Director General of Nature and Regional Policy of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I) Annemie Burger visited Saba on Monday to baptize the new Saba Bank patrol boat and to officiate the recognition of Saba Bank and Saba Marine Park as National Parks of The Netherlands.
The other purpose of Burger’s visit was to discuss with the island government the use of 10 million Euros made available by the ministry for nature, environment and sustainability. The money has to be shared between the special entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, with 2.1 million Euros being allocated to Saba. The high-ranking ministerial official is tasked to discuss energy issues, sustainable growth, tourism and agricultural potential with government officials.
The handing over of the two official plaques took place at the office of Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) in Fort Bay harbour. Burger stated there had been resistance to granting the national park status. “The Queen had her influence in this too. She asked the State Secretary to formally install the Saba National Marine Park.”
The official moment was followed by presentations by researchers of the Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies (Imares). Researchers of Wageningen University in The Netherlands are studying the ecology of Saba Bank and Saba Marine Park. Michelle Boonsta’s presentation was on research conducted on the local snapper fisheries assessments, risks of depletion and the needed cooperation of local fishermen. Imke van Gerwen talked about the Caribbean spiny lobster fishery ecology on Saba Bank, including the 83.6 metric tons of lobster exploited annually in local waters. Researcher Wouter van Looijengoed spoke of his research on measuring the fish assemblage of Saba Marine Park with baited remote underwater video cameras. SCF Parks Manager Kai Wulf emphasized the importance of the two National Parks’ recognition under SCF’s administration and also explained how Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) submitted a request to name the patrol boat. He confessed to expecting the boat would receive the name of one the queen’s grandchildren. The board was amazed at hearing the news that “Her Majesty” had accepted this vessel to be named Queen Beatrix.
The visiting delegation and local officials gathered for champagne toasting and boat baptism, and were invited for a short boat ride from the harbour. The next stop was at the Trail Shop in Windwardside, where SCF Park Ranger James Johnson and Youth Education Officer Susan Hurrell presented community programmes, and project leader Hensley Rooyer explained the Young Community Service Saba, involving youth building outdoor-activities space.
Asked about her impressions of the island on her first visit, Burger expressed her appreciation of the local beauty and the energy of people working to “make Saba even better than it already is.” With regard to the 10 million Euros allocated to the territories, Burger mentioned having discussed a list of projects with the Executive Council.
The refurbishment of the non-operational hyperbaric chamber had not been brought up during discussions, Burger said. Highlight of the official discussions were the various ways to encourage agriculture, particularly the Sabagro programme and the Organoponics Garden sustained by Foundation Social Workplace Saba, said Burger. The garden at The Level was also visited.
On the photo: Director General of Nature and Regional Policy of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation Annemie Burger (right) handing over one of two plaques to Saba Conservation Foundation board member Michael Chammaa. Looking on in the background are, from left: Acting Lt. Governor Franklin Wilson, Parks Manager Kai Wulf, Dutch Government Representative Wilbert Stolte, and Dutch Policy Coordinator Hayo Haanstra.