Editor’s note: The Blue Solutions initiative supports the exchange of successful approaches to marine and coastal conservation and development — sharing what worked where and why. Each case is authored by a practitioner and is published on the Marine and Coastal Solutions portal of the PANORAMA web platform. MPA News is drawing from these cases.

By Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation St. Maarten (adapted by MPA News)

For a long time there was little government management of the marine environment in the Caribbean island nation of St. Maarten. In 1997, the Nature Foundation St. Maarten was established in order to set up and manage a marine park, under contract from the St. Maarten government. But the proposed park failed to gain political support: the way it was designed, the park would have had significant impacts on the country’s cruise ship industry, dive shop operators, and fishers.

In ensuing years, amid continued growth of the St. Maarten tourism sector and impacts from climate change, the country’s coral reefs remained in need of protective measures. In 2010, the Nature Foundation St. Maarten was asked again to create a marine park, including a strict no-take area. 

This time the Foundation took a three-pronged approach to secure support from decision-makers and the public:

  • First, the Foundation did an ecological assessment of St. Maarten’s reefs. This baseline study pinpointed specific areas as a high priority for conservation. The Foundation redesigned the originally proposed park so that it would protect just those areas – representing 25% of the country’s territorial waters and covering 10,000 hectares.
  • Second, an economic valuation study of the marine ecosystem was completed using a method from the World Resources Institute. This so-called ‘quick-and-dirty’ method was designed to be easy-to-use by managers. By interviewing dive shop owners, fishers, tourists and other tourism industry stakeholders, the study was able to paint a compelling picture of the importance of a healthy marine ecosystem to St. Maarten’s economy.
  • Third, the Nature Foundation St. Maarten took the results to the community to make the case for the marine park. The Foundation made presentations at community meetings, talked with fishermen and dive operators, and presented to Parliament. And eventually, on 30 December 2010, the Man of War Shoal Marine Park was established.

Since the designation, results of the ecosystem valuation analysis have been used to implement further management actions connected to the MPA, including establishment of user fees and restoration costs, the construction of a mooring system to prevent anchoring damages, and management of coral nurseries. Moreover, the results were incorporated in climate change response strategies for the MPA.

For more information on this case, please visit the PANORAMA web platform.