Crew of the Zr Ms Pelikaan assisting the Nature Foundation with placing mooring blocks in the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — In June of this year the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has received assistance from the Royal Dutch Navy in placing ten three-ton mooring blocks in waters both outside and inside of the Marine Park, creating mooring possibilities at ten new dive sites with the help of Naval Supply and Disaster Relief Ship the Zr. Ms. Pelikaan. With the support of the Cabinet of the Governor, the Royal Dutch Marine Detachment on Sint Maarten, the Royal Dutch Navy Command of the Dutch Caribbean based in Curacao, Windward Roads and the Sint Maarten Harbor Group of Companies the ten new operational moorings will protect both fragile coral from being damaged by anchors as well as increase tourism revenue through providing new dive sites for visitors to the island.

This project was the perfect example of one which was quite complex but in which many stakeholders from both the public and private sector cooperated in ensuring that our ocean environment is protected. With the help of the Cabinet of the Governor and the Marine Base here on Sint Maarten we were able to apply for support to the Royal Dutch Navy Command in the Dutch Caribbean for support in placing these moorings. Now with the additional dive moorings we are able to protect fragile coral from anchor damage while enhancing our tourism product, further ensuring the conservation of our ocean ecosystem.

The waters surrounding Sint Maarten are home and migratory stop over or breeding site various endangered and critically endangered species. It is an area with a relatively healthy population of marine mammals including migratory whales and dolphins, numerous species of shark, sea turtles and numerous fish species. Studies have shown that in some areas coral reef density is high and the economic goods and services that the ecosystem provides are in excess of sixty million dollars annually. The Man of War Shoal Marine Park also has significant economic importance as diving in Marine Parks is globally on the rise and generally accepted by the diving tourist as a “must do” vacation activity. Local fisheries are also being enhanced through environmental protection in the waters surrounding the island. Marine Protected Areas increase fish populations and fish size of commercial species in nearby fishing grounds.

With the help of the Commander and Crew of the Zr. Ms. Pelikaan we were able to complete what was really a complicated project both in terms of logistics and manpower and one which we have been working on for a couple of years now. The Nature Foundation expresses its deep gratitude to all who played a crucial part in this project, ensuring that Marine Conservation Activities coupled with the development of eco-tourism initiatives continues for the island.

In order to show our gratitude to the commander and crew of the Zr. Ms. Pelikaan one of the newly created dive sites has been named in honor of the vessel. On Monday the 19th of October the Commander of the Pelikaan has invited Nature Foundation staff and Board as well as invitees from the press to bring a toast to this successful at the Dive Site Pelikaan in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park. Attendees are invited to embark at the Commercial Harbor in Point Blanche no later than 12:15 for transit into the Marine Park where the toast will be carried out. Attendees will then be transported back via FRISK to the harbor at the end of the event which should be finalized by two PM. Hope all can attend.