Marine Park Staff on dawn patrol.
COLE BAY–Nature Foundation has increased its patrolling of Man of War Shoal Marine Park to combat illegal fishing activities. Foundation staff will patrol during weekends and early morning hours to increase their presence in the Marine Park, St. Maarten’s only protected nature area.
“As the legally mandated management authority for the Man of War Shoal Marine Park, we are increasing our patrolling after increased incidents of poachers trying to fish illegally in the Marine Park. It is listed within the rules of the Marine Park that no fishing is allowed, including trap- and line-fishing,” said the Foundation.
“We have a close working relationship with fishermen when it comes to the Man of War Shoal Marine Park and would like this to continue. However, if we notice illegal activities within the Marine Park this will be addressed, including the removal of fish traps.”
The boundaries of the Marine Park are between 18 and 17.57 degrees North, and 63.0103 and 63.0405 degrees West, in an area better known as the Proselyte Reef Complex. This area includes the island’s most ecologically and economical important marine habitat, including extensive coral reef areas and seagrass beds.
Man of War Shoal Marine Park, officially established on December 30, 2010, is a home and migratory stopover or breeding site for three International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Species, 10 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix I species and 89 Appendix II species.
It is an area with a relatively healthy population of marine mammals, including migratory whales and dolphins, and numerous species of shark, sea turtles and fish.
Studies conducted by the St. Maarten Nature Foundation have shown that biodiversity in this area, particularly coral reef density, is high and the economic goods and services the ecosystem provides are in excess of 50 million dollars annually.
It has been shown that no-fishing areas have resulted in an increase in fish stock. Therefore, it is also in the interest of fishermen to adhere to the no-catch rules of the Marine Park, said the Foundation.
The Foundation is in contact with authorities, including the Coast Guard, about monitoring activities inside the Marine Park.