Nature Foundation St Maarten Organizes Reduce and Reuse night at Buccaneers Beach Bar

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The Reduce and Reuse night organized by the Nature Foundation St Maarten will teach you about the harmful impacts of trash and single-use plastics on the environment and how you can reduce your own single-use plastic output.

The evening will be organized at Buccaneer Beach Bar on Sunday the 4th of November, the presentation will start at 8pm. Buccaneers and the Nature Foundation will have reusable and biodegradable product examples available to show possibilities to go green.

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, balloons, cups, 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 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.

“One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans. 44 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies. Time to do something about this and reduce single-use plastics! Come out on our Reduce and Reuse night, learn how to reduce single-use plastics and how to help protect St Maarten’s beautiful nature and environment. The first step to go green is to visit our Reduce and Reuse night’, stated Nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern

MPC High School Students Learn about Impacts of Littering, how to Reduce Single-use Plastics and Clean-up Mullet Bay Beach

Last Friday the St Maarten Nature Foundation organized a beach clean-up with students of the Milton Peters College. Thirty students removed 186 pounds of trash from Mullet Bay Beach in just half an hour, by using the Trash Tracker method developed by Ocean Cleanup Organization 4Oceans by weighing all the collected trash and using reusable bags and gloves.

The students also learned about the harmful impacts of littering and trash on our environment, marine life and wildlife. Littering causes serious negative impacts on nature and our environment. As an island, our trash and garbage washes down to the beaches straight into our oceans. Birds, marine life and wildlife are often found dead with stomachs full of plastic. Research from 2015 shows that 48% of fish tested had plastic in their stomach, by 2050 it is expected to have more plastic in the ocean than fish!

The students learned how to prevent much unnecessary trash and to reduce their single-use plastic usage by using reusable products, such as a reusable water bottle, take your own shopping bag and us a spork, instead of single-use plastics. All students received a donated reusable water bottle from the Nature Foundation to substitute their plastic water bottles.

“We are proud on these students because of their hard work this day, achievements and willingness to help the environment of St Maarten. These students maybe the future generation to protect our natural environment and that is very much needed on St Maarten! We hope the students will proudly use their donated water bottle and prevent 365 plastic water bottles per year to enter our oceans by using the reusable one. By using reusable products instead of single-use plastics, we are protecting our environment for future generations and reduce our waste output, as we all know the dump is already overfilled. Nature is our Future; let’s keep our island clean and sustainable together” concluded Nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Urges St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation to Find Alternatives to Balloon Jump-ups and Parades for Carnival 50

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation is urging the SCDF to find sustainable alternatives to using balloons during two events for next year’s celebration of fifty years of carnival. The Nature Foundation has sent a letter to the SCDF on Monday, October 1st asking the organization to consider sustainable alternatives, also during events at the Carnival Village, to reduce single use plastics.

During last year’s carnival the Foundation recorded a significant increase in plastic litter and debris. “We are urging the SCDF to not only make the celebration for 50 years of carnival fun and exciting, but also sustainable and with minimal impact to our environment,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets. The Foundation is especially concerned about the use of balloons and other single use plastics during the carnival season; “Balloons may look nice, but they have a number of environmental concerns associated with them. What goes up must come down. Balloons are hazards when they enter the environment. All released balloons, whether they are released intentionally or not, return to Earth as ugly litter – including those marketed as “biodegradable latex”. Balloons kill countless animals and are especially harmful to endangered sea turtle and bird species. Balloons return to the land and sea where they can be mistaken for food and eaten by animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and birds have been reported with balloons in their stomachs and ribbons and strings leading to entanglement and death.

There are two types of balloons in general use – latex and Mylar. Although latex balloons are considered bio-degradable, this will take anywhere from 6 months to 4 years to decompose and they can wreak a lot of havoc before they do. In one experiment researchers observed that balloons floating in seawater deteriorated much slower, and even after 12 months, still retained their elasticity. “During beach cleanups balloons are found often entangling wildlife, we therefore urge the SCDF to consider alternatives to an outdated practice,” continued Bervoets.

Instead of balloons the Nature Foundation proposes alternates that can be used during the scheduled Golden Balloon Around Town Jump Up on the 5th of April and the Survivors Children Balloon Jump Up on the 7th of April. Alternatives to balloons include flags, banners, streamers, dancing inflatables, kites, garden spinners and tissue paper pompoms.

“Many people, including the staff at the Nature Foundation, look forward to celebrating fifty years of carnival. But that celebration should not come at a cost to our natural environment and the various animals which will be killed by balloons and other single use plastics. Therefore we are urging the SCDF to do the right thing and look for alternatives,” concluded Bervoets.

Photocaption: Balloons causing significant Environmental damage

Irresponsible ‘Soak A fete’ visitors create massive amounts of littering at Kim Sha Beach; Buccaneer Beach Bar, CC1, Meadowlands and DTF events cleanup other business’s trash

The Nature Foundation St Maarten was informed about a massive amount of littering which took place at the ‘Soak A fete’ last Sunday night despite the repeated remarks of the organization to visitors of the event to dispose their trash responsibly. Buccaneer Beach Bar, CC1, Meadowlands and DTF events did a great job cleaning up the entire beach, the Kimsha parking lot and several roads surrounding the beach. Nature Foundation applauds the initiative of the event to not provide any straws and only use biodegradable cups and hopefully other events will follow this initiative. However, unfortunately during cleaning up after the event mostly plastic cups and plastic straws were found, presumably taken by visitors from surrounding businesses.

“A ban on single-use plastics is very much needed in St Maarten and all businesses should move to reusable and biodegradable alternatives instead. People need to dispose their trash responsibly, which means in a trash bin and not on the beach, in the environment or on public roads. The event crew did an amazing job cleaning up the surroundings; unfortunately wind and rain probably already caused a significant amount of these plastic straws and cups to end up in our ocean and environment. Therefore we are asking all residents and tourists to dispose their trash properly and all businesses to move to reusable and biodegradable alternatives instead of single-use plastics” stated Nature Foundation Projects Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

St Maarten uses a remarkably high 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 standard and very popular, which also includes the use of plastic cutlery. 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 forever in the local environment. These single-use plastics are some of the most environmentally damaging products on the 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, new research even shows greenhouse gas production when plastic breaks down.

“To fight pollution and littering on our island, which is undoubtedly necessary, I already proposed the introduction of a cup return fee for several events on St Maarten. Which means you will purchase your cup at the start of the event and upon return of the cup you will receive your cup-fee back by the organization. Adding an important value to our trash, encouraging visitors of the event to reuse products and properly dispose your trash. People picking up cups from others can make some extra dollars for their next drink” explained Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

The Foundation is asking businesses and event organizations to contact the Nature Foundation if they would like to receive tips and tricks to reduce single-use plastics and look into other responsible alternatives.

***UPDATE***Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Continues to Respond to Diesel Fuel Spill in Simpson Bay Lagoon

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has been responding to an ongoing diesel Fuel Spill in the Simpson Bay Lagoon. On Sunday the Foundation was alerted to a large amount of fuel entering the Simpson Bay Lagoon from a channel in Cole Bay close to Kool Baai Villas. It was established that the fuel was diesel and that the source was somewhere in the area, perhaps from unregulated garages that can be found throughout the Cole Bay district.

After investigating with inspectors of the Maritime Affairs Department and inspectors from the Economic Affairs department the fuel originated at a business that was broken into early on Sunday. Thieves stole fuel that was stored in containers, breaking them open and leaving them leak into the environment.

“For the past 48 hours we have been dealing with this spill and we have been working with the authorities, including law enforcement and the various inspection units of Government as part of our response protocols. Unfortunately it appears as if theft caused the fuel to be dumped into the channel which eventually led into the Simpson Bay Lagoon. We have been trying to clean up as much as we can and have been making progress, but the amount was significant,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.

Photocaption: Absorbent booms and pads placed by the Nature Foundation at the spill location.

Nature Foundation Conducts First Water Quality Assessments of Wetlands and Beaches Since Hurricane Irma. Has Serious Concerns Regarding Water Quality at Kim Sha Beach

taking water sample

The Nature Foundation carried out water quality tests at seven sites surrounding St. Maarten. These tests, which were conducted for the first time since the passage of Hurricane Irma, were carried out in order to determine the levels of pollutants and other factors affecting wetlands and beaches on St. Maarten.

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Tests were carried out in order to determine

  • Nitrates (which shows that the water is polluted),
  • Phosphates and Coliform Bacteria (which shows the presence of Sewage),
  • Nitrogen,
  • Dissolved Oxygen, and
  • the acidity of the water.

Tests were carried out on seven sites; Cole Bay Lagoon, Simpson Bay Lagoon, Mullet Pond, Kim Sha Beach, Great Bay Beach, Belair Pond, Fresh Pond, and the Great Salt Pond. The sites of Great Bay Beach and Kim Sha Beach were particularly chosen to test the swimming quality of the beaches.

Phosphate and Nitrates

It was determined that the sites Cole Bay Lagoon, Kim Sha Beach, Mullet Pond, and Great Bay had medium to high levels of both phosphates and nitrates in samples tested. Elevated levels of nitrates and phosphates show that there is a presence of various types of pollutants and sewage which can cause toxic algal blooms and mortality events (large scale dying of fish, turtle and crabs) in wetlands and coastal areas. The highest level was recorded in the Great Salt Pond and indicates the presence numerous pollutants and sewage in the tested water. Considering this, water quality levels will regularly be monitored by the Nature Foundation.

Nitrogen

It was further established that the sites Cole Bay Lagoon, Kim-Sha Beach, Mullet Pond, and Great Bay had low to medium levels of Nitrogen in samples tested. Elevated levels of Nitrogen, caused by pollutants, can cause massive fish die-offs in wetlands and coastal areas. The highest level was recorded in the Great Salt Pond at .6 ppm, which is a relatively high number and indicates the presence of elevated nitrogen levels. This can pose a threat to aquatic organisms and which may result in fish die-offs.

Oxygen

Almost all levels of oxygen recorded were at sufficient levels; however the lowest level was recorded in the Great Salt Pond and Belair Pond. These sites should be closely monitored for a further drop in oxygen levels which may result in fish kills and breeding of airborne insects (i.e. Midges).

Bacteria and Sewage

There is concern that four of the seven sites tested positive for the presence of coliform bacteria, an indicator for the presence of sewage as mentioned. Cole Bay Lagoon, the Great Salt Pond and the Fresh Pond all showed presence levels of coliform bacteria. Particularly worrying is the presence of coliform indicators at Kim Sha beach, which has been designated as a tourism focal point post Hurricane Irma. The Nature Foundation suggests lab-level testing to establish the level of coliform bacteria at particularly Kim Sha Beach. Great Bay Beach showed an absence of coliform bacteria indicators.

Despite the fact that many sites showed Medium readings, the Nature Foundation will follow up on a monthly basis to carefully monitor for changes in the respective levels.

taking water sample
Water quality samples being taken at Great Bay;
water sample result tube
Water quality sample from Kim Sha beach showing a positive result for Coliform Bacteria

 

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.

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 Warns About Potential for Increased Sargassum Invasion

COLE BAY – The St. Maarten Nature Foundation is again warning of a potential influx of Sargassum seaweed in the coming weeks: “We have been coordinating our monitoring efforts with our partners in the region and based on weather predictions 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,” 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.