La Réserve naturelle de Saint-Martin est une aire marine protégée de 30km2 située au nord-est de l’île de Saint-Martin. Créé en 1998, cet espace préserve les cinq principaux écosystèmes de l’île : récifs coralliens, mangroves, herbiers de phanérogames, étangs et forêt sèche littorale. La Réserve gère également les 14 étangs du Conservatoire du littoral et ses 11 km de rivages terrestres naturels.

Newsletter-20

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Newsletter-20

Journal RN 20

I am delighted to share the news of our beautiful Reserve and its team whom I congratulate on the quality of their work and their implication on all fronts.
Nothing is fixed at the Reserve, missions follow one after the other without interruption, and each one is carried out with great dynamism.
I am particularly proud that the Saint Martin Nature Reserve plays an important role, not only on a local level, but also on a regional, national and even international level.
Thanks to the Reserve, Saint Martin has become the regional “hub” for environmental issues and will soon be strengthening this area of competence as the European Commission appointed Saint-Martin as coordinator for the project BEST which was implemented to protect the biodiversity within the 15 overseas territories in the Caribbean.

I will leave you to read on about the actions carried out by the Nature Reserve in the pages that follow, and I invite you to support this magazine by sharing it with your contacts, and by going onto our Facebook page ‘Réserve naturelle nationale de Saint-Martin’.

Harvey Viotty

Better Knowledge About Protected Areas And Protected Species

Gros plan sur la balise Argos implantée sur la baleine | Close up of an Argos tag implanted on a whale
Close up of an Argos tag implanted on a whale

The mission of tagging humpback whales in the Northern Islands was completed on April 13th, but the work has really only just begun. Of the 8 transmitters implanted, most of them emitted a signal for several days, and 3 are still emitting signals today. This is deemed a success considering the active behavior of these species during mating season. The first tag has been emitting a signal for the last 25 days and the movements of this whale with its calf, baptized “Soca and Joy” by the children of Saint-Martin, as well as other tagged whales have already improved the knowledge of the species behavior during this season. Amongst the important results already noted, the notion that each island “possesses” a specific group of whales has been called into question. The movement of the 8 tagged whales from island to island showed that certain whales had already travelled more than 1,700km passing through the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Silver Bank, whereas others come and go between Saint Martin, Saint Barths, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Barbuda and Saint Kitts… It also confirmed that the humpback whales are not simply “passing through” the Northern Islands, as indicated by the males’ songs, the presence of females and their newly born calves seen at a few days interval, and the groups of males pursuing the females. This behaviour shows us that today we are truly within an active reproduction zone that is of course trans-boundary. The Megara team returning to Saint MartinThe results of this mission are more than promising if the 12 biopsies and 12 photographs of the caudal fin, that will be analyzed and compared with the existing databases, are also added to them. It is therefore essential to implement a strategy of regional cooperation to strengthen conservation efforts in this breeding zone. In the near future the waters of Dutch islands, Sint Eustatius and Saba, will also become part of a sanctuary in order to better protect the marine mammals, notably the humpback whales. It is desirable to strengthen ties with the island of Anguilla with regards to the relationship between Saint Martin and Anguilla. Ultimately, the pairing of the future sanctuary of the Dutch islands and the waters of Anguilla, would bring about a joint strategy for conservation and scientific missions throughout the breeding grounds of the humpback whales in the Northern Islands of the Lesser Antilles. Apart from the scientific aspect, this mission has also brought all the managers of the protected marine areas in the Northern Islands together, and involved specialists from Mayotte, Denmark, Guyana, the United States and the Netherlands. Nicolas Maslach, Director of the Saint Martin Nature Reserve, holder and founder of this project, thanks all technical and financial partners : CAR-SPAW, the Environmental Agency of Saint Barths, the Anguillan authorities, the Sint Maarten Marine Park, the Dutch authorities of Saba and Sint Eustatius. Without them, this mission would never have been realized. He also thanks the association “Mon Ecole, ma baleine” for the quality of their work carried out in several schools in Saint Martin. Building on the success of this mission, Nicolas Maslach is already organizing the MEGARA mission 2015.

It is now possible to follow the movements of these whales on the Facebook page of Saint Martin Nature Reserve, or on their site www.seaturtle.org/ tracking/index.shtml?project_id=979.

On March 26th the Reserve invited the public to discover the Megara project at the Sandy Ground Cinema where they aired a thirty minute film, that had been filmed in Mayotte in 2013. The event was organized with the help of the Rotary Club that was in charge of the communication side and sale of tickets, to which over a hundred people responded.

© Nicolas Maslach

© Nicolas Maslach

 

Un péponocéphale… | A Peponocephala
© Laurent Juhel - AAMP A Peponocephala

Having already attended the 2013 campaign of scientific monitoring of marine mammals in the wet season in Martinique from October 1st to 8th, the Saint Martin Nature Reserve participated in an identical program, but this time in the dry season, from March 12th to 19th, 2014 in Martinique, and then from April 15th to 28th in the Northern Islands. These missions, organized by the Protected Marine Areas Agency (AAMP) and CAR-SPAW, within the Agoa Sanctuary over both periods, permitted the observation of different species. Of course, some species, including the humpback whales, leave the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea in the spring. Romain Renoux, in charge of managing of the Agoa Sanctuary in Saint-Martin, as well as other participants who came from Guadeloupe, Martinique and Quebec, observed several rare species in the canal between Martinique and Dominica : the Peponcephala (Melonheaded whale) or Electra Dolphin, the Pseudorca (False Killer Whale), as well as a group of Mesaplondts (Beaked Whales).

The objective of these missions is threefold :

  • To better understand the species present in the Agoa Sanctuary and to complete the inventory of species encountered.
  • Identify areas frequented by the different species.
  • Identify human activities likely to have an effect on these marine mammals in the sanctuary (passage of large vessels, pollution, fishing…) and to implement management actions in their favor.
Éva Moisan
Éva Moisan

Eva Moisan, a Professional Masters student at the corsican University of Corte, is studying “Integrated Coastal Management and Ecosystems”. Working as an intern at the Reserve from February 24th to August 8th, with the support of Julien Chalifour, Head of the Scientific Division, she has devoted herself to the study of Halophilia Stipulacea, an invasive species introduced through boat anchors that can slowly overtake native sea grass. The student has to find the answers to a series of questions. Where are the species present? Are they progressing? Are they digressing? Will they stabilize? What is their relationship with the local fauna and flora? Will they seek to replace the native sea grass composed of Syringdium and Thalassia, or are they going to colonize space left vacant by the other two species? How are fish, shellfish and crustaceans reacting to these new algae that are much shorter cropped than the two species to which they are accustomed? Are they going to feed on them? Patience. Most of the answers to these questions will be published in the Reserve’s next newsletter. In the meantime, we wish Eva the best of luck in her research.

Managing The Impact Of Human Activities In Protected Areas

La pêche est interdite dans la Réserve naturelle Fishing is forbidden in the Reserve
La pêche est interdite dans la Réserve naturelle Fishing is forbidden in the Reserve

On February 10th whilst two guards from the Reserve were patrolling along Galion Beach, Baie de l’Embouchure, they surprised and challenged an individual in the act of fishing with a net. The man, a recidivist, reacted aggressively towards the guards who then charged him. He was tried by the criminal court in March and sentenced to a fine of 850 euros for threatening and insulting the guards from the Nature Reserve.

L’observatoire aux oiseaux de la mare de la baie Lucas The bird observatory on Baie Lucas pond
L’observatoire aux oiseaux de la mare de la baie Lucas The bird observatory on Baie Lucas pond

Following the Etang de la Barrière, that rates highly on the Caribbean scale of bird watching

The Baie Lucas pond and the salt pond at the cemetery in Grand-Case, have also been equipped with bird observatories, much to the delight of visitors, who now have three observatories on the island. The aim is to improve awareness of the natural heritage of these wetlands, and also to promote local development of bird watching, which, thanks to the 14 protected salt ponds, has real potential for ecotourism.

 

A bird observatory in Oyster Pond...

Two minutes away from the whale observatory in Coralita and not far from the Babit Point site, Oyster Pond is strengthening its ecotourism vocation with a new bird observatory, put up by the Nature Reserve and the Conservatoire du Littoral and in partnership with the EEASM (read the previous article). Built on the edge of the Baie Lucas pond, the lookout is accessible by way of a small wooden path, and allows visitors to discover the wader bird in their natural environment, but that’s not all… If you are a little bit patient, you’ll witness the amazing fishing skills of the kingfishers that frequent this site. Information signs are going to be put up soon telling us all about the bird species present, and also facts about the botany, landscape and geology of the site, where mangroves grow adjacent to cacti that grow in the middle of large rounded rock masses.

… and Grand-Case

Every year from March to May, the salt pond beside the cemetery in Grand-Case transforms into a heronry. Great egrets, snowy egrets and cattle egrets nest by the dozens in the thicket of the red mangrove that becomes a nursery. These large birds, with their chicks, dot the landscape with their white feathers, putting on an exceptional show that can now be peacefully admired from the wooden observatory that will very soon been equipped with information signs. The Nature Reserve and the Conservatoire du Littoral, under the agreement of working together on projects concerning them both, organized the development of this remarkable site. The next step will be to develop the area around the site.

Chloé Rodrigues et un spécimen d’iguane des Petites Antilles Chloé Rodrigues with a Lesser Antillean Iguana
Chloé Rodrigues et un spécimen d’iguane des Petites Antilles Chloé Rodrigues with a Lesser Antillean Iguana

The Lesser Antillean Iguana (Iguana Delicatissima) is an endangered species. Virtually wiped out in Saint-Martin, certain descendants may however possess genes from both species. The Common Iguana (iguana iguana) that was introduced has the ability to hybridize with our local species. In order to reintroduce Iguana Delicatissima into its natural environment, the Ministry of Ecology, via the National Office for Hunting and Wildlife (ONCFS), has launched a national plan of action. Chloé Rodrigues, veterinarian, is in charge, in collaboration with Julien Chalifour, of coordinating this plan in Martinique, Guadeloupe and in Saint Martin, where she stayed for a week in mid-April. The species still exists in Sint Eustatius, Anguilla, La Désirade, Petite Terre, Saint Barthelemy and in Dominica, and the idea - noted in the Nature Reserve’s Management Plan - is to study the feasibility of a conservation strategy to be set up on one or several isolated islands with a few individuals. But where? The Common Iguana is very present on Tintamare and the Lesser Antillean Iguana is far too good a swimmer to remain confined on an island too close to the coast, such as Petite Clé for example.

Le récif artificiel The artificial reef
Le récif artificiel The artificial reef

Adrien Tonon, a Masters 1 student at the University of La Rochelle, is being hosted by the Reserve from April 14th until June 6th. During these two months, he is working on constructing an artificial underwater habitat, a pilot project destined to become a choice habitat for thousands of larvae, which will ensure their survival. The student has already started writing up a summary of all the principal works published on the subject of how these artificial reefs work and that exist the world over. These reefs have different functions. The can serve as dive sites, support the production of biodiversity through larval survival (as in Saint Martin), protect a coastline or even encourage fish to gather to help fishing. Adrien will then focus on building the reef, made up of air blocks, and whose implementation has already started within the reserve’s territory. The establishment of this first experimental reef will be followed by a second reef. The second reef will be accessible to divers, allowing the Reserve to measure the impact of human activity on these artificial, but very alive, habitats.

Adrien Tonon

Environmental Communication And Education

23,328 people have clicked on the beautiful photographs of humpbacks published on the Reserve’s Facebook page after the Megara mission, and 384 people have shared them with their contacts. If you’re curious, go to the page “Réserve naturelle nationale de Saint-Martin”, and read about the day to day news from the Reserve. And don’t hesitate to share the fantastic visuals with all your friends!

Les collégiens sur la plage de Grandes Cayes The students on Grandes Cayes Beach
Les collégiens sur la plage de Grandes Cayes The students on Grandes Cayes Beach

A relay class from Collège Soualiga played truant for an afternoon on February 19th the opportunity to discover the island’s main ecosystems on Grandes Cayes Beach and along the Froussards nature trail took the opportunity to discover the island’s main ecosystems on Grandes Cayes Beach and along the Froussards nature trail. This educational field trip was organized by the Nature Reserve, who is always willing to assist with environmental education. The students finished the walk with a beach cleanup, which unfortunately, is something that is always necessary on this long wild beach.

A pilot class meets the Reserve

To study Science at school is interesting, but it’s even better when the Nature Reserve itself comes into your class and presents coral reefs, as well as invasive terrestrial and marine species that have been introduced to Saint Martin. The Reserve showed a film that definitely caught the attention of the students in this 4th class at College Quartier d’Orléans, who bombarded Romain Renoux, in charge of the Nature Reserve’s “pedagogy”, and Reserve guard Daniel Lewis, with questions afterwards.

Une classe visiblement ravie d’avoir rencontré la Réserve naturelle Daniel Lewis who was recently hired as a guard by the Nature Reserve, presented his profession to the students, his interest in the protection of the environment and his passion for his island. This pilot class is studying tourism, under the convention signed between the National Education Board, the Tourist Office and the Collectivité, and is very interested in the career opportunities that are opening up little by little each year in the growing sector of ecotourism

Better Means For Better Missions

De gauche à droite From left to right: Romain Renoux, François Gauthiez et Aline Hanson
De gauche à droite From left to right: Romain Renoux, François Gauthiez et Aline Hanson

On a visit to Saint Martin on February 17th, François Gauthiez, Deputy Director of the Protected Marine Areas Agency (AAMP), met the Prefect, the Deputy and the President of the Collectivité of Saint Martin, Aline Hanson. Not forgetting that the AAMP financially supports the Agoa Sanctuary in the protection of marine mammals throughout the exclusive economic zone of the French Antilles. Another step forward will be taken with the imminent introduction of a governing committee for the sanctuary, in which Saint Martin’s Collectivité will hold a place. Of course, François Gauthiez also met with the Nature Reserve who represents the Agoa Sanctuary in face of the authorities in Saint Martin, and who signed an agreement with the AAMP on September 10th 2013. After having been updated on the actions undertaken by the Reserve on behalf of Agoa, Mr. Gauthiez praised this partnership that he felt was very effective.

Agoa

Wilson Celini
Wilson Celini

Wilson Celini, originally from Saint Martin, is doing his undergraduate course in Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences at the University of Paris Sud 11. He has an internship at the Reserve from April 14th until May 31st, and his assignment is to update the biodiversity database and to develop a research tool for floral and faunal species present in the Reserve, on land and at sea. Basically, he will provide a document that will identify all species present in the Reserve, their common name in English and French, their scientific name and their principal characteristics : endangered, endemic, invasive... Painstaking work that will enable the Reserve to carry out targeted research more easily and therefore be more effective. Knowing that a scientific research assignment identified 818 species in 2012, and that this mission only concerned crustaceans (shrimps, crabs...), mollusks (snails, shells...) and echinoderms (sea urchins, starfish...), the Reserve is fully aware of the magnitude of this task, and without spelling mistakes of course!

ties with Reunion 19 Vue de la Réserve marine de La Réunion | View of the Reunion Marine Reserve
ties with Reunion 19 Vue de la Réserve marine de La Réunion | View of the Reunion Marine Reserve

The ties between Saint Martin Nature Reserve and Reunion’s Marine Reserve are strong and are being reinforced bit by bit through the compagnonnages between the two structures. At the end of January 2014, Julien Chalifour, Head of Scientific Missions for the Saint Martin Nature Reserve, was welcomed in Reunion Island by Karine Pothin, his counterpart in the Indian Ocean. The objective was for them both to learn from one another through exchange, for example, the scientific monitoring and implementation of protocols. Julien Chalifour had the opportunity to participate in a meeting about the management of a «shark attack», along with other scientists, such as the Ifremer and the University of Reunion and other associations. This issue has troubled Reunion for several years and its management is difficult. Why are there more shark attacks? Is it related to the waste discharged into the sea from the sewage plants and abattoirs? Is it because of the Reserve’s marker buoys that attract fish that in turn attract the sharks? The answer to this last question is negative. On April 20th, Chris Joe and Steeve Ruillet flew to Reunion where they worked for two weeks alongside their Reunion colleagues.

Steeve Ruillet (à gauche) et Christophe Joe (à droite), en compagnie de gardes réunionnais

Reinforcement On A Regional

Les membres du comité de pilotage | BEST à Bruxelles The members of the Steering Committee for BEST in Brussels
Les membres du comité de pilotage | BEST à Bruxelles The members of the Steering Committee for BEST in Brussels

The European Union knows that most of its biodiversity exists in its 34 overseas territories and that it is imperative to preserve them. In the Caribbean, 15 European territories are concerned. They are French (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barths, Saint-Martin), Dutch (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten) and British (Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos), and are all involved in the BEST program, implemented in 2010 by the European Commission, on an experimental basis to preserve their biodiversity. In Brussels on January 30th and 31st, 2014, after having presented the Saint Martin Nature Reserve to the European Commission, at the first steering committee of the project BEST, Romain Renoux, responsible for the Regional Cooperation Division, was appointed to become the coordinator for the «hub» platform of these 15 territories. This appointment confirms that Saint Martin’s role as a Caribbean «hub» for all environmental issues within the region is a necessary one.Les 34 territoires européens de l’outre-mer dans le monde The 34 European overseas territories in the world With the cooperation of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and CAR-SPAW based in Guadeloupe, Saint Martin Nature Reserve had previously responded to a proposal from the European Commission to define the scientific criteria most relevant to the preservation of the biodiversity in the overseas territories. A work plan has been drawn up for the next four years.

 

La commission outre-mer au sein de RNF
Romain Renoux a participé à bord d’un autogyre à la surveillance aérienne des mammifères marins pendant la Karujet 2014 Romain Renoux went on board an autogyro for an aerial surveillance of marine mammals during Karujet 2014

Nicolas Maslach, Director of the Reserve and Franck Roncuzzi, Head of the Technical Division and Nature Protection Unit, went to Banyuls (Eastern Pyrenees) at the end of April to attend the annual congress for French Nature Reserves (Réserves naturelles de France – RNF), where they met with over 400 other participants. The project to create a National Biodiversity Agency was presented at the auditorium, and in the near future it will bring together all the establishments working in favor of the environment. Nicolas Maslach and Franck Roncuzzi are both part of the Overseas Commission at the RNF and exchanged workshops with their peers.

Autogyro
Romain Renoux a participé à bord d’un autogyre à la surveillance aérienne des mammifères marins pendant la Karujet 2014 | Romain Renoux went on board an autogyro for an aerial surveillance of marine mammals during Karujet 2014

From April 10th to 13th, 2014, Guadeloupe welcomed more than 60 jet-skis for Karujet, an annual world championship that took place between Petit-Cul-de-Sac-Marin, Pointe-des-Châteaux and the Saintes. This popular nautical event enjoyed by a large public, can however have a significant impact on marine mammals that are very sensitive to noise and are slower than these motorized engines that risk hitting them. It is particularly dangerous for humpback whales that are in full breeding and calving season at the time of the race. As explained to us by Romain Renoux, in charge of managing the Agoa Sanctuary in Saint Martin, one of the roles of the sanctuary is to define recommendations to avoid disturbing or harassing marine mammals. In order to reduce the risks at hand and avoid accidents, the prefect of Guadeloupe obliged the organizer of Karujet to set up a system of aerial surveillance. The autogyro picked up humpback whales twice when flying over : a single whale just before the start of the race, and a group of three individuals, female, male and calf, on the last day at the end of the races. It was agreed that the start of the race would be delayed if any marine mammals were present on the circuit. Given the risks and the disturbance, the Protected Marine Areas Agency and CAR-SPAW recommend that in the future this stage of the World Jet-skiing Championships takes place when the humpback whales are not present.

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