Nature conservation in the Dutch Caribbean just took a giant leap toward a more sustainable future with international recognition of three more or our protected areas and six more species, including our most important reef building corals. The Saba National Marine Park, the Man O’ War Shoal Marine Park on St. Maarten and the St. Eustatius National Marine Park are now officially recognized as protected areas under the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW).
The SPAW protocol came into force in 2000 and is part of the Cartegena Convention. The protocol’s two main objectives are to protect, preserve and sustainably manage areas of particular ecological value, and to protect and preserve threatened wild species or endangered species, as well as their habitats.
The recognition of the protected areas under SPAW underscores the importance of our parks and the need to continue actively managing the islands’ unique and fragile natural resources. With SPAW recognition, the habitats and species that make up our region’s biodiversity are internationally protected.
The Bonaire National Marine Park, Quill Boven National Park on St. Eustatius and the Saba Bank National Marine Park were amongst the very first protected areas to receive this important recognition.
“This recognition offers our islands a chance to find more far-reaching solutions to the challenges of managing our natural resources,” said Kalli De Meyer, Executive Director of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance. “It will enhance the capacity of park managers to have dialogue, including information about migratory species, and share resources to better preserve the island ecosystems. In addition, working to sustain our biodiversity will help island economies. Many tourists choose to visit our islands precisely because of our parks’ outstanding biodiversity.”
The parks are now also eligible to benefit from SPAW grants and other assistance as SPAW sites become priorities for UNEP and the SPAW Secretariat. The Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee to the SPAW Protocol made these decisions during a regional meeting in Cartegena, Columbia, in December.
Paul Hoetjes, Policy Co-ordinator for Nature at the RCN broke the news about additional protection for selected species, “After six hours of negotiations, ending in a vote, the eighth Conference of Parties of the SPAW Protocol in Cartagena Colombia amended the annexes of the SPAW Protocol, adding 6 species to Annex II (full protection) and 4 species to Annex III (measures for sustainable use). Unfortunately 27 other species proposed by a working group were not listed due to insufficient data.”
This includes four of our most important reef building corals, which were added to Annex II: Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis), Elkhorn Coral (Acropora palmata), Boulder Star Coral (Montastraea annularis) and Mountain star coral (Montastraea faveolata). The Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata), a vagrant bird that is seen over the ocean around our islands was added to Annex II. This Annex bans any destruction or disruption of these species.
The Holywood Lignum-vitae, a slow-growing evergreen tree with multiple twisted trunks that grows on Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and has been reported on Saba, was added to Annex III. Annex III lists animal and plant species for which special regulations exist for their use in order to ensure their protection and recovery.
“The biodiversity of our islands is our heritage as well as our future,” De Meyer said. “SPAW recognition demonstrates that the international community is ready to recognize and assist in helping sustain it. This is a very exciting time for nature conservation on our islands.”