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