurricane Irma,” concluded Bervoets. Lately, the Nature Foundation has been fielding significant complaints about businesses not allowing residents to place personal affects at locations they deem as ‘theirs’ to place beach chairs and umbrellas.

The Nature Foundation is again calling for the structured management of the country’s beaches, protecting and managing the resource sustainably in order to increase and support the recovery of Sint Maarten.

beach chairs on a beach
Mullet Bay beach
food stand on beach
Food stand on beach at Mullet bay

Nature Foundation Applauds Legal Decision to Not Allow Parking on Great Bay Beach  Despite Ongoing Trend of Increase in Parking on Kim Sha Beach

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation is applauding the court decision last week in which the court found that parking on Great Bay Beach close to the Walter Plantz Square as illegal. Despite the ruling the Foundation is continuing to observe residents and tourist alike both parking and driving on beaches on the island, in particular on Simpson Bay Beach at the area popularly known as Kim Sha. “We are very happy about the ruling regarding the illegality of parking on the beach in Great Bay, and we believe it sets an excellent precedent in protecting and conserving what is our most important Natural Resource,” commented Tadzio Bervoets of the Nature Foundation.

While the Foundation applauds the ruling it is also highlighting the ongoing practice of parking and driving on beaches, in particular the part of Simpson Bay Beach popularly known as Kim Sha; “while we applaud the court ruling we would like to highlight that parking and driving on Kim Sha beach, which has been designated a tourist hot-spot, is still ongoing. We have noticed heavy equipment, cars, busses, trucks and ATVs all parking on and driving on the beaches. A car dealership also recently posted an advert of their cars parked on the beach’”, continued Bervoets.

Research has shown that driving and parking on beaches makes the beach more susceptible to overwash during storms and hurricanes. Parking and driving on beaches also causes erosion, negative health effects in beach users and impacts to beach flora and fauna. “Our beaches are faced with so many issues including water quality, pollution and now this. We really need to enforce the beach policy and have it written in legislation how our beaches should be protected,” concluded Bervoets.

truck on beach
Truck parked on Kim Sha Beach on Monday morning

Nature Foundation Calls on Businesses to use Biodegradable and Reusable Products

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation is calling on all businesses, stores, bars, restaurants, tour operators and event organizers to start using biodegradable and reusable products instead of single-use plastics. Single-use plastic is one of the biggest environmental catastrophes of this generation and a major contributor to the current situation at the Philipsburg landfill. A lot of our single-use plastics end up in our environment and ocean due to littering and poor garbage disposal. Besides, St Maarten just cannot handle the large amount of single-use plastic waste, our dump is already overfilled.

“All businesses can contribute to reduce the single-use plastics on our island and reduce the input of these toxic materials to our environment and landfill. Biodegradable disposable products are already available on our island; the more businesses will shift to biodegradable alternatives the lower the prices will go and availability will increase. Paper straws, paper or sugar cane plates, bamboo plates, biodegradable cups, paper food containers, paper bags, wooden cutlery and much more are all already available on St Maarten and carried by suppliers such as PDG and Merchants Market. Businesses do not have to use single-use plastics, which are impacting and damaging our environment, nature and even us. We are asking all establishments to go green and reduce their single-use plastics, to use reusable products or biodegradable products instead” stated Nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

At least 9 million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year, a rate that has increased 100 times in the past 40 years. If current trends continue there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Single use plastic bags, plastic straws, cutlery and Styrofoam food containers are some of the most environmentally damaging products on our island. These items do not biodegrade and stay in the ecosystem and oceans forever, causing impacts to the environment, animals and humans. Plastic releases harmful chemicals when it breaks down into smaller pieces that are ingested by marine life and eventually humans.

“Several businesses already switched to biodegradable alternatives instead of single-use plastics, such as Dinghy Dock Bar, Buccaneers Beach Bar and Coconut Reef Tours. We very welcome these initiatives and hope many more businesses will follow. Any business, store, bar, restaurant or tour operator who would like to receive more information about the possibilities to switch to biodegradable and reusable alternatives for single-use plastics can contact the Nature Foundation” continued Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern Nature Foundation’s Project Officer.

All around the world eco-tourism is in the rise and plastic free movements are getting more popular as the tremendous impacts of single-use plastics are inescapable. To keep St Maarten a popular destination for the future and to protect our natural beauty, the change to a more eco-friendly destination need to be made including the use of biodegradable and reusable products. Through the Reduce & Reuse St Maarten’ project, the Nature Foundation is fighting plastic pollution and is teaching and encouraging residents, children and businesses to reduce their plastic waste output and clean-up the environment.

Picture 1: Every day several Styrofoam food containers are fished out by the Nature Foundation from the Simpson Bay lagoon.

Picture 2: Single-use plastics views in our natural environments are ordinary instead of being the exception.

Nature Foundation Reiterates its Call on Parliament to Ban Single-Use Plastics

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation is again calling on Parliament to ban single-use plastic products such as plastic bags, straws and cutlery and styrofoam food containers in an effort to reduce marine litter and pollution on St Maarten. Single use plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental catastrophes of this generation. These types of plastics are also a major contributor to the current situation at the Philipsburg landfill.

At least 9 million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year, a rate that has increased 100 times in the past 40 years. If current trends continue there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Single use plastic bags, straws, cutlery and Styrofoam food containers are some of the most environmentally damaging products on the island. These items do not biodegrade and stay in the ecosystem and oceans for ever, causing impacts to the environment, animals and humans. Plastic releases harmful chemicals when it breaks down into smaller pieces that are ingested by marine life and eventually humans. Single use plastics are especially harmful to sea turtles, seabirds, marine mammals, coral reefs and fish that are smothered, choked and otherwise harmed or killed by the plastic products.

“St Maarten uses a remarkable amount of single-use plastics every day, as plastic bags are given for free for every purchased item and plastic straws with any drink. Also takeout food in Styrofoam is normal and very popular, this also includes plastic cutlery. We calculated that Dutch St Maarten alone uses more than 1.4 billion plastic straws a year; straws are used for a few minutes and last forever in the environment. A lot of our single-use plastics end up in our environment and ocean due to littering and poor garbage disposal. Besides, St Maarten just cannot handle this much single-use plastic waste, our dump is already overfull” stated Nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Worldwide, there is growing interest in protecting the environment and moving away from single-use plastics. Over 200 nations have already either banned items like plastic bags and straws or require consumers to pay a fee per use. Recently even the EU proposed to ban single-use plastic products in order to reduce the massive amount of ocean pollution. The Sint Maarten landfill reached its maximum capacity already in 2008 and garbage bins along beaches are overflowing daily, there is simply no more room for unnecessary waste.

“Single-use plastic products are easy to be replaced with more environmentally sustainable materials; reusable products are highly recommended, such as reusable shopping bags, these bags are much more durable and stronger, the less waste we create the better for our waste problems. Single-use products can easily be substituted by biodegradable products such as paper straws or biodegradable cups and food containers, which are all already available on the island.”

Through the Reduce & Reuse St Maarten’ project, the Nature Foundation is fighting plastic pollution and is teaching and encouraging residents, children and businesses to reduce their plastic waste output and clean-up the environment. Part of the project is to lobby for a Single-use plastic ban, as awareness on its own will not reduce the massive amounts of waste created and left behind on beaches and in the environment. In order to protect our environment for the generations to come, to reduce our landfill and to changes St Maarten’s image of a garbage island into an eco-friendly destination, a ban on single-use plastics is needed. Thanks to the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine and the Heineken Regatta for their generous donations towards the Reduce and Reuse project.

Nature Foundation Develops Five Easy Steps to Reduce Single-Use Plastic Waste!

The Nature Foundation is kicking off its ‘Reduce and Reuse St Maarten’ project by releasing five easy steps businesses and residents can take to reduce their single-use plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is a global concern that has damaging impacts on human and environmental health.

St Maarten is a contributor to this issue as littering and the use of single-use plastics are accepted island-wide, causing trash to wash into our oceans, impacting and affecting the local environment, corals, fish, birds and wildlife.

Research has also shown that St Maarten has the highest municipal solid waste of the Caribbean at 9.7 kg per capita per day, compared to Curacao’s waste generation of 0.44 kg. (Source: SERSXM)

The ineffective disposal of waste has caused major problems on St Maarten as poor waste management, frequent toxic landfill fires, no waste separation and no recycling pose grave concerns regarding public health, air pollution, and water and soil contamination. The Nature Foundation calculated that Dutch St Maarten alone uses more than 1.4 billion plastic straws a year; straws are used for a few minutes and last years in the environment. If current trends continue there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

The Nature Foundation St Maarten is fighting plastic pollution through the ‘Reduce & Reuse St Maarten’ project, which teaches and encourages residents, children and businesses to reduce their plastic waste output and clean-up the environment.

Residents can easily reduce their single-use plastic pollution by following these 5 impactful steps;

  • Step 1: Say no to plastic straws, bags, cups and disposable cutlery.
  • Step 2: Carry a reusable shopping bag, water bottle, spork and cup.
  • Step 3: Use and choose biodegradable alternatives.
  • Step 4: Buy and ask for unpacked vegetables and fruits.
  • Step 5: Lobby businesses to use less plastic and spread the word!

Various businesses have already taken steps to reduce their single-use plastic output, such as Buccaneer Beach Bar, The Dinghy Dock, Lagoonies, the St Maarten Yacht Club, Double Dutch Cafe and Karakter Beach Bar, as well as one of the largest hotels, Divi Little Bay, which went completely straw-free since they reopened.

Businesses can also help to reduce a large amount of single-use plastic pollution by following these 5 impactful steps;

  • Step 1: Only provide straws and bags upon request
  • Step 2: Use reusable cups and cutlery.
  • Step 3: Use biodegradable products (Straws, cups, cutlery, and to-go containers).
  • Step 4: Advertise your eco-activism!
  • Step 5: Lobby other companies to use less plastic!

St. Maarten is a beautiful island that attracts millions of visitors from all over the world. The Nature Foundation wants to keep it that way. The community’s help in cleaning up and reducing plastic waste will go a long way in ensuring the preservation of the beauty Sint Maarten is known for.

If residents would like to help the Nature Foundation in the fight against plastic pollution and want to become a Reduce and Reuse Ocean Defender, please contact us!

Thanks to the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine and the Heineken Regatta for their generous donations towards the Reduce and Reuse project. 

seahorse with qtip
A seahorse grabs on to a plastic cotton swab (Justin Hofman Photo)
sea turtle eating plastic
A sea turtle about to ingest a single use plastic bag (Troy Mayne Photo)

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Responds to Sargassum Related Fish Die-Off in Oysterpond

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation over the weekend responded to a significant fish-die off event occurring in the Oysterpond wetland. The event is related to the present sargassum invasion the country is currently experiencing. “We have been at the area in Oysterpond for a few days now monitoring the situation and it is serious. Due to the amount of sargassum decomposing in the Oysterpond Wetland there has been a drop in oxygen levels in the water resulting in numerous organisms dying. Up to now we have recorded about fifteen species of fish as well as lobster being affected significantly,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets. The Nature Foundation is also urging the community not to consume the dead fish.

sargassum seaweed on beach
Sargassum Oyster Pond

The Sargassum is entering Oysterpond through the inlet at Dawn Beach and has been settling and decomposing in the area. Residents of the area have also been complaining about the smell released by the decomposing sargassum seaweed.

The present sargassum invasion affecting the wider Caribbean is one of the worst since the large-scale invasion began in 2011. Although there is no general consensus on the cause of the increased sargassum affecting the Caribbean it is generally believed to be caused by climate change and increased nutrients being introduced into the ocean, both of which are human influences.

‘We have been exploring options to have the seaweed removed and have it be turned into a profitable industry here on the island, however there has to be an investment from both the public and private sectors in combating the invasion. We should also realize that this event is related to Climate Change and again we are at the forefront of a climate induced issue, just like the 2017 Hurricane Season. We are constantly receiving updates on the status of the invasion and unfortunately there is quite a bit more sargassum on its way,” concluded Bervoets.

Great Turnout for the Shark Week Rum Tasting Event at Buccaneer Beach Bar

The Nature Foundation organized an excellent Shark Week Rum Tasting Event at Buccaneer Beach Bar last week with about a hundred people joined the Shark Week event. The Shark Week Rum Tasting was sponsored by Buccaneer Beach Bar and Bacardi Rum and glasses were distributed by CC1 St. Maarten. The Rum Tasting was the closing party of St Maarten’s Shark Week, which was held by the St Maarten Nature Foundation staff from the 8th until the 16th of June.

“It is time we change our image about sharks, they are not out there to attack and scare people; sharks are swimming in our oceans for more than 400 million years. Healthy oceans need sharks, we depend on our oceans therefore we need our sharks. On average less than ten people die due to a shark bite per year in the entire world, sharks are not a threat to humans, we are a threat to them as we kill 100 million a year” commented Nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

The Rum Tasting was a great success, with over eighty people tasting the differ-ent Bacardi Rums and Cocktails poured by the excellent bar tenders. During the event, a beautiful shark painting has been auctioned by Soc from Island 92; the anonymous buyer will receive eternal fame for its support to the Nature Founda-tion. Several donations also came in through the possibility to adopt your own shark or to purchase 4Ocean bracelets, t-shirts, hats and reusable shopping bags. A total amount of $1,800 was collected during the event in support of the Nature Foundation St. Maarten and will be used to continue their shark research and tagging activities. St Maarten Shark Week is part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance ‘Save our Sharks’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

Nature Foundation Warns About Increased Potential for Large Scale Sargassum Invasion

COLE BAY:—- The St. Maarten Nature Foundation is warning of a potential significant influx of Sargassum seaweed in the coming days: “We have been coordinating our monitoring efforts with our partners in the region and based on weather predictions, sattelite imagery and aerial surveys there is a significant amount of the seaweed headed in our general vicinity.

“We have been really trying to work both with our partners in the region and with local stakeholders to monitor the situation and to find a way to control the amount of the weed washing up on beaches in the case of a significant influx. In the case of an influx we need to find a way to coordinate the removal of the seaweed with heavy loaders which causes serious risks to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings while the grass itself can be a hazard to the animals. Uncoordinated seaweed removal can also cause significant erosion on affected beaches,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.

“Economically speaking there is a serious effect that seagrass can have on the beaches of the island. As soon as the grass is cleared it is being deposited back on the beach by the wind and currents. We will continue to work towards researching the effects of the grass and some possible solutions but at this point Sint Maarten, like many islands in the Caribbean, are being heavily impacted,” continued Bervoets.

Sargassum is a genus of brown (class Phaeophyceae) seaweed which is distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world. Most of the Sargassum Seaweed lies concentrated in the Sargassum Sea, a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean surrounded by ocean currents. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current.

Sargassum first plagued the Caribbean and St. Maarten in 2011 and 2012, with the Foundation having to warn swimmers to avoid swimming in Guana Bay in August and September due to the large amount of Sargassum Weed and many beach front residences and hotels having to continuously clean washed up Sargassum.

The Nature Foundation will continue to monitor the situation and will issue releases as information becomes available.

Nature Foundation’s Kids Shark Day great success!

kids in shark customes

On Saturday the 9th of June, the Nature Foundation organized a very successful Shark Day for children at Buccaneer Beach Bar, which was attended by about 100 kids. The kids had great fun and learned everything about sharks through games, quizzes and activities. Kids could even be a real scientist by learning everything about shark research and tagging.

“We have over 400 different shark species in our oceans; you can find sharks in the size of 6 inch up to 40 feet. They are in our ocean for more than 400 million years, reasons enough to protect these species and learn about them! Kids attending the event learned all these facts about sharks, the media often likes to portray sharks as killing machines, however the facts shows us completely the opposite. Occasionally shark bites do happen, however no unprovoked attack has been ever recorded on St. Maarten. It is more likely that you get killed by a coconut falling on your head than by a shark.  It is safe to swim and dive with sharks; it is time to change their image’ stated Nature Foundations Project Office Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

During the event 23 kids attended the special Shark and Art Workshop from Carla Templeton and made beautiful art on specialized tiles, creating the opportunity for the kids to work on their art skills while considering sharks. Environmental Protection in the Caribbean was there as well to teach the kids about mangroves and their importance in protecting our coastlines and fish stocks.

“It looks like Shark Day is getting more popular every year, however this year is the last year of funding through the ‘Save our Sharks’ project. We hope we are able to find a way to continue funding for this great event, as it is getting very famous on St Maarten” says Nature Foundations Project Office Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Thanks to all the volunteers and Buccaneer Beach Bar for making this event happening! St Maarten Shark Week is part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance ‘Save our Sharks’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

kids in shark customes
Dressing up as shark masquotes during shark week

Nature Foundation Organizes Shark Week Rum Tasting at Buccaneer Beach Bar on Saturday

The Nature Foundation is organizing an awesome adult event for St Maarten Shark Week; a Rum Tasting at Buccaneer Beach Bar on Saturday the 16th of June 2018 from 4pm until 9pm. Attendees will have the opportunity to taste different Bacardi rums. The Rum Tasting will be the closing party for this year’s St Maarten Shark Week which is held from 8th until the 16th of June.

“The shark Week Rum Tasting is sponsored by Buccaneer Beach Bar and Bacardi rum distributed by CC1 St. Maarten. A ticket is $10 which allows you to taste 6 different rums, all proceedings will be donated to the Nature Foundation St Maarten. Come out to enjoy nice rums and help our nature and environment on St Maarten at the same time” stated Nature Foundations Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

During the event an amazing St Maarten made Shark Painting will be auctioned, proceeds of the auction will be totally donated to the Nature Foundation St Maarten to protect St Maarten’s natural environment.  Support the Nature Foundation by the willingness to bid high for this unique local Caribbean Reef Shark painting. Bidding is already open and starts at $500, you can send your bid to naturefoundationprojects@gmail.com including your name (or company) and contact details. At 8pm on the 16th of June 2018 the highest bidder will receive the painting and eternal fame for supporting the Nature Foundation.

Sharks are the most misunderstood species on the planet as they are repeatedly displayed as villains and being dangerous; however they are actually the victims of humans poaching, finning and overfishing. Worldwide over 100 million sharks are killed per year resulting in half of all shark species being threatened or endangered. It is important that we work together to ensure the survival of our shark populations, therefore the Nature Foundation is trying to bring this awareness to the public by organizing Shark Week.

During the Rum Tasting event, there will be the possibility to support the Nature Foundation by adopting a shark, or purchasing shark week t-shirts, shark hats, 4Ocean bracelets or reusable shopping bags. St Maarten Shark Week is part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance ‘Save our Sharks’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.