Nature Foundation Scientifically Analyzes the Impacts of Hurricane Irma on St Maarten Coral Reefs Using Global Coral Reef Monitoring Guidelines

General Coral Cover is Reduced, Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area Shows Greater Resilience than Reefs Outside of the Protected Area.

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Reef monitoring data has been scientifically analyzed to assess the impacts of hurricane Irma and Maria on Sint Maarten Coral Reefs following the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) guidelines. The hurricanes caused reduction in coral cover on St Maarten reefs; however reef health improved due to a decrease in coral bleaching. Unfortunately, macroalgae cover increased after the hurricanes. This high algae cover threatens coral recruitment and coral growth. Caribbean coral reefs have been deteriorated to a macro algal state due to several factors such as the die off or overfishing of herbivores (such as parrotfish), climate change, human and natural disasters. Three months after the hurricanes water quality was decreased on all our reefs, water visibility was reduced by about sixteen meters.

“Coral cover (hard corals) has been significantly reduced from 6.1 % to 3.7% since the passage of the hurricanes, which is unfortunate but expected considering the intensity of Irma. Coral cover is still higher than observed in 2016 (3.5%). Scientific research found that coral cover mostly declines the year after large hurricanes, therefore we are concerned to observe a larger reduction of coral cover for this year. The decrease in coral bleaching could be favorable for the health of our corals and is likely caused by the lower sea water temperatures and the decreased visibility after the storms. We are worried about the higher algae cover, this could deteriorate our coral reefs even more” explained Nature Foundation’s Projects Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

The strong surge and swells of the storms caused gorgonian corals (soft corals) and fleshy algae to be ripped of from our reefs, leading to more exposure of coral recruits, sponges and calcareous coralline algae (CCA). After the hurricanes higher carnivorous fish biomass was found on the reefs. This increase of larger fish, especially groupers and snappers, was found to be extraordinary high in the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) mostly healthy reefs, such as Proselyte Reef and Mike’s Maze. Herbivorous fish biomass did not change significantly after the hurricanes, however fewer fish species were found.

“More accessible CCA can be profitable as it is used by juvenile corals to settle on in the future and these juveniles can grow into larger corals and build our next generation of coral reefs. Larger pelagic fish can travel long distances. They may look for the best shelter against the impacts of the hurricanes and therefore moved to the reefs with the highest coral cover to find their needs”, stated Achsah Mitchell GCRMN data analyst.

tape measure in a coral reef
GCRMN method in practice

The results of the St Maarten’s reef monitoring also show the significance of protecting our reefs, as coral reefs in the Marine Protected Area performed better and are healthier, with higher coral, gorgonian coral, CCA and sponge cover compared to other St Maarten Reefs outside the protected area. Reefs outside of the Marine Protected Area had significantly more macroalgae cover than reefs within the Park. Also, greater densities of coral recruits, which indicates a greater number of healthy and reproducing corals, were found. Moreover, carnivorous fish and herbivorous fish had a greater biomass within the Marine Protected Area.

“If we do not protect our coral reefs, health, fish biomass and coral cover will decrease and our reefs will shift to a macro algae state. Algae cover was the lowest inside the Marine Protected Area, showing us the effectiveness of protecting our coral reefs. Our results demonstrate clearly the importance of our Marine Protected Area ‘Man of War Shoal’ for our fish stocks and coral reef preservation” stated Nature Foundation’s Projects Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

The entire country benefits from reefs with higher coral cover and lower macro algae, these reefs are also more resilient regarding disaster events, such as Hurricane Irma. “The reefs in the Marine Protected Area showed greater resilience to hurricanes than reefs outside the protected area. Especially the lower macroalgae cover makes reefs better suited for coral growth and recruitment and would therefore have a higher resilience for hurricanes and other threats. I recommend increasing coral reef protection, management and monitoring, especially within the Marine Protected Area” explained Achsah Mitchell GCRMN data analyst.

Every year, the St Maarten Nature Foundation monitors St Maarten’s coral reefs scientifically using the GCRMN method to determine the health, composition and state of St Maarten reefs. With financial support made available by the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, the Foundation was also able to monitor and analyze the reefs after the hurricanes in 2017.

diver with tape measure in coral reef
Diver recording data with GCRMN method

Several dive sites in the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area and other important dive sites around the island were monitored pre-hurricanes in Augustus and post-hurricanes in December 2017. All measurements were conducted along a transect line and repeated five times on each dive site.

First, abundance and biomass of all fish species were determined, secondly the cover of reef organisms (corals) were analyzed based on photo quadrats made during the dives and photo quadrats were assessed for coral health. Monitoring is also done looking for coral recruitments (juvenile corals) and algae coverage and height. Lastly, invertebrate species were counted and water quality was measured. Results were assessed, scientifically analyzed and interpreted by GCRMN data analyst Achsah Mitchell; the full report can be downloaded here:

GCRMN SXM Report on 2017 Hurricanes – Final Report Aug2018 (PDF)

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Unknown Incident Causes Significant Damage To Nature Foundation ‘Fragments of Recovery” Coral Reef Restoration Program

Cole Bay- An unknown incident, more than likely caused by a large vessel, caused significant damage to the Nature Foundation Coral Reef Restoration Program. During inspection dives the two primary coral nursery structures sustained major damage and some coral fragments were affected. Foundation staff replaced the nursery to a safer location and replaced coral fragments at a new location.

The Foundation started to populate its first coral nursery structures again after most of the previous coral nurseries were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The Foundation has slowly started to implement its ‘Fragments of Recovery” coral restoration projects with installing the first coral nurseries in an attempt to repopulate hurricane damaged reefs around the island with rare coral species. “We were very distressed to see that we received such damage to our coral nursery, especially considering that we put so much hard work into getting our corals back up to speed,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

The Coral Nursery Project in St Maarten used to be part of the 3 year RESCQ project (Restoration of Ecosystem Services and Coral Reef Quality) funded by the European Union Best 2.0 Program. However, due to the effects caused by last year’s Hurricanes the Nature Foundation has had to step out of the project in order to focus on rebuilding and assisting Nature recover on the island; “The team, under the leadership of Melanie our Project Officer, worked hard to replace the nursery so fingers crossed that the coral will hold,. In the meantime we will try to ascertain what caused the damage to our post-Irma Coral Nursery.

diver near coral nursery
assessing damaged coral nursery

 

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)

Shark Killed Illegally Within Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area

dead shark on coral reef

Nature Foundation, Authorities Investigating Incident

The lifeless body of a juvenile Caribbean Reef Shark was confiscated by the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation after divers reported it on a reef just within the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area. The intentional hunting and harming of sharks has been made illegal in Sint Maarten Waters since 2011. Since 2012 there were 7 incidents of sharks being harmed or killed in the waters surrounding St. Maarten, two of which occurred in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park. The practice of intentionally fishing for sharks has been forbidden since October 12th 2011, when the Ministry TEATT banned the practice of intentionally poaching sharks in the territorial waters of St. Maarten. The act of trying to catch by  tracking, stalking, baiting, chasing, trapping, hooking, netting, shooting or otherwise hunting –  sharks, rays and skates is prohibited and therefore the animals may not be wounded, caught, landed, or killed. Violators may be punished with jail and a considerable fine may be issued. If Sharks are accidentally caught all steps should be taken to release the animal with as little harm as possible. The ban on intentionally harming sharks was further reinforced in June 2016 with Government announcing St. Maarten’s territorial waters as a shark sanctuary.

“It seems as if this animal was caught while fishermen were fishing illegally just inside the Marine Park at night. Instead of letting the animal go the fishermen killed the animal and threw it back on the reef. This is a complete waste and is illegal based on the protected status of sharks on the island. We have been working hard in changing the perception within the community in general and the fishing community specifically about the importance of sharks to our economy and to keeping healthy fish stock in balance,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

Previous Nature Foundation research has shown that a single live shark is worth up to USD $884,000 to the economy of the island, as is opposed to just a few dollars dead. “The majority of divers who come to the island pay top dollar to see sharks in their Natural Environment. These divers also rent cars, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and drink in bars. Taking all of that into account and based on research conducted by the Nature Foundation a single live shark contributes $884,000 to the economy of St. Maarten annually. Sharks are an apex predator and are essential to the health of local coral reefs. If we do not have sharks we will lose our coral reef ecosystem. Sharks keep the reefs clean of unhealthy fish which in turn keeps the ecosystem in balance,”

The Nature Foundation is investigating the incident together with local law enforcement organizations.

Nature Foundation Teaches Milton Peters College Students About Coral Reefs, Mangroves and Littering

Last week the Nature Foundation visited the second form of Milton Peters College to teach the students about the importance of our coral reefs and about the Foundation’s Coral Restoration Project. Worldwide coral reefs are declining due to global warming, pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction, St Maarten’s coral reefs are also facing several threats and Hurricane Irma left a large impact as well. The Coral Restoration Project is aimed to restore St Maarten reefs with Staghorn and Elkhorn coral species by establishing a coral nursery to grow coral and transplant them back to selected sites. “The students were amazed by the corals and their beauty; hopefully we inspired them to help protect our coral reefs!” says Nature Foundations Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Additionally, the first form of Milton Peters Collage students visited Mullet Pond and learned about the importance of mangroves and wetlands, and how they protect us from storm surge. “Mullet pond is listed and protected as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Treaty. 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. With the visit of Mullet Pond we created the opportunity for these students to see and learn about this important wetland habitat themselves” continued the manager Tadzio Bervoets.

The students also learned about the impact of trash on marine life and therefore performed a cleanup at Mullet Bay Beach as part of the Reduce and Reuse St. Maarten project. About 25 students collected 370.95 pounds of trash 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. “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!” concluded a Nature Foundation statement.

Nature Foundation Stocks Coral Nursery as Part of ‘Fragments of Recovery” Coral Reef Restoration Program

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has started to populate its first coral nursery structures as part of its ‘Fragments of Recovery, Coral Reef Restoration Program. The project was recently launched after most of the previous coral nurseries were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“The first Staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) have been transplanted to the coral nursery station on the dive site ‘Moonscape, close to Simpson Bay.  The two nursery ladders from the Nature Foundation are now populated with coral fragments in order to raise new coral colonies to repopulate the damaged coral reefs,” commented Nature Foundation Projects Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

“Now that we are in a phase where we further along in our recovery we have started to relaunch our coral restoration program. We received tremendous help from the community after the Hurricane as well as from the Coral Restoration Foundation, the US National and Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the Coral Reef Restoration Consortium to get our project going again. Slowly we will be adding coral in our nursery which we will eventually outplant on our reefs that were severely impacted by the Hurricanes. We estimate that we lost about80% of our coral combined,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

The Nature Foundation also received support and expert assistance from Jamaican Coral Restoration Expert Michelle McNaught during the initial stages of populating the fragments.

Nature Foundation staff checking health of coral mother colonies (photo Rebecca Benjamin-Carey)

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Launches Reduce and Reuse Sint Maarten Project Aiming to Reduce the Island’s Single-Use Plastic Consumption

The Nature Foundation organized a beach cleanup at Mullet Bay Beach on the 18th of April in order to kick off their new project to encourage residents and visitors to ‘Reduce and Reuse’ their plastic output. About 15 volunteers removed 294 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. Waste collected during the cleanup has been documented and will be used as research information to encourage local restaurants, residents and visitors to go plastic-free.

St Maarten has major waste problems due to poor waste management, frequent toxic landfill fires, no waste separation and no recycling. The ineffective disposal of waste causes grave concerns regarding public health, air pollution, and water and soil contamination. 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. Littering and the use of single use plastics is widely accepted on the island, causing garbage to lay around and plastic trash to end up in our oceans, impacting and affecting our environment, corals, fish, birds and wildlife. As a nonprofit and non-governmental organization focused on protecting nature and environment on St Maarten, the Nature Foundation wants to make steps to reduce single use plastics and littering, and promote biodegradable and reusable products to address the waste problem.

The ‘Reduce & Reuse St Maarten’ project is designed to teach and encourage residents, children and establishments to reduce their waste output and clean-up the environment. The use of Styrofoam, plastic cups and cutlery, plastic straws and single use plastic bags is very common and is handed out without discouragement or a fee: this project will try to change that and stimulate a switch to biodegradable and reusable products. The new project will be also pushing for the plastic bag ban, something the Nature Foundation has been requesting for a long period. The need of more garbage bins around the island, beaches and during events will be addressed as well, at the moment the shortage of bins provides excuses to litter and leave your trash behind.

There is a renewed momentum on the island concerning not using single use plastics anymore. Various establishments are going plastic free, including many restaurants and bars including Buccaneer Beach Bar, The Dinghy Dock and Karakter Beach Bar. We even now have one of the largest hotels, Divi Little Bay, going completely straw free when they reopen. All of these developments are awesome and we support and encourage them and more businesses to recognize how dangerous plastics are to our health and environment. Hopefully through this new project we can give the necessary support and feedback to make single plastics a thing of the past on the island,” according to the Nature Foundation.

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, your help in cleaning up and reducing your plastic waste will go a long way in ensuring the preservation of the beauty we are all so proud of!

Nature Foundation Representatives Lynn Martina, Rebecca Benjamin-Carey and Binky the Beach Cleanup Dog Tracking Trash at the first Beach cleanup for the new ‘Reduce & Reuse St Maarten’ project!

Nature Foundation Relaunches ‘Fragments of Recovery” Coral Reef Restoration Program

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has started to populate its first coral nursery structures again after most of the previous coral nurseries were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The Foundation has slowly started to implement its ‘Fragments of Recovery” coral restoration projects with installing the first two coral reef nurseries in an attempt to repopulate hurricane damaged reefs around the island with rare coral species. “The first Staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) have been transplanted to the coral nursery station on the dive site ‘Moonscape, close to Simpson Bay.  The two nursery ladders from the Nature Foundation are now populated with coral fragments in order to raise new coral colonies to repopulate the damaged coral reefs. In the next months, more nursery ladders will be placed and populated with Staghorn and also Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) fragments. The coral nursery will be checked and cleaned regularly to prevent algae growth and to secure optimal growth conditions for the corals. Also the growth of the coral fragments will be researched and compared with other Caribbean islands. We are asking scuba divers to keep their distance to the coral nursery as the corals are fragile,” commented Nature Foundation Projects Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

The Coral Nursery Project in St Maarten used to be part of the 3 year RESCQ project (Restoration of Ecosystem Services and Coral Reef Quality) funded by the European Union Best 2.0 Program. However, due to the effects caused by last year’s Hurricanes the Nature Foundation has had to step out of the project in order to focus on rebuilding and assisting Nature recover on the island; “Now that we are in a phase where we further along in our recovery we have started to relaunch our coral restoration program. We received tremendous help from the community and from the Coral Restoration, the US National and Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the Coral Reef Restoration Consortium to get our project going again. Slowly we will be adding coral in our nursery which we will eventually outplant on our reefs that were severely impacted by the Hurricanes. We estimate that we lost about80% of our coral combined,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

The Nature Foundation also received support and expert assistance from Jamaican Coral Restoration Expert Michelle McNaught during the initial stages of populating the fragments.

Photo: Coral Reef Restoration Nurseries in Sint Maarten

Nature Foundation Intercepts Poachers in Marine Park, Seized Fish Donated to White and Yellow Cross Foundation

Adhering to no fishing rules of the Marine Park important to rebuilding local fish stocks

Staff of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation intercepted the vessel Oyster, with registration number SX1438, that was found poaching illegally in the Man of War Shoal National Marine Park at the location 17 ̊-59.511 N and 63 ̊-03.327 W close to the ‘Mike’s Maze’ dive site. The Spanish-speaking Fishermen were approached but did not comply with the instructions of Nature Foundation staff. The vessel left the area but was followed by the Marine Park patrol vessel and the fishermen were met by police officers and the coastguard.

“As the legally mandated Management Authority for the Man of War Shoal Marine Park we regularly patrol the area and have authority to respond to illegal activities in the Marine Park. It is listed within the rules of the Marine Park that no fishing is allowed. We have a close working relationship with fishermen when it comes to the Man of War Shoal Marine Park and would like this to continue. However if we notice illegal activities within the Marine Park those will be addressed,” read a Nature Foundation statement.

The boundaries of the Marine Park are between 18̊ ̊N and 17 ̊-57.0 N and 63 ̊-01.03 W and 63 ̊-04.05 W, in an area better known as “the Proselyte Reef Complex “.  This area includes the island’s most ecologically and economical important marine habitat, including extensive coral reef areas and seagrass beds. The Man of War Shoal Marine Park, officially established on the 30th of December 2010, is a home and migratory stop over or breeding site for 3 IUCN Red List Species, 10 CITES Appendix I species and 89 Appendix II species. It is an area with a relatively healthy population of marine mammals including migratory whales and dolphins, numerous species of shark, sea turtles and numerous fish species. Studies conducted by the St. Maarten Nature Foundation have shown that biodiversity in this area, particularly coral reef density, is high and the economic goods and services which the ecosystem provides are in excess of fifty million dollars annually.” It has been shown that no-fishing areas have resulted in an increase in fish stock. Therefore it is also in the interest of fishermen to adhere to the no catch rules of the Marine Park,” continued the Foundation.

The case is being dealt with by law enforcement authorities. The confiscated fish was donated to the White and Yellow Cross Foundation Sister Basilia home and Home for the Elderly. The Nature Foundation would like to thank Dive Adventures for notifying the Nature Foundation.

Caption 1: Vessel fishing illegally in the Marine Park

Caption 2: Illegally caught fish in the Marine Park