Help to restore St. Maarten’s nature!
On the 6th of September 2017, our partner organizations were confronted with one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit the area. Hurricane Irma, followed by José and Maria, destroyed St. Maarten and caused major damage to Saba and St. Eustatius. In addition to the great humanitarian disaster, it is becoming increasingly clear to what extent the unique nature of the islands was destroyed. Donations are needed to help with cleaning up and restoring critical habitats such as mangrove forests, and resuming scientific research efforts.
The sharks and underwater nature of St. Maarten need your help!
With her large waves and strong underwater motion and surge, Hurricane Irma did not spare the underwater world. Both terrestrial and marine assessments were carried out after the storms, which found destroyed mangroves, extensive damage to corals, uprooted seagrass beds, a multitude of sunken vessels, and severe water pollution, to name just a few. The majority of Sint Maarten Nature Foundation scientific in-water research projects were either totally damaged or completely lost, including the acoustic receivers installed to track tagged tiger sharks, reef sharks, and nurse sharks.
As particularly the St. Maarten Nature Foundation is looking into major funding options to rebuild the marine research set-ups and restart their reef and marine monitoring efforts, the Save Our Sharks project is dedicated to help raise funds. Over the past years, the Nature Foundation has started an extensive shark research program on the island for the Save Our Sharks project and has been working towards much needed protection of both sharks and their habitats. Many of these efforts are now jeopardized because of the storm.
Your donations will support restorations of the vulnerable marine environment of Sint Maarten. Actions with high priority include cleaning and restoring ‘Mullet Pond’, a RAMSAR site with the last remaining mangroves in the lagoon. Mangrove forests provide important nursery habitat for many species of fishes and invertebrates, including sharks, which later move to coral reefs and other ecosystems as they mature. Another major priority is re-installing the acoustic receivers for the scientific shark research.
The mangroves of Mullet Pond
Mangroves are species of plants and shrubs that live on the land or shallow water or both – being flooded by seawater for part of each day. They have adapted to their salty environment by being able to turn salt water into fresh water and pushing out the salt through the pores in their leaves. They are typically found along inland waterways and sheltered coasts. Mangrove wetlands provide a vital habitat for many animal species. The mangroves and seagrass beds act as a major nursery area and important habitat for juvenile fish species which develop in the lagoon before moving to local coral reef ecosystems, including sharks.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands has designated Mullet Pond in Sint Maarten as a protected Ramsar Site. Mullet Pond is a semi-enclosed area of permanent shallow marine waters within the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The Site holds some of the few intact sea-grass beds in the wider Lagoon as well as 70% of the mangrove forest remaining on Sint Maarten, the Dutch part of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin.
In addition to providing critical habitat for fish, invertebrates, and birds, the mangroves provide coastal protection during hurricanes and tropical storms, and help to cycle nutrients in the larger Simpson Bay area. As well as supporting the fish stocks which local fisheries depend on, the Site is also used for eco-tourism activities such as kayaking tours. The area is under continuing pressure from development, while other threats relate to dredging, recreational and tourism activities, storms and flooding and invasive alien species.