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.

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)

Nature Foundation Visits Several Elementary Schools for St Maarten Shark Week

Last week, during St Maarten Shark Week, Nature Foundation staff visited several Elementary schools to educate children about sharks and their importance to both the natural and human environment. The Foundation visited the following five schools; Sister Regina, Leonald Connor, Learning Unlimited, Oranje School and the Ruby Labega School. The Shark Crew from the Nature Foundation taught about 600 students everything about sharks. The students learned about the different shark species, the importance of sharks for our reefs and tourism, depletion of sharks and why they need our help.

The kids were very enthusiastic about sharks and the marine life, they learned that you shouldn’t be afraid for sharks; sharks are in no way dangerous for humans. Humans kill about 100 million sharks every year, if we continue many shark species will go extinct. Oceans without sharks will have unpredictable and presumably negative impacts for marine life, fisheries and our island, as we depend on our oceans. The school visits were part of the DCNA ‘Save our Shark’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

 

Nature Foundation to Distribute Free Facemasks At Carrefour Parking Lot Thursday, February 8th Starting at 12

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, through the generous support of private individuals  and the business community, will be distributing 350 facemasks at the Carrefour Parking Lot on Thursday, the 8th of February starting at 12 noon. The facemasks will be distributed free of charge on a first come first serve basis. The environmental foundation is distributing the facemasks in order to protect the community from the toxic fumes caused by the burining fires at the Philipsburg Landfill:

“We have been receiving many calls to assist with handing out masks to those being affected by the dump fires. The handing out of masks is not the responsibility of the Nature Foundation, however we have taken the initiative to do so. Unfortunately we have had to make available what little financial resources that we had to purchase masks to hand out to the community for free. Because we have been handing out hundreds of masks we have spent out what little funding we had and staff have been buying masks for the community out of pocket. But now, due to the generous support of the community who have been donating to the nature foundation over the last 24 hours we have been able to purchase 350 masks to make available for free to the population. The Sint Maarten Medical Center has also made some surgical masks available for distribution and Angelic Day Touch have also made masks available. Although we believe that the relevant authorities should take up the responsibility of handing out masks to the population we have again taken the initiative to make masks freely available at a first come first serve basis. We have also given facemasks to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Affairs for distribution to the Public Schools,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

The Nature Foundation reiterated that the only sollution to this most critical issue is through aid that is managed publicly and transparently and outside the realm of politics. This is an environmental and public health disaster just as bad, if not worse, than hurricane Irma.

During previous studies in air quality and soil composition at the Philipsburg landfill the Nature Foundation recorded positive results for nickel, zinc, arsenic, lead, cadmium, copper, chromium and other heavy metals. Of particular concern are arsenic, lead, cadmium, and copper because of the human health effects. Particularly lead, arsenic and copper can be quite toxic to humans and have been shown to cause some forms of cancer.

These same chemicals are released into the atmosphere through either smoke or through falling fine ash and therefore pose a significant health risk to the community. Landfill fires also release high levels of Carbon Monoxide (CO) into the atmosphere which causes additional health effects through depriving the body of oxygen.

Over 100 Volunteers Show up for Simpson Bay Lagoon Clean-Up Event; Some Three Tons of Trash Removed

Last Sunday the Simpson Bay Lagoon clean up event organized by the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation and Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) received a massive turn out with more than one hundred volunteers coming together to make a difference for the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The collaborated event was initiated through the ‘A Bit at a Time’ initiative of Mason Chadwick; with volunteers already showing great on-going effort in cleaning up the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

‘We removed wood, fiberglass, zinc, boat parts, garbage, plastics and various other objects from the entire coastline from Dinghy Dock Bar up to the Causeway Bridge. Approximately three tons of hurricane debris, trash and garbage have been removed making a huge difference for the Simpson Bay Lagoon environment, read a joint Nature Foundation and EPIC statement.’

Many local and international organizations joined the event including the St. Maarten Coast Guard, staff from Aquatic Solutions, the St. Maarten Youth Brigade, Gulliver Middle School from Miami, volunteers from EPIC and the Nature Foundation and many more, were all working very hard and made it a great success. A special thanks goes to Island Water World for donation gloves, reusable bags and t-shirts, and 4 Oceans for donating, gloves, pick up sticks, reusable garbage bags and t-shirts. Mr. Toontje Buncamper of the VROMI Ministry and his team also assisted with the removal of the garbage.

The organizations are asking the public to stay tuned for subsequent clean-up events organized by EPIC and the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation. The community is also urged to join the continuous clean-up events organized by Mason Chadwick. Information of ‘A Bit at a Time’ clean-ups can be found on Mason Chadwick’s Facebook or requested via his Facebook messenger.

Picture 1: Volunteers in front of collected garbage pile.

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Picture 2: One of collected garbage piles of a total of 3 tons of collected debris.

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Miami Based School teams up with Well-known Beach Clean-up Foundation and the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation to Clean Mullet Bay

Students from the Gulliver Middle School in Miami, with the Support of Hollywood Casino, joined forces with renown Ocean Cleanup Organization 4Ocean and the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation in cleaning up beaches and wetlands in Sint Maarten.

The Students organized the cleanup activities especially experiencing the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma and on their own initiative traveled to the island with representatives from 4Oceans to assist the Nature Foundation with its ongoing beach-cleanup campaigns:

4Ocean is a global movement that allows anyone from anywhere to join and help in ocean trash removal efforts worldwide. With overwhelming response from supporters, the organization has been able to successfully remove more than 250,000 pounds of trash from the ocean in the organization’s first year alone. The organization is also known for making bracelets which it sells for donations and charities made from recycled materials and which will be available on the island to support coastal and ocean clean-up activities.

“We were so delighted and grateful to the students of Gilligan High School for taking this important initiative and cleaning up some of our most important economic and ecological beaches on the island. We are also excited to have received the support from 4Ocean organized by the students who will now be assisting the Nature Foundation with its ongoing cleanup activities and have generously donated reusable cleanup bags, gloves and grabbers for our clean-ups moving forward,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

Some three tons of garbage have been removed during Saturday’s and Sunday’s cleanup on Mullet Bay Beach and the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

Nature Foundation Makes 150 Facemasks Available to Charlotte Brookson Academy for the Performing Arts Due to Schools Close Proximity to Philipsburg Landfill

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has made 150 facemasks available to the Charlotte Brookson Academy this week. The Facemasks were donated on two separate occasions by Nature Foundation Project Manager Melanie Meijer ze Schlochtern and Manager Tadzio Bervoets in order to provide some protection to the students of the school. “The staff and students of the CBA are in a direct downwind location from the fumes caused by the landfill and therefore we decided to provide these facemasks to the staff and students”, commented Bervoets.

During previous studies in air quality and soil composition at the Philipsburg landfill the Nature Foundation recorded positive results for nickel, zinc, arsenic, lead, cadmium, copper, chromium and other heavy metals. Of particular concern are arsenic, lead, cadmium, and copper because of the human health effects. Particularly lead, arsenic and copper can be quite toxic to humans and have been shown to cause some forms of cancer.

These same chemicals are released into the atmosphere through either smoke or through falling fine ash and therefore pose a significant health risk to the community. Landfill fires also release high levels of Carbon Monoxide (CO) into the atmosphere which causes additional health effects through depriving the body of oxygen.

During a survey conducted by the Nature Foundation it was shown that all districts of Sint Maarten have been effected by the smoke caused by the landfill fires; 35% of everyone surveyed  frequently experience negative effects throughout the year from fumes coming from the landfill; 50% of all respondents complained about trouble breathing due to the fumes coming from the landfill; 73% of all respondents mentioned burning in their eyes, nose or throat; 50% experienced burning, watering eyes because of the toxic fumes; 30% experienced nausea combined with vomiting; 50% experienced uncontrolled coughing; and 40% have sought medical assistance because of health complications arising from the fumes caused by the landfill

Because of the generous donations of the community the Nature Foundation has been distributing facemasks through the community in addition to the CBA. For those in need of facemasks can contact the Nature Foundation through their Facebook page or by calling +1 721 5444267. Facemasks can also be bought in Hardware stores throut the island.

Photocaption: Bervoets and Meijer zu Schlochtern presenting Facemasks to CBA staff and students (Kai Latouche/ Kairros photo)

Nature Foundation Assesses Marine Park and Dive Sites

Due to Hurricane Irma causing significant damage to underwater life because of storm surge and strong water motion, the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation conducted initial Marine Park and Dive Site assessment to determine the level of impact underwater. Initial marine assessment was carried out from the 28th of September until the 6th of October 2017.

Several St Maarten dives sites in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park and around the island have been surveyed for reef and coral damage, marine life presence and to assess the mooring systems for dive operators. The Nature Foundation will start in depth reef monitoring in the coming weeks to determine detailed impacts.

Hurricane Irma impacted St Maarten reefs severely; large coral and sponge die offs have been recorded, especially in the lower parts of the reef. Shallower dive sites experienced direct major damage to branching corals such as Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata). Large coral fragments have been broken off. The large and branching growth form of Elkhorn corals makes them vulnerable to strong water motions and surge.

Major indirect impacts are found on the reef and to corals due to sediment and sand cover. The strong surge and water motion of hurricane Irma caused sand and sediment to move over the reef and cover mainly deeper sections and mainly coral and sponges show large die offs. Rapid assessment s have estimated a 30% die off of the reef due to sediment cover and a total of 50% of the reef being affected by Irma generally. Especially in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park turf algae and macro algae have been ripped off the reef due to the strong surge underwater. Turf algae are the main food source for several reef fish and the disappearance could impact fish stock negatively.

Seagrass beds around the island have decreased drastically, probably ripped off by the strong current or covered by sediment, it could be a potential problem for sea turtles and other marine life which depend on it as a food source. Mainly the invasive midrib seagrass (Halophila stipulacea) disappeared; native seagrass species survived the storm more often, such as turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) and manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme), probably due to their larger growth form and strong roots.

Fortunately several marine species were found in good health on our reefs, including sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, reef fish, octopus and morays. The Nature Foundation is very pleased to have recorded quite a lot of sea turtles surviving the hurricane. Interesting is the occurrence of sharks on our reefs, three weeks after the storm no sharks were recorded yet, however four weeks after the storm sharks were back to normal abundance. This shows that sharks are most likely looking for hurricane shelter in the deeper waters and after return to their normal habitat.

Despite the reef and coral damage, St Maarten dive sites are still great for scuba diving because of the remarkable marine life and surroundings. The Foundation still highly recommends St Maarten as a dive destination and encourages visitors to return to scuba dive. The Nature Foundation is aware of three dive boats surviving the storm and dive schools are encouraged to start operating in the near future.

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and Sint Maarten Dominica Association Cooperate to Deliver Supplies to Hurricane Stricken Dominica

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, in collaboration with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, assisted in the delivery of Humanitarian Relief Supplies to Hurricane stricken Dominica. The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation was contacted by Sea Shepherd informing that they would be delivering Hurricane Irma relief supplies to Sint Maarten, more specifically veterinary and animal supplies, and that they would next be sailing to Dominica.

With the Assistance of the Dominica Foundation, Mr. Romain Laville, The Ministry of Justice, Port Sint Maarten, the Fire Department and Customs, the two organizations were able to depart with some two tons of supplies to Dominica aboard the Sea Shepherd Ship John Paul Dejoria. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a direct action marine conservation NGO made famous by the Documentary Whale Wars. After the destruction caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria the John Paul Dejoria was diverted from its activities in Central America to provide assistance and relief to the disaster stricken Caribbean region.

En route to Dominica the ship made supply stops in St. Barths and Guadeloupe, where representatives of the Regional Activities Center of the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife section of the UN Caribbean Environment Program also loaded relief supplies on the vessel donated by their staff. Supplies were then delivered to schools, hospitals, village councils and the Cabarets Marine Management Area in Dominica; “After Hurricane Irma struck Sint Maarten Dominica came to our aid, so when we had the opportunity to do the same after Maria we jumped at the opportunity,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Managing Director of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation. “We also were able to load additional supplies in St. Barth and Guadeloupe and subsequently accompanied the cargo to Dominica. We have always worked closely with the Conservation Community in the region, including in Dominica, and we were able to provide relief for Tan Tan village, home of the Cabrits Marine Park. We also distributed Supplies to the Point Michel Village Council and various other groups organized by the Sint Maarten Dominica Association. As Caribbean Nationals we are facing the effects of a changing climate and only through mutual cooperation on a national, regional and international scale will we be able to mitigate the effects Climate Change will have on the Caribbean,” concluded Bervoets.