Nature Foundation, with the Assistance of St. Eustatius National Parks, Provides Environmentally Safe Fishing Devices to Local Fishermen

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation, with the assistance of the St. Eustatius National Parks Office STENAPA Statia National Marine Park, has started to provide fishermen with so-called pop-up devices, specialized pieces of equipment that prevent fish traps from being lost or poached.

The pop-up devices work by attaching them to ropes affixed to fish pots which are submerged for a set period of time. A fisherman can then drop his fish pot with the marker buoys submerged and after a set period of time the buoy pops to the surface for the fisherman to retrieve. The major cause of fishermen losing their fish traps is due to the fish pots marker buoy being cut away by passing vessels or poachers making fishermen unable to retrieve their traps. Now with the marker buoys being submerged fisherman can collect their traps when the buoys pop back up to the surface, thus preventing ghost fishing.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration ghost fishing is the term used for lost or abandoned fishing gear that continues to catch fish. It is causes significant harm to the environment and the fish caught are wasted. Fish are attracted to the pot by means of bait and once in the trap or pot, the target species the fish cannot escape. The fish die of starvation and go on to become “bait” for larger fish and it is this ‘rebaiting’ of the trap by captured fish that forms the basis of ghost fishing.

“We have been contacted by fishermen on numerous occasions to dive and look for their fish pots that had their buoys cut-off, usually by passing vessels. Especially during the high season when there is a lot of boat traffic. Not only does this hurt the fishermen economically but also the ocean environment. With the help of the Statia Marine Park, who ran a similar project some years ago, we decided to provide fishermen with these pop-up devices to help with the issue of lost fish pots. Based on the success of this project we will hope to provide many more pop-ups in the future,” commented Tadzio Bervoets of the Nature Foundation.

With this project and the various other marine conservation activities done by the foundation it is hoped that local fisheries will 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. If there are fishermen interested in receiving pop-up devices they are urged to contact the Nature Foundation on its number 5444267 or by passing by the office next to Island Water World in Cole Bay.