PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - 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.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has estimated that it may take several months to completely clean and restore the Mullet Pond Protected Area Ramsar Site after it inspected the area with representatives from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean on Wednesday. The Foundation’s Manager Tadzio Bervoets will also present the Nature Foundation’s activities during an urgent Central Committee meeting of Parliament on Friday.
“We have been requested to give a presentation to Parliament this coming Friday October 27th at 16:00 about our activities post-hurricane Irma, particularly as it relates to cleaning up the Simpson Bay Lagoon and surrounding waters. Unfortunately one of the most important areas of the Simpson Bay Lagoon, Mullet Pond, has been significantly impacted by the storm, both in terms of damage to mangroves and in terms of debris caused by the sinking of numerous vessels and objects in the area.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - 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.
SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten - The Nature Foundation conducted an underwater check of Kim Sha/ Pelican Beach for sharp, harmful objects up to two meters in depth. Numerous zinc and other hurricane debris has been removed, taken out of the water and disposed of.
The beach was already extensively cleaned up by Buccaneer Beach Bar and their crew and is now ready to receive their customers.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The Nature Foundation St. Maarten received the first week profit of the initiative ‘Feel Good Lunches’ from the Chefs of St Maarten Vegans on Monday. In their first week the initiative the group delivered already 122 lunches to the needy and raised US$675 and NAF 66.
The chefs of St. Maarten vegans are donating their time to cook healthy meals on St Maarten. For every meal you buy they are donating a meal to someone in need of food.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The Nature Foundation is continuously monitoring the state of St. Maarten’s beaches to ensure the safety of bathers and prepare for the upcoming tourist season. If the visibility is sufficient the shore is surveyed up to three meters in depth and hurricane debris is removed if possible. The Foundation continuously advises to be cautious when entering the water and to wear protective footwear when visiting the beach; hurricane debris is still washing up ashore and could cause potential injury.
On Simpson Bay Beach visibility and water quality improved significantly and hurricane debris from Halley Drive to Karakter Beach Bar has been removed by the Nature Foundation.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - 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.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - 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.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - 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.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - 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.
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