The third meeting of the Dutch Caribbean Committee on Marine Biodiversity and Fisheries, also known as the EEZ Committee, was hosted at Juliana’s Hotel in Windwardside, October 11 and 12. The EEZ Committee consists of delegates from Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba as well as The Netherlands. The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), the Coast Guard and other observers participated in the discussions.
Representing the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment Edith Kuijper reported on the status of the islands vis-à-vis the International Maritime Organization, marine park buoys, the Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) Status of Saba Bank, on the inclusion under the International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage and cooperation under the Cartagena Convention. The latter deals with the oil spill protocol, the protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) and the protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities LBS.
Also presenting at the meeting were researchers of Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies Imares stationed on St. Eustatius and Saba. They are currently monitoring local fisheries. Saba Conservation Foundation’s manager Kai Wulf presented a report on Saba Bank management. Representing the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, Nature Policy Coordinator Paul C. Hoetjes presented a report from a recent workshop on marine mammals’ sanctuaries cooperation. Astrid Hilgers gave an update on the status of the Caribbean Netherlands’ Marine Mammal Sanctuary.
Hoetjes said the EEZ Committee is expected to formalize the accession of Aruba and Curaçao. While St. Maarten may also join it is still unclear if and when a memorandum of agreement would be signed with St. Maarten on the joint management of the EEZ, said Hoetjes. “Because fish don’t mind borders efforts need to be coordinated so that protecting a species in one place is not undone by failure to act similarly elsewhere,” said Hoetjes.
Conclusive data from the fishery monitoring programmes, started this year on Saba and Statia, are expected next year. “Fishermen are complaining that they are catching less lobster, and while their accounts are reliable this still needs to be backed by scientific data,” Hoetjes said. “Fishermen are concerned and have asked us to help regulate the fishery.” Hoetjes said fishermen have been very supportive in the data-collection process, which is deemed important, because depletion or large fluctuations in catch could have a major impact on Saba’s economy. Hoetjes estimated that six to seven per cent of Saba’s Gross Domestic Product comes from lobster catch alone.
While the recently-baptized Saba marine park management patrol boat Queen Beatrix is still undergoing repairs, it is expected to enter operation within weeks and aid the monitoring process.