St. Maarten –Tadzio Bervoets is a young tourism professional who works as the manager of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, the conservation and environmental management organization for Sint Maarten. He is also vice-chair of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, an umbrella organization comprised of all the nature parks management organizations in the Dutch Caribbean.
Bervoets has been active in the environmental field for more than ten years, and with his current position as manager of the Nature Foundation for the past five years. “I started at the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation as manager but I did have to work my way up in the conservation field. While studying in the United States for my undergraduate degree I interned at what was then the Department of Constitutional Affairs of Sint Maarten.
‘While there I volunteered at the Nature Foundation and became board member of another organization called Ocean Care. I subsequently did my master’s degree at the VU in Amsterdam and soon after worked in Bermuda on an environmental project regarding coral reefs and the cruise industry which was commissioned by UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program).
“After living in Bermuda I lived in Africa where I worked on a conservation project in Zanzibar off of the coast of Tanzania where I had to deal with coral reef indexing and working with local fishermen to conserve the marine environment. After living and working in Africa I worked for a year as the marine park manager for the St. Eustatius National Marine Park. I was then asked to take the helm at the Nature Foundation,” Bervoets explains his journey to the position he currently holds.
He has a bachelor’s degree in international relations and non-governmental institutions with a minor in English literature and Caribbean studies. He also has a master’s degree in marine conservation ecology, and natural & environmental resource management.
“Being born and growing up on St. Maarten, I have always been fascinated by the island’s nature and in particular the sea that surrounds us all, in no small way fueled by reading natural history books and watching nature documentaries and supported by both my mother, who is from St. Maarten and my father who is from Belgium,” Bervoets says.
“When I was fifteen I became a certified diver and have, as a parallel to my academic and professional career, also continued my education in the sport of diving having worked my way up to instructor. I did see from an early age that St. Maarten was changing and that change was not always positive, that there was a lack of focus on sustainable development and the conservation of the very foundation that makes St. Maarten what it is both as a country and as a tourism destination, her environment, was seriously lacking.
“These changes bothered me and I always wanted to contribute to the conservation of Nature on my home so that is why I chose my field of study and subsequently work.”
There is a direct link between conservation and the country’s tourism sector, Bervoets says. “I like working in conservation because it is so directly related to the economy of Sint Maarten. Our Nature is both our future and the backbone of our country.
“Without our coral reefs for example we would have no beaches, no blue water, no diving tourism, no sport fishing, no beach tourism, no protected harbors, no restaurants, no bars, no hotels and the list goes on. Without our forest and our wetlands we would not be St. Maarten.
“My work is very challenging but I enjoy working towards finding the right balance between us developing as a country and the conservation of our natural resources, which is essential; to our existence as a country. For example we have done research that shows that our coral reefs, including the marine park, contributes more than fifty million dollars to our economy. Without protecting that resource we would have very little in the way of tourism product to offer visitors.”
Bervoets gets a lot of satisfaction from his job and the people he works with on a daily basis. “I am very lucky that despite all of the challenges we face at the Nature Foundation I could not have asked for more dedicated colleagues and board members. We are truly a team which has made huge sacrifices because we believe in what we are working for.
“That makes the challenges all the more easier. I am also very fortunate to work with the youth on many occasions and it inspires me to see their wonder and dedication to the nature of their home, whether they are first, second, third or whatever generation of St. Maarteners.
“I am also very fortunate to be on personal terms with many species of wildlife. I can identify by site some of the more wild residents of our country whether they are birds, sea turtles, sharks, even the occasional humpback whale or dolphin that are return visitors to our waters. I consider these creatures just as much residents of this country as its people and it motivates me to protect them as well as to ensure that the people of this country have a sustainable future moving forward.”
His advice for the nation’s youth considering a career in tourism: “I would like to especially direct my advice to those who may be interested in careers in science and technology.
“Many times I talk to kids who say that they want to become biologists or other scientists but they are told that that field does not make any money on Sint Maarten. I think that firstly these kids should completely not listen and disregard that horrible advice and tell them that the one thing that this country does need is more scientists.
“In order to understand what we are and where our place is in this world we need people who know how that world looks like, who knows what to do to bring this country to its best potential, who are not driven by income but are motivated by a curiosity in the world around them. Only then will St. Maarten be great and only then will we be at the pinnacle as a destination in the region.
“Tourism, as with any other sector, can only function if we understand what we are doing and where we are doing it. That’s why we need anthropologists, sociologists, and biologist’s chemists etc. to guide us along that way. Nature is our future.”
Source: Today SXM Tadzio Bervoets: “Nature is our future”