Study identifies areas worth protecting in SXM’s Simpson Bay Lagoon


Simpson BayST. MAARTEN–The St. Maarten Nature Foundation, over the course of nearly a year, recently completed a research project and compiled a report on the environmental health of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Amongst various outcomes outlined in the report it was found that 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. 

SeaLife DC1400The purpose of the report was to create a more in-depth study of the ecological health and the water quality in various locations of the Simpson Bay Lagoon.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.

The report also outlines the possible uses which can be made of the lagoon, protecting it while at the same time ensuring that its economic contribution will grow while protecting the Natural Resources found in its waters. The study also aims to convince policy makers that official zoning of the Mullet Pond and Little Key areas as conservation zones are of essential importance to the stability of the remaining healthy environment in the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

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 USD $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 report found that 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 was found to be able to 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.

simpson bay 2Additionally, the waters surrounding Little Key were also found to have some of the more undamaged ecosystems of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. The last remaining strands of seagrass beds in the Simpson Bay Lagoon were found to surround Little Key. Environmental Organizations have also been continuously calling for the protection of Little Key, a small island within the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

The Research Project, which involved water quality tests and research dives conducted by Nature Foundation staff on more than two dozen locations within the Lagoon, also established various problem areas. The areas of the Simpson Bay Lagoon in Cole Bay in particular had especially bad Water Quality, including sewage, heavy metal, and chemical pollution and a virtual lack of any Marine Species such as fish or crabs.

The results of the report have been delivered to the various stakeholders including recommendations to Policy Makers regarding the future development, protection and management of the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

Source: Nature Foundation

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