PHILIPSBURG:--- The St. Maarten Nature Foundation recently removed fish traps which were placed illegally inside of the Man of War Shoal Marine Park. The fish traps or fish pots were found close to the Proselyte Dive site. Nature Foundation staff noticed the fish traps during a routine patrol in the Marine Park and removed the illegally placed traps from the ocean. “As the legally mandated Management Authority for the Man of War Shoal Marine Park we removed the fish traps from within the Marine Park before any damage to the ecosystem occured. It is listed within the rules of the Marine Park that no fishing is allowed, including trap fishing. We have a close working relationship with fishermen when it comes to the Man of War Shoal Marine Park and would like this to continue. However if we notice illegal activities within the Marine Park this will be addressed, including the removal of fish traps,” read a Nature Foundation statement.
The boundaries of the Marine Park are between 18̊ ̊N and 17 ̊-57.0 N and 63 ̊-01.03 W and 63 ̊-04.05 W, in an area better known as “the Proselyte Reef Complex ". This area includes the island’s most ecologically and economical important marine habitat, including extensive coral reef areas and seagrass beds. The Man of War Shoal Marine Park, officially established on the 30th of December 2010, is a home and migratory stop over or breeding site for 3 IUCN Red List Species, 10 CITES Appendix I species and 89 Appendix II species. It is an area with a relatively healthy population of marine mammals including migratory whales and dolphins, numerous species of shark, sea turtles and numerous fish species. Studies conducted by the St. Maarten Nature Foundation have shown that biodiversity in this area, particularly coral reef density, is high and the economic goods and services which the ecosystem provides are in excess of fifty million dollars annually.” It has been shown that no-fishing areas have resulted in an increase in fish stock. Therefore it is also in the interest of fishermen to adhere to the no catch rules of the Marine Park,” continued the Foundation.
The owner of the fish trap can reclaim his property at the Nature Foundation offices in Cole Bay. The Foundation urges all fishermen to not fish in the Marine Park in order to avoid their materials being removed. If the trap is not collected it will be donated to a group of local fishermen the Nature Foundation has been working with to control the Lionfish Invasion.