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.

The Bridge

The Bridge is a site near the Dutch entrance to the Simpson Bay lagoon that hosts several yacht wrecks as well as the remains of a old bridge. The remains of the bridge have been completely taken over by sea life and this is what makes the dive worthwhile! Chance to see stingrays, turtles, eels and tropicals.

As the bridge is not really that big by itself, a few diving school got together and scuttled several boats there as well. The combination makes for an oasis of life underwater.

As it happens, this is also the site of our coral nursery. we have relocated our ‘Acropora’ coral fragments from the damaged coral nursery to their new tree here.

acropora coral fragment
acropora coral fragment

Dive depth: 25-60 ft (7-18 m)

See also the site report by octopus diving. Find more cool dive sites at the Scuba Shop.

Nature Foundation Closes Section of Dive Site Due to Danger of Collapse

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has announced that it has closed a section of one of the island’s most popular dive sites called the Carib Cargo, due to the risk it poses to divers visiting the site. “We have inspected a section of the Carib Cargo wreck at the stern of the ship by the wheelhouse. That section, through which visiting divers often swim, has become unstable. Therefore, in order to keep the diving public safe, we have sent out a notification that that section of the wreck is closed,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.

The Carib Cargo is a popular dive site in the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area. The wreck is often visited and the area which is off limits is a small section at the rear of the ship. Divers can still enjoy the rest of the shipwreck but swimming through the wheelhouse section is now off limits.

dive wreck
dive wreck Carib Cargo

101 Vessels Still Abandoned or Wrecked in Simpson Bay Lagoon

Cole Bay-The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation together with inspectors from the VROMI Ministry last week to map the amount of vessels still abandoned or sunk in the Simpson Bay Lagoon after the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. During the exercise the Nature Foundation mapped and geolocated 101 boats still abandoned or sunk in the Lagoon, including both salvaged and unsalvaged vessels. The Nature Foundation is very concerned regarding the vessels remaining in the Simpson Bay Lagoon some two weeks before the start of the 2018 Hurricane Season; “Last week we managed to map out the remaining wrecks in the Simpson Bay Lagoon and unfortunately there are still a significant number of wrecks in the Simpson Bay Lagoon. This is situation is quite worrying considering both the environmental effects of still having all of these vessels in the Lagoon but also in terms of what to do with the vessels considering the pending Hurricane Season. If there is a weather event with these vessels still in the Lagoon they can cause further damage to both the environment and infrastructure,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.

The Foundation is calling for a structured disposal plan for the vessels still in the Simpson Bay Lagoon; “Unfortunately, considering all of the issues going on concerning waste management , we do not suggest carrying wrecked vessels, including vessels larger than 30 meters, to the landfill. Considering this we suggest a coordinated and cooperative removal plan with St. Martin taking into account the environmental affects of removal,” continued Bervoets.

The Nature Foundation is also calling for legislation leading uo to the Hurricane Season regarding vessels entering and staying in the Lagoon during threatening storms; “There is a real need for legislation which outlines what happens in the Lagoon with regards to threatening storms and the use of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Many vessels which have been abandoned belong to owners who have left the island. The other issue is related to the delay regarding the salvaging of vessels right after Hurricane Irma which has caused many vessels that were still salvageable to be completely written off. We have learned valuable lessons in the past few months and it is now necessary for us to apply these lessons learned in order to make thus country more resilient,” concluded Bervoets.

Picture 1: VROMI Inspectors on Nature Foundation Patrol Vessel Yellowtail documenting wrecked vessels.

Picture 2: A map generated by the Nature Foundation showing the location of abandoned vessels.

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.

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.

Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Monitors Salvage Operations in Oyster Pond; Calls for Urgent Action for Wreck Removal in the Simpson Bay Lagoon

After the granting of permits to salvage operators active in Oyster Pond the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has started to monitor wreck removal for any environmental effects; “We have started to monitor and assist where possible in salvage operations that were granted their permit by Government for activities in Oyster Pond,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager, “but we are still waiting for the approval of large-scale salvage in the Simpson Bay Lagoon, which is causing us some concern.”

Although the Foundation has been involved in some preliminary work in the Simpson Bay Lagoon it is estimated that some 30,000 gallons of fuel and wastewater is being leaked into the environment; “While we understand the need to have everything in place we are urging for salvage works to start soon before the situation gets worse. Our request for assistance has largely been unanswered and we now are dependent on commercial salvage operators to clean up the wrecks. We are therefore urging that all technicalities and requirements be handled and the necessary permits be fast-tracked,” continued Bervoets.

The Foundation has been ensuring that oil spill containment equipment is being properly used in the Oyster Pond area; “We are not salvagers and will have to leave technical aspects of salvaging to the experts, but from an environmental point of view we are there to ensure that the ecosystem isn’t impacted more than it has already been. That is why we are urging, not only for the environment but also for the economy, that large scale salvage works commence soon in the Simpson Bay Lagoon,” concluded Bervoets.

Photocaption1: “One of the vessels wrecked in the Simpson Bay Lagoon”

Photocaption2: “Google Earth Image showing fuel being leaked from two major marinas in the Simpson Bay Lagoon”

Photocaption3: “Vessel Being Salvaged in Oyster Pond”

Cable Reef

Cable Reef is named after the former Fiber Optic Cable that directly bisects the reef. It is the deepest dive site within the Marine Park starting at seventy feet. It is an area frequented by sharks, turtles and other large pelagic life. Wreck Depth: 45-65ft.

Proselyte Reef

Proselyte Reef, just outside Philipsburg, is the signature dive site within the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area. Site is named after the H.M.S. Proselyte that struck the shallow area in September 1801. There are numerous old cannons, ballast stones and anchors at the site as wel l as a profusion of fish life along the small wall. The site starts at Fifty feet and goes to as shallow as fifteen feet.

Lucy’s Barge

Lucy’s Barge is the remnants of an old barge that sunk in the eighties in the Man of War Shoals Protected Area. It is known for its macro life and is swimming distance away from Proselyte Reef. It is approximately forty feet deep at the mooring. Wreck Depth: 45-65ft.