St Eustatius National Marine Park celebrates 20 year Anniversary

St. Eustatius, 28 feb 2017, This year St Eustatius and the St Eustatius National Parks Foundation (STENAPA) will be celebrating 20 years of the existence of the National Marine Park.

The National Marine Park was established in late 1996 and active management began the following year thanks to a start-up grant from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Netherlands. The Park extends around the entire island from the high water line to the 30 meter depth contour and is protected by the Marine Environmental Ordinance of 1996. International treaties signed by the Kingdom protect threatened or endangered species (such as sea turtles), migratory species (such as dolphins and whales) and control marine pollution (illegal substances dumping etc).

Damsel Garden, picture by Brenda Kirby The Marine Park covers an area of 27.5 Km2 and protects a variety of habitats. Pristine coral reefs, hundreds of 17th and 18th shipwrecks, modern-day artificial reefs and extensive sea grass beds.

The main focus of the Marine Park is protection of the marine resources around Statia. The benefits of the Marine Park can be seen across all sections of the community. Numerous studies in the Park have shown an increase in fish populations over the years. Diver numbers have been steadily increasing as the secret is getting out. The advantage is that not only do fishermen and dive shops benefit but so does the entire Statia economy. From hotels, supermarkets, car and bike rentals, gas stations, restaurants, bars, taxis, the museum to the island and airport tax departments and others, all enjoy the benefits of tourist dollars being injected in to the economy. Additionally, the money generated by the fisheries is invested back in to the economy because all the active fishermen are locals.


WGT on barge In order to keep the marine environment healthy there are regulations in place for all user groups. Visiting divers must be accompanied by a local dive shop so that they can be supervised. Divers cannot dive with gloves to prevent touching of the reef etc. Regulations concerning conch and lobster ensure that each year the fishermen can benefit from good and sometimes record catches.

Prohibition of anchoring in certain areas prevents damage to the reef system.

Of course there are larger threats that our Marine Park faces such as the effects of global warming. Warm water is a factor in coral bleaching. There was a Caribbean wide bleaching event in 2005 that many reefs have since recovered from but conditions are predicted to worsen. Ocean acidification, which is chemical changes in the ocean, can negatively affect marine life such as corals. Too much nutrients in the water from sewage runoff for example can cause a growth in algae which can choke the corals on the reef and other threats. But the healthier the reefs are the better able they are able to withstand some of those threats. “The National Parks Foundation is very focused on affording the Marine Park the very best protection. So many stakeholders and in fact our entire local community relies on the health of our Park in one way or another,” said Jessica Berkel, Marine Park Manager.


Public events to celebrate our Marine Park and this important milestone will be held in December however the anniversary will be highlighted throughout the year.