The Dutch Caribbean Coastguard had to ticket two ships last week for trespassing on the Saba Bank, writes The Daily Herald. As of June 1, 2013, this area has been designated as a “Particularly Sensitive Sea Area” and it is considered illegal for a ship weighing more than 300 gross tons (GT) to pass across, or for any ship to anchor, there. Passenger ship Horizon was detected by the Coastguard on the Saba Bank on February 13, and on February 15, so was the Svitzer Honour. Upon further investigation, it was noted that neither one of the ships had an exemption taking into account the provisions of Article 4 of the regulation on the designation Saba Bank, which prohibits ships larger than 300 GT to sail into the Saba Bank. Despite several warnings from the Rescue and Coordination Centre (RCC) on Curaçao that they would soon be sailing into the Saba Bank, which is a prohibited area, they continued with the passage. In the National Decree containing general measures (2010, No. 94) of September 30, 2010, and subsequently the Regulation Nr. 20424 of December 21, 2010, the Saba Bank was designated as a protected area. The decision prohibits anchoring of tankers and other vessels within the Saba Bank protected area, both in the territorial waters and the “Exclusive Economic Zone.” Exceptions are hydrographic survey vessels, storage vessels, vessels that are used for search and rescue, as well as fishing with a valid fishing licence for any part of the Saba Bank, provided that they are registered to Saba, St. Maarten and St. Eustatius. As per Regulation Nr. 14291 of May 30, 2013, the 2010 Saba Bank Regulation was amended by the Netherlands to also prohibit any ships larger than 300 GT to pass over the Saba Bank protected area.
It is necessary to protect the Saba Bank to benefit sustainable fisheries and protect its biodiversity. The unique and rich biodiversity of the Saba Bank must be secured, not only from the perspective of the islands of Saba and St. Eustatius, but also given the regional importance of the bank, which is a major source of recruitment of both fish, lobster and conch populations to the surrounding islands. It is the task of the Dutch Caribbean Coastguard to enforce the law in this area. Large anchors can destroy corals and sponges and anything else on the bottom, and ships passing over the Bank often tear off the marker buoys of the lobster traps of Saba fishermen, causing the loss of the traps, which then continue on as ghost traps, depleting the fish populations. The complete resolution of the designation of Saba Bank can be found on the Coastguard Website: www.kustwacht.org .