COLE BAY, St. Maarten - On Friday the 2nd of July the Director of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation Tadzio Bervoets and Nature Foundation Projects Officer Melanie Meijer Zu-Schlochtern met with the President of Parliament the Honourable Sarah Wescot-Williams to present her the Nature Foundation’s Document outlining the steps necessary to have Sint Maarten move towards a ban of single use plastic bags. The meeting was a follow-up to a previous meeting requested by the President of Parliament some weeks ago asking for the Nature Foundation’s feedback on implementing a Ban the Plastics Initiative on Sint Maarten.
The Nature Foundation drafted a guiding document which lays forth the steps necessary for Parliament to draft and vote on a law which would ban single use plastic bags, one of the most environmentally damaging products on the island and a major contributor to the current situation at the Philipsburg dump. “We were very excited to meet with the President of Parliament the Honourable Sarah Wescot-Williams in order to present our findings officially to Parliament, including draft legislation, supporting documentation, a guideline for policy makers drafted by the United Nations and the steps which other countries, including Aruba, took in order to ban plastic bags. It is now up to our decision makers to push this initiative through,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.
Single use plastic bags are some of the most environmentally damaging products on the island. They do not biodegrade and stay in the ecosystem, causing health impacts to the environment, animals and humans. Single use plastic bags are especially harmful to sea turtles, sea birds, coral and fish that are smothered, chocked and otherwise harmed or killed by the plastic bags. Single use plastic bags are also made of petroleum by-products that have been shown to cause cancer in humans.
COLE BAY, St. Maarten - From the 3rd until the 11th of June there will be an entire week dedicated to sharks at the Nature Foundation in St. Maarten. Sharks are the most misunderstood species on the planet as they are repeatedly displayed as villains and being dangerous; however they are actually the victims of humans poaching, finning, overfishing and coastal development activities. Worldwide over 100 million sharks are killed per year; as a result half of all shark species are threatened or endangered. It is important that we work together to ensure the survival of our shark populations, therefore the Nature Foundation is trying to bring this awareness to the public by organizing Shark Week.
“During this event different activities will be organized to show the importance of sharks for our reefs, ocean, island and tourism. Sharks, as top predators, play a crucial role in maintaining balance and health within our aquatic ecosystem. Besides, they are important for tourism; many scuba divers love to see sharks, which makes a shark worth much more alive than dead. People often think that sharks eat people. This is a misunderstanding, we are not on the menu for sharks and sharks do not eat people. 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,” commented Melanie Meijer Zu-Schlochtern, project Manager for the Nature Foundation Save our Sharks Program.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation recently launched its new website. With the support of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance the new website now includes information on the various activities the Nature Foundation is engaged in both locally and in the region. Visitors to the website can now find information on the Man of War Shoal National Marine Park; diving activities; projects and activities including the 'Save our sharks' project, coral restoration and sea turtle monitoring; nature, ecosystems and species of St. Maarten; and the various conservation areas on the island.
“The previous website included outdated information and we are very happy that we were able to, with the help of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, launch our brand new website.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The IUCN BEST2.0 programme approved a grant of 100,000 euro for an 18-month project aimed at bat conservation and protection on the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten. The funds will be made available to local nature conservation organisations through the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), which is a non-governmental regional network in which the nature parks on all six Dutch Caribbean islands co-operate.
The implementation of this project will be done together with local communities and bat conservation experts. The overall objective is to increase bat populations and awareness on the important role bats play in the islands’ ecosystem. Bats are key pollinators, particularly of local vegetation including cactus, which are a major feature of the island biodiversity. Three of the target species of bats are endemic to the islands. By enhancing bat population numbers this project will have a significant and positive impact on the long-term sustainability of the flora and fauna of the islands.
The project aims on increasing bat numbers by increasing the amount of roosting and nesting sites in urban areas of the islands. This will be done by installing bat houses on private and public buildings. With an extensive education and outreach programme through schools, (social) media and organised events, local communities will be informed about the importance of bats for their island and asked to put a bat house on their house. Bat houses will be produced by local (technical) schools within a specially designed education programme, hereby involving local communities in bat conservation efforts.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The Nature Foundation encourages the community of St.Maarten/St.Martin to use Coral Isles Reef Friendly sunscreen/suntan lotions, Coral Isles Sunscreen is specifically formulated not to have any negative impacts on coral reefs while at the same time protecting users from the sun.
Over the past 30 years, Sint Maarten has lost over 80% of its coral reefs—an alarming statistic that is made even more disturbing by the fact that this has become a trend throughout the Caribbean Region and Globally. Although climate change (global warming) has long been identified as a primary contributor to coral bleaching, scientists have also identified pollutants in our oceans causing significant damage to coral. Many of these man-made pollutants are common ingredients found in sunscreens.
Coral reefs are popular recreational spots, they are high-traffic areas for swimmers and divers, many of whom wear sunscreen. Researchers at the Nature Foundation have been studying these high-concentration areas for some time, and there is a growing body of scientific evidence pointing to several ingredients in sunscreen that are highly toxic to coral.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The 2017 Sea Turtle Nesting Season has started on St. Maarten, with the Nature Foundation recording the first two nests on Simpson Bay last week and a third on Tuesday the 18th of April. The Nature Foundation actively manages and monitors the sea turtle nesting activities on St. Maarten since 1999. Endangered Leatherbacks, Hawksbill and Green Sea turtles come ashore during the nesting season that runs from April through November each year. In order to protect sea turtles, the Foundation conducts various activities with regard to nesting, including beach surveys, nest excavations, tagging activities, and nest success research.
Sea turtles are endangered and face several threats to their existence; therefore they are protected by law. It is illegal to kill, wound, capture or pick up sea turtles, based on Articles 16 and 17 of the Nature Conservation Ordinance St. Maarten. It is also illegal to directly or indirectly disturb their environment resulting in a physical threat or damage, or to commit other acts which result in disturbance of the animal. It is forbidden to disturb, damage or destroy sea turtle nests, lairs or breeding places. Also, it is forbidden to pick up or to destroy the eggs of any species of sea turtle.
‘Our sea turtle population needs major protection; especially important is the safe nesting of our females. Therefore was ask restaurants and beach bars along the major nesting beaches to refrain or limit the use of beach bonfires and artificial lighting, which can seriously reduce the survival rate of sea turtles.
GRAND CASE, Saint Martin — Amuseum Naturalis invites the public to the free gala opening of the museum’s exhibit WOMEN, PEOPLE OF COLOR, AND THE MAKING OF NATURAL HISTORY IN THE CARIBBEAN from 4-8pm on Tuesday, April 18th. The installation is part of a special series created to shine a light on the trailblazers of Caribbean natural science from the late 1400s to the early 1900s. The exhibit brings their discoveries, explorations and stories to life with vivid biographical snapshots and reproductions of beautiful antique zoological and botanical illustrations, engravings, maps, and portraits by historical and contemporary artists. Be The Change SXM contributed to funding for this exhibit and the upcoming companion website.
“People of color and women have made important contributions to science throughout history. But their work has often been suppressed, or just not as well publicized as that of their white male peers, and this happened in Caribbean science just like everywhere else. We wanted to create an opportunity for people to discover the fascinating stories of these incredible women and men who helped to build the scientific heritage of the Caribbean,” explains Jenn Yerkes, Amuseum Naturalis co-curator and Les Fruits de Mer President.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Last Friday the St Maarten Nature Foundation organized a beach cleanup with students of the Milton Peters College.
Twenty-two first form students removed thirty bags of garbage from the beach and learned about the harmful impacts of trash on marine life.
COLE BAY, St. Maarten - The St. Maarten Nature Foundation is again warning of a potential influx of Sargassum seaweed in the coming weeks: “We have been coordinating our monitoring efforts with our partners in the region and based on weather predictions and aerial surveys there is a significant amount of the seaweed headed in our general vicinity.
“We have been really trying to work both with our partners in the region and with local stakeholders to monitor the situation and to find a way to control the amount of the weed washing up on beaches in the case of a significant influx. In the case of an influx we need to find a way to coordinate the removal of the seaweed with heavy loaders which causes serious risks to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings while the grass itself can be a hazard to the animals,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.
“Economically speaking there is a serious effect that seagrass can have on the beaches of the island. As soon as the grass is cleared it is being deposited back on the beach by the wind and currents. We will continue to work towards researching the effects of the grass and some possible solutions but at this point Sint Maarten, like many islands in the Caribbean, are being heavily impacted,” continued Bervoets.
Sargassum is a genus of brown (class Phaeophyceae) seaweed which is distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world. Most of the Sargassum Seaweed lies concentrated in the Sargassum Sea, a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean surrounded by ocean currents.
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