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-24

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Newsletter-24

Ramona Connor, Vice-president, Collectivity of Saint Martin, Vice-president, AGOA management council
Ramona Connor, Vice-president, Collectivity of Saint Martin, Vice-president, AGOA management council

Vice-president, Collectivity of Saint Martin
Vice-president, AGOA management council

À l’heure où l’état de santé de notre planète est mis à mal par l’influence grandissante des activités de l’Homme, la citoyenne que je suis a pleinement conscience de l’importance et de l’urgence de la protection de notre biodiversité. Le monde entier est concerné par cette menace, et le rétablissement vers une situation plus équilibrée ne pourra se faire qu’avec un regain de lucidité générale. Concrètement, au jour le jour, sur notre petite île, cela signifie qu’il est indispensable de faire les bons gestes et les bons choix en faveur de notre environnement et de notre patrimoine. C’est pourquoi je ne peux que soutenir et encourager le travail de la Réserve naturelle. La mise en place de pépinières de coraux, l’élaboration d’habitats artificiels pour les espèces marines, la protection des mammifères marins ou bien sûr la création de l’Institut caribéen de la biodiversité insulaire sont des actions qui vont dans le bon sens. À notre échelle, c’est en donnant l’exemple et en communiquant largement que nous participerons à un monde meilleur, et que nous ferons de notre île un endroit où il fait bon vivre.

Better Knowledge About Protected Areas And Protected Species

Les éponges constituent la plus grande partie des récifs coralliens de la Caraïbe © Julien Chalifour
Les éponges constituent la plus grande partie des récifs coralliens de la Caraïbe © Julien Chalifour

The Pacotilles project, whose goal was to collect samples of coral, sponges, algae, and small crustaceans throughout the French Antilles archipelago - including Saint Martin - in order to deepen our knowledge about the underwater biodiversity in that zone, took place in two phases. Phase two, held on May 26 and 27, included participation by scientists primarily interested in sponges, which make up the majority of the Caribbean reefs, as compared to the reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, which are primary coral. A tasty item on the menu for hawkbill turtles and angelfish, some of these sponges tend to develop in darkness, or crevices of the reef, where they are less exposed to predators. To their surprise, the scientists noted that Saint Martin lacks certain species of sponges that are very abundant in Guadeloupe, and on the contrary, has an abundance of calcareous sponges of a larger size than those found in Guadeloupe or Martinique. These researchers did surveys, took photos and collected samples, hoping that their analysis will help explain these differences and maybe reveal the presence of as yet unknown species of sponges, which number in the thousands. The Réserve Naturelle— which replied favorably to the request for authorization for diving and taking samples by the Pacotilles team—will be kept abreast of the results, which will eventually lead to additional protection in certain zones colonized. by these species.

Important scientific inventory projects are rare, especially in the case of species that are not often studied, such as sponges. But recently, sponges have been of increased interest to the pharmaceutical industry, in that their molecules can block the development of certain diseases.
© Océane Beaufort
© Océane Beaufort

The third session of the Negara program - as in Negaprion, the scientific name for the lemon shark - took place from May 18-23, 2015, once again under the leadership of Oceane Beaufort, an expert in this large cartilaginous fish currently seen in their juvenile stage along the island’s beaches, where they come into more frequent contact with swimmers. A team from the Réserve Naturelle and this young scientist turned their attention to the lagoon south of the small island of Tintamare, where they tested a fishnet acquired by the Réserve Naturelle, in the hopes of capturing a lemon shark without hurting it. This technique is less aggressive than fishing with a hook, but is sometimes difficult to succeed in a rocky zone or where there is a lot of sargassum seaweed. Only one shark was caught and was marked twice: once on its fin and with a chip under its skin. The absence of juvenile lemon sharks marked at this site in 2014 remains a mystery. Did they migrate? Were they victims of hurricane Gonzalo or of a predator? The interest in marking the sharks lies in the hope of getting answers to the many questions that we have about this little-know species.

Green turtle equipped with a beacon and an antenna © Julien Chalifour
Green turtle equipped with a beacon and an antenna © Julien Chalifour

Four green turtles were captured in Bay Blanche at Tintamare - then released - as part of the SeaTag operation on June 14-16, 2015 The goal of this project, financed by Europe, the Region of Guadeloupe, DEAL, Biome funds, and the EDF Foundation, is to increase knowledge about the green turtles in the Guadeloupe archipelago. Éric Delcroix, in charge of this project for the Réserve Naturelle of Petite-Terre, participated along with Antoine Chabrolle, who is responsible for marine turtles at the ONCFS, as well as Océane Beaufort and Caroline Cestor-Magro, from the association Kap Natirel. The four green turtles in question were captured near their feeding grounds and were not in a reproductive phase. They were measured and banded, while two of them were equipped with sophisticated Argos tags. This allows the turtles to be followed by satellite, recording not only their movement and the zones they visit, but also the number of dives they make, plus the length and depth of the dives. This information is permanently available online at seaturtle.org, by entering the name of the animal in the field «animal finder.» The scientific office at the Réserve Naturelle is interested in any and all photos of Sasha and Joe – easily recognizable thanks to their red beacons. Please send photos to science@rnsm.org. Please make sure not to harass these turtles and especially do not damage the beacon and its antenna attached to their backs, so that they can continue to teach us about their daily habits over the next seven months.

The thirty eco-volunteers who participated in the annual project to count turtle nests met on the beach in Long Bay for a nocturnal field trip on August 26 from 8:30pm to 12:30am. They were able to observe three green turtles, but two of them rapidly returned to the sea. The third had started to dig a nest, before changing its mind and heading back to the water. The eco-volunteers for this area counted 80 traces of turtles in Long Bay in August 2015 and 39 in July. The season for nesting and egg-laying runs from March to November, and it is critical not to bother the animals during this period.
Caroline Fleury et un iguane des Petites Antilles (Iguana Delicatissima) | Caroline Fleury holding an iguana (Iguana Delicatissima)
Caroline Fleury et un iguane des Petites Antilles (Iguana Delicatissima) | Caroline Fleury holding an iguana (Iguana Delicatissima)

Caroline Fleury, who has been working in the scientific department of the Réserve since February 2015, focused on La Désirade from June 6-10, 2015, in time for the annual study of the population of Lesser Antilles iguana (Iguana delicatissima). This experience allowed her to familiarize herself with the capture, manipulation, and marking of this endangered species. The project was coordinated by the association, Le Gaïac, and financed by the French National Office for Hunting and Wildlife (ONCFS), in regard to everything that concerns this reptile in the French Antilles.

Managing The Impact Of Human Activities In Protected Areas

The number of green monkeys continues to increase in Saint Martin, and their presence is becoming more of an issue.
This species is present on both sides of the island and the government of Sint Maarten contacted the Réserve Naturelle in light of a joint collaboration for their control on both sides of the frontier. Many residents have observed groups of these green monkeys in natural habitats, but also in urbanized areas such as Concordia, Hope Estate, Rambaud, or Terres Basses. People have found themselves nose-to-nose with a monkey stealing food from their kitchen, while others have noted aggressive behavior on the part of the monkeys toward humans and pets. These primates are also guilty of theft and damage caused in plant and vegetable gardens. Several decisions were made during the first two meetings about this problem: a census of the green monkeys and an estimation of the size of their population, question the public about their perception of the monkey’s presence, a look at the location of their habitats, and perhaps eventual birth-control program but not their eradication. Other islands, such as Saint Kitts, have tried to control their monkey populations by killing them with rifles, but without significant results. This new trans-frontier initiative to confront the green monkeys issue could be the first such collaboration in a series intended to control the invasive species on the lsland: common iguana, lionfish, Cuba tree frog, African snails, mongoose, or the creeping coral vine… As often happens when discussing collaboration between the two sides of the island, certain actions might contradict local regulations. If Sint Maarten plans to mark the animals with paint balls to count them, this approach seems difficult to envision in terms of French regulations. As the Réserve only has jurisdiction in the areas it manages, future programs outside of that perimeter must be integrated with appropriate services of the Collectivity and the French government

The Conservatoire du Littoral has instituted a two-phase restoration project for the Babit Point site at Oyster Pond. The first phase has been completed, with the demolition of a house in ruins and closing of the site to restrict access by vehicles. The second phase, which consists of enhancing the natural beauty of the site, will take place at a later date, in accordance with all of the residents of the neighborhood.

Les ruines du Galion vues du ciel Aerial picture of the ruins in The Galion
Les ruines du Galion vues du ciel Aerial picture of the ruins in The Galion

The legal tangles in the confrontation between the Conservatoire du Littoral and the SCI Le Galion, owner of land parcel AW16 - where the ruins of a former hotel continued to decay - have reached a positive point following a price set for the sale of this land. In consequence, the Conservatoire can take possession of the site and start demolition of the ruins, which were an eyesore. This demolition project is expected to take six months with a budget of 660,000 euros. The high budget is due to the presence of asbestos in the buildings and very strict regulations concerning the treatment of this hazardous material. The call for bids has been launched: the work will begin early next year and be completed in the second half of 2016. The Conservatoire has budgeted a total of one million euros for the Galion project, and will renovate the site for use by the public, for picnics or leisure activities. The feasibility study done by the Conservatoire calls for the control of traffic, as well as the integration of a nautical base and a snack bar. Once the site is restored, in collaboration with the Collectivity, a three-party agreement will define the role of each group involved.

As school children use the floating swimming pool at Galion, regulations require the Collectivity to provide a qualified swimming instructor/lifeguard. And lifeguard in the sense of rescue operations. In light of this obligation to ensure the safety of the students, the Conservatoire has authorized the Collectivity to install a light structure on the edge of the beach.

A total of 54 rats were trapped in two weeks on Tintamare as well as 23 rats and 6 mice in one week on Pinel, during a special campaign to capture them held in July 2015. These numbers are lower than those of a similar operation in 2013, during which 268 rats were killed on Tintamare, and 78 rats and 41 mice on Pinel. The reduction of food due to drought conditions is a probable cause for the reduced presence of these rodents on the two islands. At the same time, on Pinel, the restaurateurs have been better treating their garbage and discarded food and act on their side to regulate the population of rodents. Non-indigenous species, rats and mice love the eggs of birds and sea turtles. On Tintamare, the rats attack the gaïacs, as they like the seeds. This project, coordinated by the Réserve, was made possible thanks to the work of interns Nathan Leroy and Thierry Mordon- Constant.

After a disappointing first experience, the Conservatoire du Littoral is once again trying to install dry toilets on Pinel. Thanks to successful experimentation by one of the island’s restaurateurs, who has had success with toilets that operate using a new technical system adapted to a tropical climate, the Conservatoire is going to install three such systems in collaboration with the Réserve Naturelle. The first will be installed shortly, and the other two in the spring of 2016.

Police Activity

A gardener, who also sells seashells, decided to set up shop and do business alongside the Etang aux Poissons and was reported by the wardens of the Réserve on July 17, 2015. This individual had cleared along the edge of the pond in order to plant palm trees and coconut trees, and was selling conch - a protected species whose fishing is regulated - to tourists who stopped in front of his open-air stall. He was ticketed for illegal occupation of land belonging to the Réserve Naturelle, non-authorized destruction of a protected species, carrying out foresting and agriculture - as well as commercial and artisanal activities - in a nature reserve. On July 30, the wardens of the Réserve removed his plantings. The legal case is following its course

On June 27, 2015, the animal refuge for the association, Pawsitive,
located in the Réserve Naturelle along the Route du Galion, was once again cited for having cleared trees on a protected site within the Réserve Naturelle without authorization. In addition, they also put up an enclosure: work done without any authorization

On September 23, fisherman was caught in the channel near Pinel in possession of eight living conch, which were quickly returned to the water.

Restoration Of Degraded Areas And Populations

Work continues in three nurseries for coral that were created in the spring of 2015 in the waters around Tintamare, Caye Verte, and Pinel. It will be a year before it is possible to measure any significant growth of the cuttings, which well secured to their supports, survived the passage of several recent storms without flinching. Generally speaking, after a critical acclimation period of approximately two weeks, the survival rate is 100%. Beforehand, the Réserve carefully selected samples of coral - Acropora sp. and more specifically «staghorn» (Acropora cervicornis) and «elkhorn» (Acropora palmata) - at several sites to ensure good genetic diversity and favorite the resistance of the young colonies. Similar initiatives are taking place in Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Saint- Barthélemy, which is collaborating with Saint Martin in a technical exchange concerning good practices for the health of these nurseries. Lastly, Nicolas Oury, a student at Intechmer in Cherbourg and a future senior oceanographic technician, recently supported his thesis on this subject, which he knows rather well, after spending a five-month training period dedicated to the creation of these nurseries..

Sargassum seaweed… a big subject of conversation these days, for which the Collectivity of Saint Martin knows it must find a sustainable solution. In October 21, 2015, the Réserve Naturelle, which called for meetings all of concerned agencies -the prefecture, the Collectivity, and also the Regional Health Agency (ARS), due to health risks linked to the emission of H2S gas - organized the formation of “green brigades” to find the best solution to treat these mountains of algae that have been continually invading the windward coasts of Saint Martin. It is necessary to spread and dry the sargassum for three or four days so that it loses up to 80% of its volume, before transporting it to the eco-site at Grandes Cayes. As this drying process requires a large surface, the Conservatoire has proposed providing space along the Saline in Orient.

Just this once, the rangers from the Réserve Naturelle intentionally set a fire on the island of Pinel,
with special authorization from the prefecture. The fire was necessary to burn the excess vegetation collected after the passage of hurricane Gonzalo in October 2014, as the debris was too massive – around 100 cubic meters – to allow natural deterioration. With firemen at hand, and help from local restaurateurs, this impressive monticule was reduced to ashes.

Environmental Communication And Education

L’étang de Chevrise vu du ciel | Aerial view of Chevrise Pond
L’étang de Chevrise vu du ciel | Aerial view of Chevrise Pond

Good news for bird lovers! Thanks to revenue raised from parking at the site, the Conservatoire du Littoral and the Réserve Naturelle have started construction of a fourth observatory, which is located near the parking lot for the Mont Vernon residence. By the end of the year, it will be possible to enjoy observing the aqua-fauna that visits the Etang de Chevrise. This pond holds the title for “best bird watching» in terms of sheer numbers, as one can observe more than 1,000 birds in just 15 minutes! It will be interesting to see the new architecture for an area large enough to hold an entire class. Thanks to the four observatories - at the Etang de la Barrière in Cul-de- Sac, the Etang du Cimetière à Grand-Case, the Baie Lucas pond, and Etang de Chevrise - Saint Martin is a true leader in tourism linked to «bird watching», a sector that is continuing to expand, especially in the United States. Locally, the increased possibility to discover the numerous species of birds seen on the salt ponds should help the public to modify its somewhat negative vision of these eco-systems - which are so essential and so rich.

Better Means For Better Missions

Ashley Daniel en patrouille en mer avec son collègue Steeve Ruillet | Ashley Daniel patrolling at sea with her colleague, Steeve Ruillet
Ashley Daniel en patrouille en mer avec son collègue Steeve Ruillet | Ashley Daniel patrolling at sea with her colleague, Steeve Ruillet

The Réserve’s team of three wardens has been reinforced with the arrival of 20 yearold Ashley Daniel, hired under a program for young workers on July 1, 2015, with a renewable contract. Ashley applied to work at the Réserve Naturelle after getting her high school diploma, since she likes working with animals, with nature, and in the outdoors. “I enjoy being part of the staff at the Réserve, and the way everyone works together is really great. I have learned a lot of new things, such as patrolling at sea, and I adore navigation,” she tells us. We hope that Ashley continues to deepen her knowledge through her future experiences and training.

The wardens of the Réserve Naturelle de Saint-Martin effectuated 155 patrols at sea between January 1 and October 1, 2015, including 60 since May 1. Of these 60 controls, only 13 resulted in “non compliance” issues, requiring a verbal warning or written report. The wardens follow a well-defined control process, based on national guidelines that cover all police activities for all the following entities: nature reserves and nature parks, marine parks, ocean management, national forest office, national office for hunting and wildlife…
Le forum régional des gestionnaires d’aires marines protégées | The regional forum for the protection of marine areas
Le forum régional des gestionnaires d’aires marines protégées | The regional forum for the protection of marine areas

On June 25 and 26, 2015, the top managers of protected marine zones in the French Antilles met at the Hotel Mercure with one goal in mind: to keep moving forward in the right direction. The Réserve Naturelle of Saint Martin was represented in force, along with the Conservatoire du Littoral, the Environmental Agency of Saint Barth, the Parc National de Guadeloupe, the AGOA sanctuary, and the Environmental Agencies (DEAL) from Martinique and Guadeloupe. The goal of this regional forum, derived from a similar national forum, was to get all of the major players in this sector in contact so that they can share their experiences and their knowledge, and pool their information for the best means of conservation. Approximately 20 subjects were on the agenda, including the new law on biodiversity intended to avoid, reduce, and compensate for damage done to nature, with an accent on the Caribbean. For example, this new notion of «compensation» can be seen in the project for a large maritime port in Guadeloupe, which includes measures of restoration such as the transfer of coral colonies threatened by the new access channel. A presentation was also made about the creation of a network that would keep track of the health of the protected marine zones in the Northern Islands - Saint Martin, Sint Maarten, Saint Barth, Anguilla, Saba, and Saint Eustache - in order to improve results, and coordinate and simplify the work of the managers who are all confronting the same issues in an isolated manner. Also on the agenda was the topic of the usage - or the over-usage - of protected marine zones by the public. This atelier look to establish optimal specifications taking into account the delicate balance between the capacity of these sites in terms of visitors, maintaining activities that feed the economy, and the conservation of the eco-systems.

L’étang de la Barrière | The Barrière pond
L’étang de la Barrière | The Barrière pond

The Conservatoire, which owns two pieces of land
that are needed by the Collectivity for the construction of the new Quartier d’Orléans water treatment plant (STEP), has proposed exchanging part of this land for a natural site located along the banks of the Etang de la Barrière in Cul-de-Sac, that belongs to the Collectivity. The exchange is a win-win proposition: the future STEP, designed to treat the wastewater of 18,000 residents, needs the largest possible tract of land; and the Conservatoire would be able to have jurisdiction for the banks of the pond. This solution, while totally logical, is not possible today at any of the salt ponds, as the property of the Conservatoire is limited to the waters of the 14 ponds they manage.

Reinforcement On A Regional

On October 22, 2014, French environmental minister Ségolène Royal, and overseas minister George Pau-Langevin, during their official visit to Guadeloupe, presided over the installation of a management council for the Agoa sanctuary for the protection of marine mammals in the French Antilles. On May 21, 2015, this board held its first meeting at the prefecture in Fort-de-France, Martinique. Its 53 members elected Yvon Combes to the post of president, for a term of three years. Currently first vice president for the association of mayors in Guadeloupe, Yvon Combes has spent his entire professional career working for the National Forestry Office and was instrumental in establishing the National Park in Guadeloupe. Ramona Connor, second vice president for the Collectivity of Saint Martin, is one of the three vice presidents for the council. In order to facilitate the functioning of the Agoa, the management council established a board of 16 members, on which Saint Martin is well represented by: Bulent Gulay, president of the Métimer association; Stéphane Mazurier, vice president of Métimer; Kate Richardson, director of the Tourist Office; and Nicolas Maslach, director of the Réserve Naturelle. The council offered its first unanimous opinion against the use of seismic oceanographic prospection techniques, considering the level of impact involved could result in major impact for marine mammals. An international cooperation committee was also created, in order to work on the best strategies for the protection of marine mammals in the Caribbean region, and beyond. The members of the board next met in Saint Barthélemy on September 29, and the council met in Saint Martin on November 6, 2015 (details in the next edition).

Created on October 23, 2012, the Agoa sanctuary covers an area of 143,256 square kilometers, the entire economic region of the French Antilles. Its goal is to provide serious conservation for marine mammals by protecting them, as well as their habitat, and to evaluate direct and indirect impact, actual or potential, of human activities on their survival.
© Agence des aires marines protégées
© Agence des aires marines protégées

The REMMOA program - whose initials represent the French for «census of marine mammals and other pelagic species by aerial observation»- was launched in the Antilles in 2008, by the Agency for Protected Marine Areas. It continued in 2016 for a six-weeks, between August and October. The goal of this national program is to improve knowledge about certain species, such as marine mammals and birds, rays, sharks, and marine turtles, in order to reinforce their protection. Following the end of the first phase of the project, in which data was collected, the second phase will take place in the various marine zones covered by REMMOA - Martinique, Dominique, Guadeloupe, Saint Barth, Saint Martin, Sint Maarten, Saba, Statia - and comprises a second aerial reconnaissance. The comparison between the results of these two phases will allow for an estimation of the evolution of the populations of these different species and provide useful information on the quality of the marine milieu. This second phase began in the French Antilles, whose exclusive economic zone covers 143,256 square kilometers. The program also provides an idea of the distribution of human activities at sea - maritime traffic, pollution, fishing, etc - that might represent potential threats toward the pelagic species in the same zone. This campaign marks the first concrete technical and scientific exchanges with the Yarari Mammal And Shark Sanctuary (see inset) recently created by The Netherlands for the Dutch Caribbean, as well as with Dominica.

Yarari In The Footsteps of Agoa
Following the French example, The Netherlands have just created Yarari, a sanctuary for marine mammals — and sharks — in the territorial waters of Saba and Bonaire. Like Agoa, Yarari is an Amerindian word that can be translated as “haven of peace” or a “place of well-being.” In reality, a detailed set of regulations defines the protection of these marine animals as related to diverse domains, such as maritime transport, motorboat races, and the outlawing of shark fishing. The Agoa sanctuary was extremely happy about the news, as the creation of this new sanctuary increases the already existing network of protected marine areas dedicated to the protection of marine mammals. They look forward to joint projects and collaboration with the new sanctuary.

As part of a videoconference, Yvon Combes, president of the management council for Agoa in Guadeloupe; Amandine Eynaudi, representative of the Agoa sanctuary for the Agency of Protected Marine Areas in Guadeloupe, and Stéphane Jérémie, president of the association, Sepanmar, in Martinique, were able to exchange ideas with Ramona Connor, vice president of the Agoa management council, Romain Renoux, correspondent for Agoa in Saint Martin, and Stéphane Mazurier, member of the board and a boat rental company owner, who were together at the prefecture of Saint Martin on September 25, 2015. The goal was to go over the cooperative activities led by Agoa in the past, as well as clarify the protected area’s institutional status, between the Cartagena convention signed by the majority of Caribbean states in 1983 for the protection of marine sites in the region, and the CAR-SPAW, a partner with Agoa, whose mission if to protect the marine biodiversity in the greater Caribbean basin.

OKOTCF : les participants
OKOTCF : les participants

The government of Gibraltar invited the overseas British territories from around the world to meet on July 9-15, 2015 for the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF).This event, which was last held in 2009 in the Cayman Islands, saw the participation of managers of protected British areas in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the North and South Atlantic, and the Caribbean basin. These territories have access to the European project BEST, through which the European Commission diffuses indispensable information for selecting and financing the “best” projects for the conservation of ultramarine biodiversity. Romain Renoux, responsible for project BEST for the 15 European territories of the Caribbean, as part of the European cooperation division of the Réserve Naturelle, presented a progress on his work for the identification of key biodiversity, as did his counterpart Maria Taylor, who is based in the Falkland Islands, for her southern Atlantic region. A major interest for this forum is to share common experiences - at the end of the day it is evident that the methodologies remain the same, even at distances of thousands of miles and in wildly differing environments.

Getting the UK overseas territories on board with us
Romain Renoux, also in charge of managing the Agoa sanctuary Saint Martin, and Amandine Eynaudi, representative of the Agoa sanctuary for the Agency of Protected Marine Areas, took advantage of this occasion to make a presentation about Agoa, as well as the cooperation that will be put into place with the Netherlands Antilles islands. Next was suggesting to the British islands in the Caribbean (Anguilla, British Virgin Island, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks & Caicos) to get on board with this adventure, and taking the first step by inviting them to join in the effort. The answer is “yes” and a first official contact with the government of Anguilla will encourage technical and scientific exchanges for the protection of marine mammals. This first step could well lead to increasing the size of the zone already protected, thanks to the results of a communication and awareness campaign led by Agoa since its creation. Bravo !

Romain Renoux participated in Green Week 2015, the largest annual event on European environmental policy, which took place in Brussels on June 3-5, 2015, on the theme of “nature and biodiversity ». Responsible for project BEST for the 15 European territories of the Caribbean, as part of the European cooperation division of the Réserve Naturelle, Romain Renoux made a progress report on the state of his work, as did his counterparts from all across Europe.

© Julien Chalifour
© Julien Chalifour

The European Commission has launched BEST 2.0 and has reinforced its support for the protection of ultramarine biodiversity by offering new possibilities for financing to Overseas Countries and Territories (PTOM). In the Caribbean, this is good news for Saint Barthélemy, the five British Territories, and the six Dutch territories, as there is now 6 M€ available over a period of five years. Studies are underway for such Outermost Regions (ORs) as Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Saint Martin in the Caribbean to benefit from a similar initiative. Stay tuned… Of course, these RUP’s already have access to European funds, if their politicians consider protection of their environment as a major cornerstone of their political strategy. Let’s hope they make the right choice! Concerning the PTOM’s, a first call for projects has been launched, requesting about 400,000 € in aide. These projects will be evaluated by a committee of experts, then followed- up by Romain Renoux, Amandine Vaslet, and the project BEST team for the European territories of the Caribbean, as part of the regional cooperation division of the Réserve Naturelle of Saint Martin. Their mission will be to best advise the project leaders and to make sure that the financing corresponds to the issues identified during consultations with the local representatives in each territory. They will work in concert with Julie Belmont, a new recruit for BEST, based at CAR-SPAW in Guadeloupe and in charge of tracking the new projects as funded.

L’équipe de BEST a rencontré la Martinique The BEST team has met with Martinique
L’équipe de BEST a rencontré la Martinique The BEST team has met with Martinique

The consultations led by Romain Renoux and Amandine Vaslet are continuing throughout the Caribbean. After Saint Barthélemy, Guadeloupe, the six Dutch islands, and Anguilla, the project BEST team worked with local representatives in Martinique, the British Virgin Islands, and Saint Martin. The goal is to meet the largest possible group of those active in the protection of the natural environment, present project BEST to them and gather their reactions and their projects for biodiversity conservation. Even is the issues are different, the methodology remains the same. The goal is to define various priorities, especially taking into consideration endangered and endemic species, and ecosystems. Maps allow for clear visualization of the key zones on land and at sea for biodiversity, reflecting a major ecological role. In Saint Martin, trans-frontier challenges with Sint Maarten should be underlined

Participants at BEST meetings
In Martinique: The Parc Naturel Régional and the two national nature reserves, DEAL, the Conseil Régional, The Agency for Protected Marine Areas, Martinique Entomologie, and the OcéAnvironnement association. In Tortola (BVI): BVI National Trust, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Conservation and Fisheries Department, the Agriculture Department, as well as several local associations and experts. One meeting was held with the governor of the BVI’s, to present project BEST. In Saint Martin: the Collectivity of Saint Martin, the Prefecture, the Réserve Naturelle, the Conservatoire du Littoral, and the associations «Les fruits de mer» and «Mon école, ma baleine.»
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