PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – Vromi-Minister Miklos Chomain Giterson signed the continuation of a service level agreement recently with the Nature Foundation appointing the organization as the Ecosystem and Environmental Authority of the Country. Under the agreement, the Nature Foundation continues to act as the management and scientific authority for marine and terrestrial ecosystems in St. Maarten while at the same time maintaining its independence as a conservation NGO based on the island.
Minister Giterson and Jan Beaujon, chairman of the board of the Nature Foundation, signed the agreement during a brief ceremony at the Government Administration Building.
The national ordinance for nature management and protection requires that the Council of Ministers establishes a nature plan and appoints a management and scientific authority. That role has been bestowed on the Nature Foundation since 2014, its manager Tadzio Bervoets and his staff.
The Nature Foundation is now authorized “to make and execute all decisions pertaining to the management of the marine and terrestrial ecosystems, species management and specifically introduced species,” according to the SLA.
Part of the responsibilities include the management of the marine park, dive moorings, fisheries management and the protection of endangered species. Other tasks include sea turtle nesting and beach monitoring and reporting, animal control and surveillance and monitoring. The foundation will also assist or lead research for government and advise on request, facilitate the police and harbor authorities, and function as liaison with relevant government departments. Emergency response to for instance oil spills and disasters are also a part of the deal.
Nature Foundation manager Bervoets said that, since he started in his job eight years ago, “it has not always been an easy journey. A few times we almost had to close our doors because of the financial situation.”
Nature Foundation chairman Jan Beaujon noted that the organization has come a long way. “We have gone through twenty years of ups and down to become what we are today. The staff of the foundation is able to take care of a lot of things for the government and to manage whatever we have on our island for years to come.”