COLE BAY, Sint Maarten - Through the assistance and backing of luxury horlogier Hublot and the Alwani Family of the Little Europe chain of stores the St. Maarten Nature Foundation over the past eighteen months researched, installed and managed coral nurseries at various locations around St. Maarten. The Coral Nurseries have been installed in order to provide fast coral growth so that new coral fragments can be transplanted both on reefs within the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area and closer to shore.
Due to rapid coastal development and climate change St. Maarten has lost nearly 80% of its near shore coral reefs. Coral reefs are an essential part of the Marine ecosystem as they provide habitat for numerous creatures and are often described as the ‘rainforests of the sea. Coral reefs also form a barrier to rising sea water levels caused by climate change and can act as a very important mitigating factor for the effects of sea level rise.
Additionally, the man of War Shoal Marine Park and the coral reef areas within it are of significant environmental and 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. An economic valuation study conducted by the Nature Foundation of St. Maarten’s coral reef ecosystem has placed the monetary value at close to US$58 million in contributions to the economy of the country.
With proper management and restoration the area will increase the St. Maarten Tourism Product and local fisheries will also be enhanced through the regeneration of the depleted fish stock surrounding St. Maarten. Research has shown that Marine Protected Areas increase fish populations and fish size of commercial species in nearby fishing grounds.
Through a donation from luxury watchmaker Hublot and the Alwani family the Nature Foundation has been growing and transplanting coral at various locations throughout the island, both inside and outside of the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area. Specific species were chosen that provided a maximum of success in repopulating the country’s near shore environment with coral reefs.