Hurricane Irma Wreck JabJabs Lives on as Artificial Reef Habitat

Former popular floating bar JabJabs has received a new lease on life as an artificial reef. JabJabs, which was a popular floating bar housed on the 85-foot steel sailing ship SV Nightingale, was sunk during Hurricane Irma and subsequently salvaged after being submerged for three months in the Simpson Bay Lagoon. After the vessel was successfully salvaged the process was initiated to sink the ship as artificial reef habitat.

boat wreck at the surface
Jabjab before being sunk

“Since hurricane Irma we have been interested in obtaining suitable vessels to create an artificial reef habitat, so we were very excited when we were contacted by NAGICO Insurances about them being willing to donate the vessel to the Nature Foundation for this purpose. It was however very difficult to get the necessary permits to make this happen,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

The request for the sinking of the vessel was submitted to the Maritime Affairs Department and the Cabinet of Minister Stuart Johnson and “after a lengthy process we received permission from the Maritime Affairs Department and Minister Johnson to sink the vessel as an artificial reef habitat,” continued Bervoets.

“We are very pleased to see this project become a reality after so many months,” Lisa Brown Marketing Manager said. “The marine wildlife is an important part of our ecosystem in the Caribbean and we hope that by creating these artificial reefs, areas destroyed by natural disasters and other factors can be rehabilitated and at the same time contribute positively to the most significant pillar of our St. Maarten economy; tourism. NAGICO is extremely proud to be part of this project.”

The ship was thoroughly cleaned by the Nature Foundation staff, the young participants of the Kidz at Sea Program, Jorakhae Freediving School, staff of IGY Isle de Sol, Aquatic Solutions, Seacure Marine, and Aquamania dive center. The Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard was at the location during the sinking of the vessel. Also taking part in the process, and playing a crucial role in stripping the vessel and ensuring that all environmental contaminants were removed, were the previous owners of the vessel Stefan and Daniel Veraguas and Kristen Mcallister.

people standing on partially submerged wreck
Final drink on JabJab by the crew

Ships made out of steel are often sunk as artificial reef habitat. Sunken ships, which have been stripped and cleaned, provide surface for coral and algae to grow on and attract numerous fish species. The area will also serve as an eco-tourism attraction, serving as a dive site for divers visiting the island.

“We are very satisfied with all those who volunteered to make this project possible. It was a bit nerve wracking considering that we had a pressing time constraint with weather associated with Tropical Storm Isaac approaching, but through cooperation and very hard work by all those involved we made it a success. We would like to sink more suitable, steel Irma wrecks after they have been thoroughly cleaned and are appealing to the government to facilitate this process which would provide a solution to the issue of wrecks still being in the Simpson Bay Lagoon while at the same time creating suitable habitat for marine organisms and eco-tourism opportunities,” continued Bervoets.

The vessel was sunk approximately two kilometers outside of Simpson Bay on ‘The Bridge’ dive site in fifty feet of water. During follow-up dives after the sinking juvenile fish species were already found populating the area.

***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.

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Responds to Ongoing 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.

“For the past 24 hours we have been dealing with this spill and we have contacted the authorities, including law enforcement and the various inspection units of Government as part of our response protocols. Unfortunately it appears as if the diesel was intentionally dumped into the channel which eventually led into the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Diesel evaporates after six hours or so but in the meantime significant damage has already been done to some mangrove areas and their associated wildlife. We have been trying to clean up as much as we can but unfortunately the amount is too large for just the Nature Foundation to respond to,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.

oil spill st maarten
Oil Spill in Simpson Bay Lagoon
oil spill
oil spill in creek

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

 

Nature Foundation Monitoring of Salvage Works in Simpson Bay Lagoon and Oyster Pond Ongoing. Foundation Has Serious Concerns over Abandoned Vessels

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has continued to supervise salvage operations in the wider Simpson Bay Lagoon and Oyster Pond areas, with salvage operators now having salvaged upwards of 400 vessels sunk or badly damaged due to the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The Foundation has been cooperating and working with Government, salvagers and marina owners on the systematic removal of shipwrecks in the Lagoon; “After the unfortunate developments right after the hurricanes which caused the salvage of vessels to be stalled things are now running more smoothly. The unfortunate part is that due to some of the vessels being underwater for such a long time some vessels which would have been able to be recovered are now a complete write-off. Something which also concerns us significantly is the disposal of vessels once salvaged. There is now a so-called ‘wreck graveyard’ in the Simpson Bay Lagoon with vessels waiting to be disposed of. Given that the upcoming hurricane season is just four months away we are asking for an urgent solution to this situation,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

The Foundation has also been working with Port de Pleasance Marina and St. Maarten Marine Management in coordinating the cleanup activities in certain sections of the Lagoon; “We have been cooperating with Marina Managers, particularly with Sint Maarten Marine Management, in coordinating cleanup activities and liaising with Government and permitting departments. The support of all stakeholders is key in addressing the issues that we continue to face with regards to both the environmental and economic recovery of the Simpson Bay Lagoon,” concluded Bervoets.