Mullet Pond worth nearly $800,000 in economic activity

POSTED: 06/13/12 1:27 PM

St. Maarten – The Nature Foundation, over the course of five months, conducted a research project and compiled a report on the biological status of the Mullet Pond section of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The purpose of this report was to create a more in-depth study of both the ecology of the Mullet Pond and to also conduct a valuation study on the contribution the area has, in a dollar amount and in its intact form, to the economy of St. Maarten. The report also outlines the possible uses which can be made of the lagoon. The point of departure was keeping it intact while ensuring that its economic contribution will grow. The study will also be used as a tool to convince policy makers that official zoning of the Mullet Pond area as a conservation zone is of essential importance to the stability of the remaining environmental habitat in the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

Some 70 percent of all mangroves located in the Simpson Bay Lagoon currently survive in Mullet Pond, which forms the largest, continuous area of unbroken mangrove forest on St. Maarten. Mullet Pond is located in the south-eastern most area of the lagoon in the area of Mullet Bay. Baseline surveys included in this report have shown that the area forms one of the most pristine habitat within wetland and aquatic habitats supporting numerous species including juvenile snapper, seahorses, crabs, reptiles and a number of bird species.

Based on the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Center’s 2006 document: In the front lines: shoreline protection and other ecosystem services from mangroves, the value of the 880 square meters of mangrove habitat, which represents the Mullet Pond ecosystem is equal to $792, 000 per year towards the economy of St. Maarten in its intact form. This does not included counting or taking into consideration the high biological value that the area represents.

“The marketing of the Mullet Pond area as a high value eco-tourism experience is significantly untapped. With increased trends moving towards the marketing of Caribbean islands as eco-tourism destinations Mullet Pond can contribute significantly to eco-tours in the form of snorkelling, diving, limited fishing excursions, kayaking and ample bird and reptile watching opportunities, thus further reinforcing the economic contribution of the ecosystem,” a release states.

The release continues, “Mullet Pond is increasingly under threat due to development. As it is, the cause for protecting that ecosystem and the value with which it brings far outweighs the perceived benefit development of the area may have. Any type of development would require the destruction of large areas of mangrove trees and the dredging and siltation of extensive sea grass beds, effectively killing both the economic and ecological benefit of the area. It is therefore essential that the Mullet Pond, located between Point Pirouette and Mullet Beach, be zoned as a protected area in which it is prohibited to remove and/or cut existing vegetation, including mangroves and sea grass, within 15 meters of the lagoon shoreline including the waters contained therein. It is only through official protection that the protection of the Mullet Pond and the ecosystem it supports will remain an essential part of the St. Maarten landscape.”

“Once legislation is enacted proper management of that ecosystem would need to occur in order to reduce the risk of the area being a so-called ‘paper park’. This management should involve natural space bio-mapping, integrated use of GIS mapping, mangrove strand management, the possibility of housing injured and sick sea turtles in housing pens close to the island, doing bird monitoring, invasive species checks, and baseline environmental monitoring,” the release concludes.

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