Little Bay Pond one of Last Remaining Mangrove and Bird Sanctuaries of Sint Maarten
Upon learning about the proposed Pearl of China Development, the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation delivered a letter to the Council of Ministers expressing serious concerns the development may have on the environmental integrity of in particular the Little Bay Pond and the surrounding coastline. The Foundation urges all stakeholders on St. Maarten to call for the protection and sustainable development of the Little Bay Pond as a conservation area, important wetland and an untapped resource in terms of eco-tourism and bird watching potential.
“The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation is an organization which is pro-sustainable development. Sint Maarten is considered a Small Island Developing State and as such development has to occur in a sustainable and well-managed manner. We were surprised, as the appointed ecosystem authority for the island, to learn that a development of such magnitude may take place very near one of our most important wetland and coastal areas, namely the Little Bay Pond,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.
The Little Bay Pond area is internationally recognized as an IBA, or Important Bird Area. An IBA is an internationally recognized designation of an area recognizing its importance to birds as globally important habitat for the conservation of bird populations. Currently there are approximately 10,000 IBAs worldwide. The program was developed and sites are identified by BirdLife International. The IBA designation for the Little Bay Pond is AN001 and it is listed as an important migratory bird area as well as home and breeding area for local bird populations, including for the St. Maarten National Bird the Brown Pelican and numerous other wetland and terrestrial species including the Antillean Crested Hummingbird, Lesser Antillean Bullfinch and Pearly Eyed Thrasher.
“Environmental and conservation organizations on St. Maarten have been doing numerous conservation activities at Little Bay Pond including mangrove reforestation, educational tours and school visits, water quality management and bird counts for a number of years and the area is critical for both conservation management and nature conservation on the island,” continued Bervoets.
Additionally, the Little Bay Pond acts as a catchment basin for runoff during periods of heavy rainfall, particularly during heavy flooding events, preventing the Belair and Cay Hill area from experiencing significant residential flooding.
St. Maarten has also seen an increase in the number of birding visitors, or visitors coming to St. Maarten to specifically look for and photograph rare bird species. Birding is a multi-million dollar worldwide industry. A recent United States Fish and Wildlife report states that birders spent an estimated 12 billion American dollars on birding and birding related expenses in the United States alone and that it is a significantly growing industry.
In the framework of sustainable development and destination diversification Little Bay Pond can act as a crucial element in strengthening the ‘green economy’ of St. Maarten. The Nature Foundation urges Government to consider the environmental impacts such a development will have on some of the last remaining wetland and mangrove areas on Sint Maarten and requests that an Environmental Impact Assessment be conducted by an independent party in order to determine what the environmental effects will be.