St. Maarten Nature Foundation http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org Preserving and protecting St. Maartens Natural Heritage Mon, 16 Oct 2017 20:54:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.6 http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/cropped-SXM-favicon-32x32.png St. Maarten Nature Foundation http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org 32 32 Nature Foundation Records Return of Sint Maarten National Symbol: the Brown Pelican http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/2017/10/16/nature-foundation-records-return-of-sint-maarten-national-symbol-the-brown-pelican/ Mon, 16 Oct 2017 20:52:48 +0000 http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/?p=1738 During one of its recent post-hurricane ecological assessments the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation recorded the reestablishment of breeding colonies of the National Symbol of Sint Maarten, the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). After the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Nature Foundation assessed the monitored breeding colonies for the Brown Pelican and found that some forty breeding pairs were absent: “A week after Hurricane Maria during one of our first assessments we were able to establish that we completely lost the Divi Little Bay Pelican Breeding site below Fort Amsterdam. We were very disappointed to note that the complete breeding site had been decimated, especially since we have been monitoring that area since 2010. Last week we returned to the site and to our surprise we found that the majority of breeding pairs had re-established themselves, with numerous nest being laid and eggs being brooded,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has been monitoring the Divi Little Bay Breeding Colony since 2010 as a part of its Pelican Monitoring Program. The Brown Pelican is the National Symbol of Sint Maarten and is a key indicator species for the health of the marine environment: “After the storms we encountered numerous pelicans that sustained serious injury, many of which had their necks broken. We also lost about two-dozen nests at the site so you can imagine how happy we were to see that the colony re-established itself, with numerous nests already being brooded,” concluded Bervoets.

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation will continue to monitor the breeding sites and will conduct its annual pelican research.

 

Photocaption: Brown Pelican Nesting Site at Divi Little Bay

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Majority of Nature Foundation Marine Research Projects completely destroyed by Irma; Starts GoFundMe to Restart Coral Nursery Project http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/2017/10/16/majority-of-nature-foundation-marine-research-projects-completely-destroyed-by-irma-starts-gofundme-to-restart-coral-nursery-project/ Mon, 16 Oct 2017 20:22:18 +0000 http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/?p=1732 On the 6th of September powerful category 5+ hurricane ‘Irma’ did not spare the underwater world with her large waves and strong underwater motion and surge. Scientific in-water Marine Research conducted the Nature Foundation including the Coral Nursery, Conch and Seagrass Research and the Acoustic Receivers are totally damaged or completely lost.

The Coral Nursery was part of a three year RESCQ project (Restoration of Ecosystem Services and Coral Reef Quality) funded by the European Union Best 2.0 Program in order to restore Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn (A. cervicornis) coral reef zones by growing coral fragments in a nursery and transplanting corals at selected restoration sites. Nine coral ladders were located at the dive site ‘The Bridge’ filled with coral fragments. Out of the 255 fragments growing in the nursery only two little fragments have been found back. The strong currents and surge probably pushed the coral ladders down or tore them apart, leaving them covered under sand and sediment. More than one year of intensive research efforts has been totally lost.

Recently the Nature Foundation started a juvenile Queen Conch growth experiment on native and invasive seagrass beds in order to determine nutrition differences for conch growth. The project was a collaboration with Ecological Professionals, Wageningen University and the Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute and funded by Statia Terminals, NuStar Energy L.P. and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ). Research structures, temperature and light loggers and tagged conch are destroyed and disappeared from the research locations at the Dry-dock and Barrel mooring in Simpson Bay. Large amounts of mainly invasive seagrass and many juvenile conch have been stripped off, disappeared or killed due to the hurricane.

Eight acoustic receivers were located in St Maarten waters in order to detect the movement pattern of sharks. For this study the Nature Foundation was collaborating with leading scientist Dr. Erwin Winter from Wageningen Marine Research and the Save our Sharks project funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery. Since the hurricane no acoustic receiver or its structures have been found back so far and all receivers are definitely lost.

Although the Nature Foundation has escaped large-scale damage to their infrastructure with the Office, Marine Park Patrol Vessel and Warehouse receiving minimal damage, the Research Projects are non-existent since the passing of Irma.

The Foundation is looking into major funding options in order to rebuild the marine research set-ups and restart reef and marine monitoring efforts. Especially the Coral Nursery is very much needed, as corals on the reef have been damaged and destroyed by direct and indirect impacts of the massive hurricane. Topper’s Restaurant has generously opened a Go Fund Me page in order to help the Nature Foundation rebuild their Coral Nursery; www.gofundme.com/rebuild-st-maartens-coral-nursery

Picture: Total destruction of Nature Foundation’s Coral Nursery after Hurricane Irma passed.

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Nature Foundation Assesses Marine Park and Dive Sites http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/2017/10/11/nature-foundation-assesses-marine-park-and-dive-sites/ Wed, 11 Oct 2017 20:07:02 +0000 http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/?p=1726 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.

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Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and Sint Maarten Dominica Association Cooperate to Deliver Supplies to Hurricane Stricken Dominica http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/2017/10/11/sint-maarten-nature-foundation-sea-shepherd-conservation-society-and-sint-maarten-dominica-association-cooperate-to-deliver-supplies-to-hurricane-stricken-dominica/ Wed, 11 Oct 2017 19:52:50 +0000 http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/?p=1722 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.

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Nature Foundation Conducts Initial Beach Assessment, Urges Bathers to Use Caution http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/2017/10/11/nature-foundation-conducts-initial-beach-assessment-urges-bathers-to-use-caution/ Wed, 11 Oct 2017 19:43:12 +0000 http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/?p=1713 On the 6th of September powerful category five storm Hurricane Irma struck Sint Maarten with 185 MPH winds, causing widespread damage to the island and its infrastructure. The storm also caused significant damage to the island’s nature and environment. Beaches were also significantly damaged and water quality was strongly diminished, therefore the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation conducted initial beach assessments to determine the level of impact. Beach assessments were carried out from the 3rd to the 8th of October 2017 and will continue for some time.

St Maarten beaches were mainly patrolled for damage assessments and possible sharp objects at the shoreline. If the visibility was sufficient the water was also surveyed up to three meters in depth to check for hurricane debris. In general beaches experienced significant erosion due to the storm surge; large rock formations are now exposed on many beaches. Beach erosion has a significant negative impact on sea turtle nesting habitat and all sea turtle nests are undoubtedly destroyed.

Many beaches are still covered with hurricane debris including zinc plates, wood and boat parts. Wave action and currents are still causing hurricane debris to wash up ashore. Large clean-up campaigns will need to be organized for all beaches, but especially for Simpson Bay Beach and Great Bay Beach, in order to remove hurricane debris such as zinc, wood and building material. Assistance of the Dutch Marines including heavy equipment for transporting the debris has been requested by the Nature Foundation. Also volunteers are welcome to help and as soon as dates are set the public will be informed.

So far the following beaches are considered safe to swim: Mullet Bay Beach, Cupe Coy Beach, Maho Beach and in front of the Westin Hotel on Dawn Beach. However, beach visitors need to be cautious for sharp objects and exposed rock formations in the water and on the beach. Wave action, surge and current can still be strong in the water, therefore it is recommended to have advanced swimming skills. The Nature Foundation advises to wear protective footwear or water shoes when visiting the beach or going in the water, hurricane debris is still washing up ashore and could be potentially harmful.

 

Photocredit: Laura Bijnsdorp

 

 

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Follow-up Assessments of Environmental Damage Post Hurricane Irma; Simpson Bay Lagoon can be Considered Environmental Disaster http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/2017/10/02/follow-up-assessments-of-environmental-damage-post-hurricane-irma-simpson-bay-lagoon-can-be-considered-environmental-disaster/ Mon, 02 Oct 2017 10:55:56 +0000 http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/?p=1709 On the 6th of September powerful category five storm Hurricane Irma struck Sint Maarten with 185 MPH winds, causing widespread damage to the island and its infrastructure.

The storm also caused significant damage to the island’s nature and environment prompting the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation to conduct rapid qualitative assessments to determine the level of impact. The first Terrestrial and Marine Assessments were carried out from the 12th to the 16th of the second assessment was conducted from the 22nd to the 25th of September and will continue for some time.

Terrestrial Impacts:

Solid Waste

It is also expected that solid waste disposal due to infrastructure challenges and cleanup will have significant impact on the community. The Philipsburg landfill was already over capacity before the storm and collected storm debris will contribute to the challenges regarding solid waste significantly.

The Nature Foundation is concerned regarding the management of the significant amount of solid waste and the disposal as such. The Nature Foundation is also concerned about pests, including rodents and insects (flies and mosquitos primarily) impacting the community.

Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to the island’s flora. The majority of large trees, some with historical and cultural significance, have been toppled. Most foliage on the island has been burnt by wind and salt spray. Most hills, valleys and other green areas were completely defoliated leaving the island brown and leafless.

However due to rains brought by Hurricane Maria and subsequent rainfall on the 24th and 25th of September there is progress with regards to the recovery of flora, with some areas having significant greenery return.

Avifauna (birds) have also been hard hit by Irma’s significant winds. Although some species are showing signs of recovery, other species have been particularly hard hit. Rookery sites being monitored by the Nature Foundation of the Brown Pelican, Sint Maarten’s National Bird, have been decimated and recovery will take some time. Since the passing of the Hurricane Irma some breeding pairs were observed in the Little Bay area but the pelican population has suffered significantly.

Because of a shortage of available food the Nature Foundation is requesting the population to place bird feeders in their gardens. A glass or bottle with a simple mix of sugar and water will suffice.

Marine Impacts

The following impacts regarding the Marine and Wetland Ecosystems were recorded:

The Simpson Bay Lagoon can be considered an environmental disaster, with thousands of gallons of vessel fuel still being leaked into the environment.

Mullet Pond Ramsar Site

An estimated 90% of mature mangroves have been destroyed. The area of Mullet Pond, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, has suffered particularly significant damage. Mangroves strands were also uprooted because sailboats tied unto mangrove roots illegally causing significant damage. Most of these vessels have now sunk.

Since the last assessments most vessels have cleared out of the Mullet Pond area and the Nature Foundation has started with the clean-up of the site. A number of vessels will have to be salvaged in the area and will take significant effort to complete.

Other Wetlands

Significant debris is still being recorded in all wetlands and coastal areas from various sources, from the previously estimated 120 sunken vessels of differing size in the last assessment that number has risen to above 200. Vessel sizes range from 100 meters to five meters. Because of the large amount of sunken vessels very large quantities of fuel have been spilled in especially the Simpson Bay Lagoon and Oyster Pond wetlands. Estimated fuel spilled in the Simpson Bay Lagoon exceeds 200,000 gallons and is still being leaked. The Nature Foundation has contacted the authorities regarding this but to date little assistance has been provided. The Nature Foundation is concerned that the lasting impacts of the fuel spill will have on the environment and public health of Sint Maarten.

There has been very little support for clean-up activities from an environmental perspective. In order for successful mangrove restoration activities to commence the water-quality issue in the Simpson Bay Lagoon has to be addressed.

The water quality of all wetlands and beaches is still questionable given the fuel-leakage issues and run-off from land. The Nature Foundation will continue to assess water-quality in order to determine the increase of afore-mentioned.

During previous assessments in Simpson Bay and in the Simpson Bay Lagoon large areas of seagrass beds have been uprooted and decimated. During subsequent surveys it was estimated that the island has lost, thus far, two hectares of native seagrass beds.

Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area (National Marine Park)

The Marine Park has suffered significant damage. Although in-depth assessments have not yet been made, rapid qualitative assessments have established that there has been significant storm damage to the Marine Park. An estimated 50% of coral colonies observed have suffered extensive damage and there is significant siltation still in the Marine Park. The Marine Park has only been in existence for six years and the resiliency of the area to recover from this significant weather event remains to be seen.

Coral reefs contribute more than USD 50 million annually in ecosystem goods and services to the economy of Sint Maarten. Due to the impacts of hurricane Irma Sint Maarten will see a significant reduction in the goods and services provided by the ecosystem.

The Nature Foundation Coral Nursery Project structures, acoustic hydrophone transmitter arrays, conch and seagrass experiments and scuba dive moorings are still non-existent due to the passage of the storm. In the coming weeks the Nature Foundation will move towards re-installing critical dive moorings at locations where research projects were being conducted.

Beaches

Beaches have experienced significant erosion due to the storm surge brought on by Hurricane Irma and there has been a significant impact on Sea Turtle nesting habitat. The 2017 Sea Turtle Nesting Season Monitoring Program has been cancelled. Most beaches are still significantly covered by debris both on land and submerged. The Nature Foundation will continue to dive beaches in order to determine and submerged hazardous obstacles. 

Advisories

The Nature Foundation would like to issue various advisories to the public:

  • Still do not eat fish, alive or dead, from surrounding waters. Due to run-off seafood may be contaminated and not safe to eat.
  • Be careful when using beaches. The Nature Foundation has not had the opportunity yet to survey all beaches for debris and there may be sharp, dangerous objects in the water that can cause injury.
  • Please follow instructions from Government to not burn garbage. Burning garbage is illegal and can release toxic chemicals in the air.

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Assessments of Environmental Damage Carried out Post Hurricane Irma by the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/2017/09/28/assessments-of-environmental-damage-carried-out-post-hurricane-irma-by-the-sint-maarten-nature-foundation/ Thu, 28 Sep 2017 07:57:33 +0000 http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/?p=1704 On the 6th of September powerful category five storm Hurricane Irma struck Sint Maarten with 185 MPH winds, causing widespread damage to the island and its infrastructure.

The storm also caused significant damage to the island’s nature and environment prompting the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation to conduct rapid qualitative assessments to determine the level of impact. Terrestrial and Marine Assessments were carried out from the 12th to the 16th of September and will continue after the passing of Hurricane Maria.

Terrestrial Impacts:

Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to the island’s flora. The majority of large trees, some with historical and cultural significance, have been toppled. Most foliage on the island has been burnt by wind and salt spray. Most hills, valleys and other green areas have been completely defoliated leaving the island brown and leafless.

Avifauna (birds) have also been hard hit by Irma’s significant winds. Although some species are showing signs of recovery, other species have been particularly hard hit. Rookery sites being monitored by the Nature Foundation of the Brown Pelican, Sint Maarten’s National Bird, have been decimated and recovery will take some time.

Marine Impacts

The following impacts regarding the Marine and Wetland Ecosystems were recorded: An estimated 90% of mature mangroves have been destroyed. The area of Mullet Pond, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, has suffered particularly significant damage. Mangroves strands were also uprooted because sailboats tied unto mangrove roots illegally causing significant damage. Most of these vessels have now sunk.

Significant debris was recorded in all wetlands and coastal areas from various sources, including an estimated 120 sunken vessels of differing size. Because of the large amount of sunken vessels large quantities of fuel have been spilled in especially the Simpson Bay Lagoon and Oyster Pond wetlands. Estimated fuel spilled in the Simpson Bay Lagoon exceeds 100,000 gallons.

There has been significant run-off from land as a result of Irma’s torrential rains, drastically reducing water quality at all beaches. Several areas have raw sewage entering directly into the sea and into wetlands. There has also been a significant fish-die off in the Great Salt and Fresh Ponds due to a reduction in water quality.

During assessments in Simpson Bay and in the Simpson Bay Lagoon large areas of seagrass beds have been uprooted and decimated.

Although coral reef assessments have not yet been carried out, damage is expected to be extensive and significant.

The Nature Foundation Coral Nursery Project structures, acoustic hydrophone transmitter arrays, conch and seagrass experiments and scuba dive moorings are non-existent due to the passage of the storm.

Beaches have experienced significant erosion due to the storm surge brought on by Hurricane Irma

It is also expected that solid waste disposal due to infrastructure challenges and cleanup will have significant impact on the community. The Philipsburg landfill was already over capacity before the storm and collected storm debris will contribute to the challenges regarding solid waste significantly.

Advisories

The Nature Foundation would like to issue various advisories to the public:

  • Do not eat fish, alive or dead, from surrounding waters. Due to run-off seafood may be contaminated and not safe to eat.
  • Be careful when using beaches. The Nature Foundation has not had the opportunity yet to survey all beaches for debris and there may be sharp, dangerous objects in the water that can cause injury.
  • Please follow instructions from Government to not burn garbage. Burning diapers is illegal and can release toxic chemicals in the air.

Status of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation

The Nature Foundation has escaped large-scale damage. The Nature Foundation Office, Marine Park Patrol Vessel and Warehouse received minimal damage and all personnel survived the storm without injury.

Students doing their internship at the Nature Foundation were evacuated immediately after Irma and key personnel are now assisting with water and food distribution and clean-up within the community.

The Nature Foundation would like to emphasize that extreme weather conditions and their frequency may be directly related to Climate Change. However, the Nature of our Island, just like her people, are resilient and will recover in due time.

The Nature Foundation highly appreciates any donations in order to protect and restore St. Maarten’s Nature!

Donate

 

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French Vessel Caught Illegally Anchoring at Sint Maarten Dive Site http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/2017/09/01/french-vessel-caught-illegally-anchoring-at-sint-maarten-dive-site/ Fri, 01 Sep 2017 12:21:25 +0000 http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/?p=1699 Last week during a Nature Foundation Patrol on the Patrol Vessel Yellowtail Nature Foundation staff found a vessel called Vagansa and belonging to a French-side dive operator to be anchored illegally at the Charlie’s Shoal dive site. Like the Marine Park and based on the Ministerial Decree establishing the Marine Protected Areas for Sint Maarten it is illegal to anchor at all registered dive sites. The use of anchors negatively impacts the marine environment and can damage coral and seagrass beds.

Upon approaching the vessel it was noticed that the vessel had five divers on board about to commence their dive. The captain and dive leader was requested to exit the water but ignored said request. After repeatedly requesting staff to stop diving the captain appeared on the surface. It was communicated to him that all divers should be removed from the water and that the captain should be prepared to show documentation, however the captain initially refused. At this point the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard Cutter Poema was contacted for assistance.

The Captain was ordered to board his vessel and show registration forms and  user-fee tags which he failed to do. In order to dive on any dive site on Sint Maarten visiting divers need to provide proof of having paid user-fees and all diving vessels need to register at the Nature Foundation.

A boarding vessel was sent by the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard Cutter Poema and Nature Foundation staff explained the situation and showed photographs of the anchor damage. Vessel Vagansa was requested by the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard to follow to Coast Guard station where it was processed for illegal anchoring.

The Nature Foundation would like to remind all dive operators to register their vessels at the Nature Foundation and to ensure that all divers pay their user-fees.

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Nature Foundation Finds Immature Conch Unsustainably Harvested, Suggests New Regulations for Harvesting Conch http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/2017/09/01/nature-foundation-finds-immature-conch-unsustainably-harvested-suggests-new-regulations-for-harvesting-conch/ Fri, 01 Sep 2017 12:13:31 +0000 http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/?p=1697 Recently the Nature Foundation found numerous immature conch being harvested in the anchorage zone of Simpson Bay. Based on Nature Foundation research 70% of the harvested conchs did not form a so called ‘flared lip’ and are considered to be immature, the remaining 30% had a recently formed lip but are also still not mature.

Queen conch have been heavily overfished in the Caribbean due to uncontrolled harvesting and increased demand and are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1992. In order to protect conch stocks from overexploitation it is very important to not harvest immature conchs, to give the animals a chance to reproduce and secure new generations for the future. Harvesting of immature queen conch can cause heavy depletion of the population.

When Queen conch (Lobatus gigas) are about 3.5 years old the shell length is at its maximum (200 to 300 mm) and the edge of the shell lip turns outward to form the flared lip, thereafter growth continues in lip thickness. Maturity in queen conch occurs somewhere after the formation of the lip, however the thickness of the lip at maturity varies a bit in the Caribbean region.

Studies applicable to our region found that only 50% of the population is mature at a lip thickness of 10-15 mm, which indicates that the harvested conchs found by the Foundation are all immature. On St. Maarten a license is required and there is a minimum size regulation of 180 mm in Shell Length for fishing on queen conch (Visserijbesluit PB  2010, nr. 74), however these regulations still allow for the harvesting of immature conchs. The Nature Foundation has therefore suggested to Government that based on its recent findings fishing regulations need to be revised based on lip thickness instead of shell length.

Nature Foundation is significantly concerned about the harvest of immature queen conch, especially considering that conch stock on St Maarten is already depleted and of risk of becoming non-existent.

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Nature Foundation Educates Community on Reducing Plastic Use during Successful Beach Cleanup http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/2017/08/15/nature-foundation-educates-community-on-reducing-plastic-use-during-successful-beach-cleanup/ Tue, 15 Aug 2017 14:50:04 +0000 http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org/?p=1682

Last Sunday the Nature Foundation organized a beach cleanup on Simpson Bay Beach as part of the ‘Save our Sharks’ project in collaboration with the Dutch-based Boskalis Beach Clean Up tour. The Boskalis tour is an initiative of the North Sea Foundation where business, consumers, civil society, and government clean the entire Dutch coast. This year the cleanups were held throughout the entire kingdom for the first time with all the Dutch Caribbean islands participating.

At least eighty volunteers showed up to help preserve nature, marine life and wildlife on St Maarten by cleaning up Simpson Bay Beach. Around 200 kg of garbage and trash was collected including straws, plastic bottles, cans and large car tires. The volunteers cleaned the beach for more than two hours and they learned about the major impacts of trash on the local environment. The Nature Foundation also explained about the possibilities to reduce plastic waste, such as the use of paper straws instead of plastic straws, reusable cutlery and reusable shopping bags instead of plastic bags.

The first fifty participants received the first reusable shopping bags from the ‘Save our Sharks’ project, this is a great example for how residents can reduce plastic waste. The Foundation is asking the community to stop accepting single-use plastic bags at stores; these bags have significant negative impacts on the local environment and wildlife. Birds are often found dead with stomachs full of plastic and marine life often entangles in plastic waste, killing them. Research also shows that 48% of fish humans consume contains plastic. “Especially as an island nation, we depend on our oceans, tourists come from far to see our beautiful marine life, therefore we also need to have a clean ocean as a priority,” commented Nature Foundation Project Manager Melanie Meijer Zu-Schlochtern.

The Foundation would like to thank Karakter Beach Bar for their support by providing drinks for all participants. Karakter already uses recyclable plastic cups and during the cleanup also announced that they will start to use paper straws instead of plastic straws. The Nature Foundation hopes more establishments will follow this initiative.

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