Coral Reef Valuation for MPA Management and Implementation

Nature Foundation St. Maarten
Published: 01 December 2015
Last edited: 25 May 2018
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Summary

An ecosystem valuation analysis of St Maarten’s coral reefs quantifies the value of these ecosystems. The results were used to support the establishment of St Maarten’s first Marine Protected Area and to implement further management actions connected to the MPA. Moreover, the results were incorporated in climate change response strategies. The communication of the valuation’s outcome supports awareness rising among coastal communities and a growing understanding of the importance of coral reefs.

Classifications

Region
Caribbean
Scale of implementation
National
Ecosystem
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Seagrass
Theme
Ecosystem services
Protected area management planning

Location

Sint Maarten, Dutch Caribbean

Challenges

The coral reefs of St. Maarten are facing degradation due to the explosion of the tourism sector, poorly managed coastal development as well as climate change impacts. The benefits and services these ecosystems provide as well as the importance of healthy reefs to the local economy are not being acknowledged.

Beneficiaries

Fishers, dive sector, coastal communities as well as hotel sector & government officials.

How do the building blocks interact?

Interviews with relevant stakeholders generates the relevant data to be used in the ecosystem service valuation tool while at the same time supports awareness building for the issue among the communities and stakeholders. The valuation tool generates an output on the value of the ecosystems and thus the importance of its conservation and sustainable management for the economy. A report, compiling these numbers, is used in outreach and education efforts and is especially helpful when presenting results to policy makers and present the economic importance of these ecosystems, which eventually led to the government’s decision to establish a Marine Protected Area.

Impacts

Increased awareness on the value of the ecosystem. Improved management of marine protected area incl. e.g. the establishment of user fees and restoration costs, the construction of a mooring system to prevent anchoring damages or coral nurseries. Increasing fish populations and increased catch.

Story

For a long time there was little government management of the marine environment in St. Maarten. In 1997, the Nature Foundation Sint Maarten was established in order to set up and manage a marine park, under contract from the St. Maarten government. But the proposed park’s design was too extensive and too complicated to gain political support. The interests of the cruise ship industry, fishers, and dive shop operators made this challenging for politicians in St. Maarten and the park remained an entity only on paper. “Our reefs face serious threats by the expansion of the tourism sector and climate change impacts. We need a sustainable management of the reefs and its resources and not another paper park”, says Tadzio Bervoets, Manager at the St Maarten Nature Foundation. In 2010, the Nature Foundation St. Maarten was asked again to create a well-managed marine park, with a strict no-take area to address increasing threats. The Foundation took a three-pronged approach to get support from decision makers on the marine park establishment. First, the Foundation did an ecological assessment of St. Maarten’s reefs. This baseline study pinpointed specific areas as a high priority for conservation. They redesigned the proposed park so that it would protect just those areas – representing 25% of the country’s territorial waters and covering 10,000 hectares. Next, 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. Finally, the Nature Foundation St. Maarten took the results to the community to make their 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 December 30, 2010, the Man of War Shoal Marine Park was established.

Contributed by

Tadzio Bervoets Nature Foundation St. Maarten

Contributors

Nature Foundation St. Maarten, Manager