Nature Foundation expresses concern over Mullet Pond area

POSTED: 07/4/13 2:52 PM

St. Maarten – The Nature Foundation once again expresses concerns regarding the threats to the Mullet Pond Area. Over the past few weeks the foundation has been observing numerous activities, including the removal of Mangroves, at what is the island’s most important fish nursery and mangrove area. “We have seen some mangroves that were removed which we have already replanted. We are concerned that, unless the Mullet Pond will be listed as a reserve, we will lose the most important mangrove area on the Dutch side of the island,” a press release from the Nature Foundation stated.

70% 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 have shown that the area forms one of the most pristine habitats within wetland and aquatic ecosystems supporting numerous species including juvenile snapper, seahorses, crabs, conch, reptiles and a number of bird species.

Based on the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Center 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, not 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 snorkeling, diving, limited fishing excursions, kayaking and ample bird and reptile watching opportunities, thus further reinforcing the economic contribution of the ecosystem.

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.

The Nature Foundation and its sister organization Epic have been lobbying for a long time both nationally and internationally to get the area protected. 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 of 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. 

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