Nature Foundation Cleans Up Mullet Bay Beach With Passengers of Princess Cruise Lines and Fathom Travel

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation teamed up with Passengers from Princess Cruise Lines, Fathom Travel and Carib Resorts in cleaning trash, single-use plastics and even hurricane debris from Mullet Bay Beach on Wednesday morning. Some 35 passengers removed 728.13 pounds of trash from the beach, using the Trash Tracker method developed by Ocean Cleanup Organization 4Oceans by weighing all the collected trash and using reusable bags and gloves.

The activity was a part of the Fathom and Princess Cruises Cruise for the Caribbean and it is the third time passengers from a cruise ship to Sint Maarten have participated in an impactful environmental activity with the Nature Foundation. During the cleanup the passengers also learned about several Nature Foundation projects, such as the ‘Reduce & Reuse St Maarten’ project which is designed to decrease the amount of single-use plastics on St Maarten. Single-use plastics impact our environment tremendously, never biodegrade and are easily substituted by biodegradable and reusable products.

“We were very pleased to have these environmental conscience guests to take time out of their holiday to clean our beaches. We are grateful for their positive attitude about decreasing single-use plastics and their pledge to assist in keeping our natural environments clean. We are looking forward into more sustainable tourism, a single-use plastic ban on St Maarten could really facilitate St Maarten as an eco-touristic destination and will help to protect our natural environment for the future generations,” read a Nature Foundation statement.

Nature Foundation Teams up With Princess Cruise Lines, Fathom Travel and Carib Resorts to Clean up Guana Bay Beach

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation teamed up with Cruise Passengers from Princess Cruise Lines, Fathom Travel and Carib Resorts in cleaning garbage and hurricane debris from Guana Bay Beach, Sint Maarten’s most critical turtle nesting beach and one of the beaches hardest hit by Hurricane Irma. Some 100 passengers assisted the Nature Foundation in cleaning various debris, plastic, fishing tackle and glass for three hours on Wednesday morning. The activity was a part of the Fathom and Princess Cruises Cruise for the Caribbean and is the first time passengers from a cruise ship to Sint Maarten have participated in an impactful environmental activity; “We were so pleased and honored to have guests from a cruise ship take time out of their holiday to assist Sint Maarten both with an ecological activity and helping us rebuild Sint Maarten after the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma. We are so grateful to the whole team and the positive attitude everyone showed while ridding the beach of plastic. It is excellent to see this move towards a sustainable tourism for Sint Maarten post-Hurricane Irma,” read a Nature Foundation statement.

Guana Bay is listed as the index beach for all three species of Sea Turtle that nest on Sint Maarten. During the cleanup activity some three tons of trash were collected and removed from the beach. The group also made a generous donation towards the Nature Foundation’s cleanup activities post hurricane Irma. Cleanup supplies were provided by well-known Environmental NGO 4Ocean who provided gloves, re-usable trash bags and cleaning tools.

Photocaption: Attendees at the cleanup event.

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Concerned About Waste Water, Garbage and Possible Sewage Being Dumped at Kim Sha Beach

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has expressed its grave concerns regarding the unrestricted flow of waste water being entered into an area of Kim Sha Beach. During inspections carried out at various times at the area waste and possibly sewage water was clearly seen being pumped from the wall of the Atrium Hotel parking area directly unto a section of Kim Sha Beach, close to the ruins of the Old Simpson Bay Bridge, which is listed as a historical monument. Building construction material was also found to be illegally dumped at the site.

“We responded to several complaints that raw sewage was being pumped into the area behind Atrium Hotel and we made an inspection of the location in question. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the location, we could see waste water and possibly sewage being pumped through the wall belonging to Atrium Hotel unto Kim Sha Beach. There is also a large amount of construction rubble and material dumped at the site. Aside from the environmental effects all this wastewater and dumped material and garbage is right by the old Simpson Bay Bridge, which is listed as a historical monument.

“What is also unfortunate is that while we are recovering from Hurricane Irma and trying to market Kim Sha Beach as a location for Cruise Ship Passengers as an area to enjoy in order to make our economy strong again these types of environmental damages hurt the island financially. No tourist or resident, if they are aware of the true state of Kim Sha Beach, would want to visit there. Additionally, the area is also a health hazard with stagnant waste water and garbage posing a threat to the health of the population in terms of exposure to the Zika Virus and other health issues,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

The Nature Foundation has tried contacting the Atrium Hotel but has received no response. A correspondence was also sent to the inspection department at VROMI informing them of the situation. A video of the wastewater and garbage at the location has been uploaded to the Nature Foundation Facebook Page.


Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, Tour Operators Clean Great Bay Beach

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, together with volunteers from the Cruise Operator Sector, cleaned up a large portion of Great Bay Beach this week. Great Bay Beach is not only a critical nature area in terms sea turtle nesting but it is also the major tourism beach; “We have been cleaning the beaches systematically and one of the most important is definitely Great Bay Beach.

“With the announcement that the first cruise visitors will start to arrive in December we placed Great Bay Beach on the priority list. Great Bay Beach is also the major nesting site for Sea Turtles on Sint Maarten,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, manager of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation. The Foundation has been using unemployed youth and volunteers to clean the beaches using funding from the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance.

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, with the Support of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, Structurally Cleans Beaches.

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, through the support of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance DCNA, has been able to structurally put a program in place to clean the beaches over the past week. Despite several beach-clean-ups being held and due to large amount of trash and hurricane debris still being found on the beaches the Foundation decided to request DCNA for relief funds to structurally clean beaches. “While we were doing our assessments on the ground post-hurricane Irma and Maria, and after the follow-up assessments which were conducted especially leading into the restarting of the Tourism Season we decided that the beaches were still not at a level of cleanliness they should be. We therefore appealed to the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance who made funding available for us to rent equipment and pay the manpower necessary to structurally clean the beaches. We have started at Mullet Bay Beach and will be working our way down to Dawn beach in the next few days,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

For the past two months the Nature Foundation has placed a lot of focus on cleaning both the beaches above as underwater, making the areas safe for swimming. “There are some areas that are still a concern. The area in front of Karakter Beach Bar where there has been a wreck for some years is still dangerous for swimming. However we buoyed the area off as to warn simmers from swimming there. We have also been working with young people from our district in Cole Bay and from Dive Operators paying them a stipend so that they can also have an income while they assist us in getting the beaches clean. So far we have removed five dump trucks worth of trash from Mullet Bay and five dump trucks from Simpson Bay and we will continue to clean methodically,” continued Bervoets.

The Foundation also met with a group of Tour Operators on Monday were discussions were held on readying the beaches for the arrival of the cruise ship passengers and with the various Government entities about the status of beaches; our beaches are our primary natural resource and as such we need to ensure that they are healthy from both an environmental and economic point of view. We also are urging people to keep their property clean and properly dispose of garbage,” concluded Bervoets.

Nature Foundation staff and Volunteers clean various beaches around the island.

Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance does first shark-tagging exercise

PHILIPSBURG–Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) caught and tagged a total of 22 sharks in October as part of a region-wide “Save our Sharks” project.

Little is currently known about the status of shark populations in Dutch Caribbean waters, and tagging studies are a pivotal first step in determining which sharks are present, where they can be found, and most importantly, how best to improve management and protection of these important apex predators, it was stated in a press release.

On board the Caribbean Explorer II, which set sail from St. Maarten, were shark scientists and conservationists from Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), Nature Foundation St. Maarten (NFSXM), Florida International University (FIU) and Sharks4Kids. The aim of the expedition was to learn as much as possible about shark abundance and diversity on the Saba Bank. Over the course of the six-day expedition, the team caught 22 sharks.

Sixteen of the sharks were Caribbean Reef Sharks, which were fitted with Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags, a kind of bar coding, which can be used to identify sharks and track their movements. The other six sharks were Tiger Sharks (Galeocerdo Cuvier) and four of these received their own custom fitted satellite tracking device. Tiger Sharks spend quite a lot of time on the surface, which allows satellite tracking devices to be used to track their movements with pin-point accuracy, the release said.

The tagging expedition was organised as part of the Dutch Postcode Lottery funded “Save our Sharks” project, which aims to change the way we think about sharks, and to create safe havens for them by working with fishermen, local communities and scientists.

PIT tags were inserted under the sharks’ skin just below the dorsal fin. PIT acts essentially as a lifetime barcode allowing scientists to track their movements. Veterinarians also use this type of tag to microchip pets, such as cats and dogs.

Satellite tags were from Wildlife Computers Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting (SPOT) tags, which were attached to the first dorsal fin of the sharks. These tags transmit to satellites, which allow the animals to be tracked through the ARGOS system for up to four years. The tags use radio transmissions, so they must be exposed to air in order to transmit. Each time the dorsal fin breaks the surface, a geo location is given with an accuracy estimation of a few hundred meters.

Caribbean Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus Perezi) are throughout the tropical waters of the Western Atlantic and Caribbean and as far south as Brazil. The best place to see them in the Dutch Caribbean is around Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten, where they cruise around the outer edge of coral reefs, pinnacles and near drop-offs. Young sharks prefer shallow coastal waters, such as lagoons, sea grass beds and shallow reefs. Caribbean reef sharks are really not aggressive, except if they are threatened and are typically curious, especially when they see divers, the release said.

Tiger Sharks are one of the largest sharks, with a bulky body, powerful jaws and razor- sharp teeth, strong enough to rip open the shell of a sea turtle. They are one of the oceans’ most powerful predators. Tiger sharks’ diet includes everything from jellyfish and sea snakes to stingrays and seals and their habit of snapping up human garbage has earned them the unfortunate nickname “wastebaskets” of the sea.

Tiger sharks are found all around the world in temperate and tropical waters and typically move into the Caribbean Sea in the winter. Tiger sharks have been sighted so often on the Saba Bank that they have been adopted as the Saba Bank mascot.

Sadly, like Caribbean Reef Shark, Tiger Sharks are classified on the IUCN Red List as “Near Threatened.” Their fins are in high demand in Asia for shark fin soup.

In the Dutch Caribbean, sharks are protected within the “Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary” and conservation groups are working with local fishermen to reduce catch and by-catch of sharks, and to establish a region-wide shark sighting network to learn more about where they live and how we can best protect them.