Man O War Shoal Marine Park

Note: The data were entered in the language of the country of origin (English, French or Spanish) and there is no translation available yet.

Chapter 3. SITE DESCRIPTION

d - Human population and current activities

Inhabitants inside the area or in the zone of potential direct impact on the protected area:


Inside the area In the zone of potential direct impact
Permanent Seasonal Permanent Seasonal
Inhabitants not given not given 30000 100000

Comments about the previous table:


Populations adjecent to the MPA number approximately 30,000. During the tourist high season the population increases to approximately 100,000 individuals. In 2013, a further 1.8 million visitors arrived by cruise ship, involving 631 vessel calls.

Description of population, current human uses and development:


The main threats to the biodiversity of the MPA are habitat destruction and degradation caused by the growth of inhabited areas, tourism development and pollution. Since the 1950’s, several groups have argued for the need to preserve valuable nature areas, not only for conservation but also for the benefit of tourism.

 

Overfishing of St Maarten’s territorial waters is a potential problem. In this context it is also important to note that in addition to pelagic fish, globally endangered sea turtles, sea birds and dolphins are threatened by illegal fishing activities.

 

The seagrasses have all but disappeared as a result of pollution, anchoring and eutrophication caused by excessive nutrients entering coastal waters. The overfishing of Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) has also disrupted the dense root networks of the seagrasses removing their sediment binding and trapping function which results in murkier waters and mobile sediments.

 

Increases in nutrient and sediment runoff due to coastal development are harmful to coral reefs. The higher concentration of particles in the water leads to increased turbidity and lower light availability for coral growth. The raised nutrient concentrations stimulate the growth of algae, which can out compete hard corals for settlement space. Nutrients usually enter the marine environment as part of a sewage or runoff cocktail that includes pollutants such as hydrocarbons, heavy metals and toxic chemicals, all of which kill corals and effect fish life.

 

From the study carried out in 2001 Hen & Chicken Reef is the shallowest and closest to shore of the three reefs studied. It also has the highest percent bottom cover by algae. This suggests that unsustainable coastal development on St Maarten (nutrients, run off and pollution) is directly affecting the coral reef communities.


St Maarten’s coral reefs face a number of pressures, some natural and some man-made, though global warming is clearly the most significant. In addition to storm damage, significant natural impacts on local reefs during the 1970s and 1980s include an outbreak of white band disease (1980-1982), which caused the death of 90% of the standing stock of Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis) and Elkhorn Coral (Acropora palmata). This was followed by the mass mortality of Black Spiny Sea Urchin (Diadema antillarum) one of the most important grazers on Caribbean reefs. Both events were thought to have been caused by a water-borne pathogen and both impacted on the entire Caribbean Basin.

 

There has been repeated Caribbean wide coral bleaching events since 1989 some of which have caused wide spread mortality of corals. Particularly sever episodes were recorded in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, with the most significant global mass bleaching event ever recorded in 1998. Most recently, in 2005 a particularly intense coral bleaching event occurred which affected most parts of the Caribbean.

 

Activities Current human uses Possible development Description / comments, if any
Tourism very important increase There is a continued tourism development thrust which has significant repercussions for the Marine Park
Fishing limited decrease Due to the Marine Resource being severely depleted there is very limited fishing pressure occurring.
Agriculture absent unknown
Industry significant increase There are plans to develop an industrial area which is downstream from the MPA. This could result in pollution originating from industrial points affecting the MPA.
Forestry absent unknown
Others absent unknown

e - Other relevant features

Educational feature:


Education is an important function of the MPA. Local educational oriented programs and those from abroad all occur within the limit of the MPA

Scientific feature:


The MPA presents an area which is of high value to science, particularly with regards to the study of coral reef and benthic organisms.

Research feature:


Various research projects are currently under way in the MPA to determine the composition of the ecosystem

Historical feature:


The Man of War Shoal Marine Park also includes Proselyte Reef, which was named after the HMS Proselyte, a 32 gun frigate which struck the “man of War Shoal” on September 4th 1801. Artifacts such as large anchors, cannons, barrel hoops, cannon balls, and pottery are still evident on this popular St. Maarten Dive site. The site is also considered a Marine Archeological treasure.

Archaeological feature:


the Man of War Shoal Marine Park also includes Proselyte Reef, which was named after the HMS Proselyte, a 32 gun frigate which struck the “man of War Shoal” on September 4th 1801. Artifacts such as large anchors, cannons, barrel hoops, cannon balls, and pottery are still evident on this popular St. Maarten Dive site. The site is also considered a Marine Archeological treasure.