Nature conservation in the Dutch Caribbean took a lap toward a more sustainable future with Saba National MarinePark, the Man O’ War Shoal Marine Park in St. Maarten and St. Eustatius National Marine Park now officially recognised as protected areas under the protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW), including their most important reef-building corals.
The Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee to the SPAW protocol made these decisions during a regional meeting in Cartegena, Colombia, in December. The SPAW protocol came into force in 2000 and is part of the Cartegena Convention. The protocol’s two main objectives are to protect, preserve and sustainably manage areas of particular ecological value, and to protect and preserve threatened wild species or endangered species, as well as their habitats.
The recognition of the protected areas under SPAW underscores the importance of parks and the need to continue actively managing the islands’ unique and fragile natural resources. With SPAW recognition, the habitats and species that make up the region’s biodiversity are internationally protected.
Bonaire National Marine Park, Quill Boven National Park in Statia and Saba Bank National Marine Park were amongst the very first protected areas to receive this recognition. “This recognition offers our islands a chance to find more far-reaching solutions to the challenges of managing our natural resources,” said Executive Director of Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance Kalli De Meyer. “It will enhance the capacity of park managers to have dialogue, including information about migratory species, and share resources to better preserve the island ecosystems. In addition, working to sustain our biodiversity will help island economies. Many tourists choose to visit our islands precisely because of our parks’ outstanding bio- diversity.”
The parks are now also eligible to benefit from SPAW grants and other assistance as sites become priorities for United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the SPAW Secretariat.
Policy Coordinator for Nature at Government Service Caribbean Netherlands RCN Paul Hoetjes broke the news about additional protection for selected species. “After six hours of negotiations, ending in a vote, the eighth Conference of Parties of the SPAW protocol in Cartagena, Colombia, amended the annexes of the SPAW protocol, adding six species to Annex II for full protection and four species to Annex III for measures for sustainable use. Unfortunately, 27 other species proposed by a working group were not listed due to insufficient data.” This includes four of the most important reef building corals, which were added to Annex II, elkhorn coral, boulder star coral and mountain star coral. The black-capped petrel (Pterodroma hasitata), a vagrant bird that is seen over the ocean around our islands, was added to Annex II. This Annex bans any destruction or disruption of these species. The Holywood Lignum-vitae, a slow-growing evergreen tree with multiple twisted trunks that grows on Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, and has been reported on Saba, was added to Annex III. Annex III lists animal and plant species for which special regulations exist for their use in order to ensure their protection and recovery.
“The biodiversity of our islands is our heritage as well as our future,” De Meyer said. “SPAW recognition demonstrates that the international community is ready to recognise and assist in helping sustain it. This is a very exciting time for nature conservation on our islands.”