Press release from St. Maarten Nature Foundation
PHILIPSBURG — The St. Maarten Nature Foundation had the honor to play host to Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix during a Royal visit to the Nature Foundation office and the Simpson Bay Lagoon on Wednesday. The Princess, on St. Maarten as part of the Kingdom Youth Parliament meetings, specifically requested to visit the Nature Foundation and its staff and board members and to be shown the current status of the Simpson Bay Lagoon.
Upon arrival in Cole Bay the Princess and His Excellency Governor Holiday and entourage were introduced to Nature Foundation Board and staff and received an update on various projects currently conducted by the Foundation including work related to the control of lionfish, the nature education program, the Nature Foundation sea turtle management project, the Nature Foundation’s work regarding Climate Change and the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area.
Her Royal Highness then proceeded to tour the Simpson Bay Lagoon where she received information on the ecological issues and their management therein. Nature Foundation staff and board members gave an explanation of some of the issue currently faced by the Lagoon and the steps which have been taken by the Nature Foundation to manage them. Her Royal Highness received a complete picture of what is currently ongoing with regards to the Lagoon including the filling in of certain parts of the Lagoon and the concern of the Simpson Bay community regarding some of the issues that are ongoing. The Princess was very interested to hear about the current dialogue concerning the proper ecological management and zonation of the whole area.
Positive developments within the Lagoon were also highlighted, including the mangrove reforestation project at the Simpson Bay Causeway, the plans to protect Little Key and to improve water quality of the Lagoon, water quality testing done by the Nature Foundation on a regular basis and the plans to remove, clean and sink wrecks currently in the Lagoon as artificial reefs jointly by the Nature Foundation and SLAC.
The highlight of the trip was when the Princess visited the Mullet Pond Section of the Simpson Bay Lagoon, an area currently in the final stages of being protected as an important wildlife area. Her Royal Highness was particularly impressed with Mullet Pond and commended its proposal for listing as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Treaty, a first for St. Maarten.
Princess Beatrix, who is a Royal Patron of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, an umbrella organization under which the Nature Foundation also falls, also discussed the finances and capability of the Foundation and commended the organization for achieving sound and realistic environmental management with limited staff and resources available to them. The Princess stated that she was impressed at the work which was accomplished over the last few years and encouraged the Foundation to continue to work to protect and safeguard nature on St. Maarten.