Nature Foundation’s Kids Shark Day great success!

kids in shark customes

On Saturday the 9th of June, the Nature Foundation organized a very successful Shark Day for children at Buccaneer Beach Bar, which was attended by about 100 kids. The kids had great fun and learned everything about sharks through games, quizzes and activities. Kids could even be a real scientist by learning everything about shark research and tagging.

“We have over 400 different shark species in our oceans; you can find sharks in the size of 6 inch up to 40 feet. They are in our ocean for more than 400 million years, reasons enough to protect these species and learn about them! Kids attending the event learned all these facts about sharks, the media often likes to portray sharks as killing machines, however the facts shows us completely the opposite. Occasionally shark bites do happen, however no unprovoked attack has been ever recorded on St. Maarten. It is more likely that you get killed by a coconut falling on your head than by a shark.  It is safe to swim and dive with sharks; it is time to change their image’ stated Nature Foundations Project Office Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

During the event 23 kids attended the special Shark and Art Workshop from Carla Templeton and made beautiful art on specialized tiles, creating the opportunity for the kids to work on their art skills while considering sharks. Environmental Protection in the Caribbean was there as well to teach the kids about mangroves and their importance in protecting our coastlines and fish stocks.

“It looks like Shark Day is getting more popular every year, however this year is the last year of funding through the ‘Save our Sharks’ project. We hope we are able to find a way to continue funding for this great event, as it is getting very famous on St Maarten” says Nature Foundations Project Office Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Thanks to all the volunteers and Buccaneer Beach Bar for making this event happening! St Maarten Shark Week is part of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance ‘Save our Sharks’ project funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

kids in shark customes
Dressing up as shark masquotes during shark week

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 Records Large Amount of Trash Left on Beaches after Easter Holidays. Bonfires Also Lit Without Permits

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, during its beach patrols, has noticed a significant amount of trash left behind by both residents and visitors after the Easter holidays. The Foundation has noticed a large amount of trash being left behind by users of beaches and along the roadsides; “We noticed a large amount of trash being left behind by beach-goers and again would like to urge the population to clean-up after themselves as any responsible, able-minded and mature citizen of Sint Maarten should,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager. “Mullet Bay Beach for example is a huge mess, with food trash attracting ants and rats, plastic cups and bottles and single use plastic bags littering the beach. Numerous bonfires were also lit without a permit, endangering the critically endangered nesting sea turtle population. This especially hurts since we were so busy to ensure that the beaches were clean after the hurricane for people to use and to see that trash is being left behind is unacceptable,” continued Bervoets.

The Nature Foundation is also calling on Government and organizers of events and activities to ensure that there are enough waste disposal facilities available;” patrons who want to dispose of their garbage are sometimes unable to do so because there aren’t enough bins on the roadside or at the beaches or at event locations. Therefore we are asking that more emphasis is being placed on having proper garbage disposal facilities available during these events. There should also be a scheme where beaches are cleaned regularly instead of waiting on NGO’s and Volunteers to clean garbage. We also urgently need legislation banning certain plastics as the situation is now more or less out of control,” concluded Bervoets.

Photo: Garbage on Mullet Bay Beach

St Maarten Nature Foundation and EPIC organized successful Second Simpson Bay Lagoon clean-up

Last Sunday the St Maarten Nature Foundation, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) and the ‘A Bit at a Time’ initiative of Mason Chadwick organized a another successful cleanup event. Approximately 70 volunteers came out in order to clean the Simpson Bay Lagoon coastline. This cleanup saw the largest amount of trash ever collected for an event organized by the Foundations with eight fully loaded large trucks leaving with trash and hurricane debris. The island ‘Little Key’ and the lagoon area across from the airport entrance up to Sixt Car Rental are now completely clean of hurricane debris and garbage. The Foundations are urging the community to keep it that way.

A large thanks goes to the VROMI Ministry and Toontje (Claudius) Buncamper and team for the removal of all the trash and the safe traffic coordination. A special thanks goes to the St. Maarten Coast Guard team who due to their tireless effort left the entire coastline clean. Island Water World donated heavy duty gloves, reusable bags and t-shirts.

The organizations are asking the public to stay tuned for the following cleanup event, which will be the important wetland area Mullet Pond on the 24th of February. The community is also urged to responsibly dispose their garbage, trash laying around will end up in our marine and lagoon ecosystem impacting this fragile system and our own health.

Picture 1: Some of the volunteers and the St. Maarten Coast guard during the Lagoon cleanup event.

 

Picture 2: Volunteers working endless in order to clean up the tremendous amount of trash from the Lagoon coastline.

Picture 3: The VROMI Ministry workers are loading the trash and hurricane debris on large trucks.

Picture 4: Nature Foundation’s patrol boat fully loaded with hurricane debris from the island ‘Little Key’.

Second Simpson Bay Lagoon clean-up organized by EPIC and St Maarten Nature Foundation

After the great success of the first Simpson Bay Lagoon clean-up on the 14th of January, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) and the St Maarten Nature Foundation are announcing the next Simpson Bay Lagoon cleanup event. On Sunday the 4th of February the two Foundations will join forces to support the ‘A Bit at a Time’ initiative of Mason Chadwick in cleaning up parts of the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

“On Sunday we will be cleaning up the shores and lagoon area from Gateway Marina (where Pink Iguana used to be) up to Sixt Car rental across from the airport entrance. As part of the clean-up trash and debris will also be removed from the environmentally important island ‘Little Key’ in the Simpson Bay lagoon. Boats will be used to transport debris to shore. Volunteers are asked to meet at Gateway Marina, which is the marina across from the main entrance of the Airport, at 8 am and the cleanup will end at 12 noon. Reusable garbage bags and water for a refill will be provided by the Foundations,” reads a statement.

Volunteers are asked to bring protection such as a hat, strong shoes, working gloves and sunscreen. Volunteers are also asked to not forget their reusable drinking bottle for water refill. The Foundations would like to decrease the plastic input and therefore are asking that everyone use reusable bottles. The Foundations are hoping for a large attendance to make a difference for the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The Foundations are also requesting the help of the St Maarten Coast Guard, Police, VROMI department, salvage companies and the yachting community in order to remove the larger hurricane debris in a safe matter.

Picture 1: The red marking represents the area to be cleaned up on Sunday the 4th of February (Mason Chadwick Photo).

Picture 2: Large hurricane debris located at the Simpson Bay Lagoon which needs to be cleaned up (Mason Chadwick Photo).

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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Nature Foundation, EPIC and Cruising Community Join Forces to Clean Up Parts of the Simpson Bay Lagoon

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation and Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) are joining forces  to support the ‘A Bit at a Time’ initiative of Mason Chadwick in cleaning up parts of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The collaborated nature initiative will organize three Lagoon clean-up events in the coming weeks and volunteers are asked to participate.

The Simpson Bay Lagoon is an important natural ecosystem and home to many aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals. It is an important key habitat, sustaining life that reaches much further than the lagoon itself. Wetlands such as the lagoon act as a spawning and nursery area for many essential fish species, therefore the area is of great significance for our commercial and recreational Fisheries. The Simpson Bay Lagoon also has a very high commercial value for the marinas and tourism, as well as a high recreational and aesthetic value giving St Maarten its characteristic beauty. The passing of hurricane Irma caused an extensive and devastating impact on the Lagoon. An assessment of the environmental damage in the lagoon was published in September last year by the St. Maarten Nature Foundation, wherein the impacts on our Marine and Wetland Ecosystem were considered an environmental disaster.

Some measures to improve the most pressing problems of the lagoons were taken by salvaging crews and the St. Maarten Nature Foundation, however there is still a tremendous amount to clean-up and restore. One of these tasks is the cleaning up of hurricane debris along the lagoon and in the water, and also the cleaning up of large amounts of plastic that constantly ends up in the lagoon due to littering. Mason Chadwick and fellow helpers wanted to do something about the trash and debris in the lagoon and they already started cleaning the lagoon in a constant basis. We welcomed this Nobel initiative and want to support his and many other initiatives to make a cleaner and more beautiful St Maarten.

The first clean-up event will take place next to the airport road at Simpson Bay on Sunday the 14th of January. We will meet in front of the Dinghy Dock Bar in Simpson Bay at 8am and will be cleaning up until 11am. Garbage bags, water and small snacks will be provided by the Foundations. Please bring a hat, strong shoes, working gloves and a reusable drinking bottle for your water refill. We would like to decrease the plastic input and therefore ask everyone to use reusable bottles! The Foundations are hoping for a large attendance to make a difference for the lagoon.

Picture 1: Mason Chadwick and crew cleaning the Simpson Bay Lagoon (EPIC Photo)

Picture 2: The Simpson Bay Lagoon covered in hurricane debris and trash (EPIC Photo)

Nature Foundation Cleans and Restores Mullet Pond; Sint Maarten’s Most Important Wetland

One of Sint Maarten’s most important wetlands, Mullet Pond, was cleaned and restored by the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation as a part of the organization’s environmental response post hurricanes Irma and Maria. Mullet Pond is listed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Treaty. The Ramsar Convention, signed in Iran in 1971, is a global commitment to maintain the ecological character of global wetland areas, including in the wider Caribbean region.

“Using the disaster relief funds provided to us by the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance we were able to use volunteers to clean one of the most important and one of the only protected wetland areas we have on the island. Mullet Pond is a critical ecosystem for us on the island as it contains the last intact mangrove forest within the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Unfortunately the area was also illegally used in the storms as a protected anchorage area and numerous boats sank, in particular the Mullet Pond Inlet. We used divers and volunteers from the community to clean the area both under and above water and removed six dump truckloads of debris,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

Given the importance of the area the Nature Foundation paused its beach clean-up activities in order to focus on Mullet Pond; “Although it is important to focus on the beach cleanups we are also responsible for other natural areas. Because of its unique characteristics and international status we made the clean-up and restoration of Mullet Pond one of our priorities moving forward. We have also discussed with the authorities ways in which we can place moorings outside of critical nature habitat in the area so that vessel owners can still protect their vessels while at the same time protecting sensitive natural areas. In particular a houseboat illegally sought shelter in the area significant damage occurred and we need to prevent this in the future. Although we cleaned and restored the area significantly, we still have our work cut out for us in bringing the area close to the level it was before,” concluded Bervoets.

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.