Representatives of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, St. Maarten Nature Foundation and the Saba Bank Management Unit attended a regional meeting concerning the management of Marine Mammals, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, recently, reports The Daily Herald. The Eastern Caribbean island chain, which includes St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius, was identified as key due an exceptional regional concentration and diversity of cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises. Representatives informed the meeting about several new and valuable cetacean reports and studies, plans and projects, as well as their continued commitment to collaborate in regional projects. Several key opportunities for knowledge development and participation, as well as knowledge gaps, were identified, which can serve as possible focus topics for research.
Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) was demonstrated as a useful tool for planning the regional network of protected areas. A full report with recommendations from the meeting is forthcoming, according to a press release from the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The meeting was organised by the Regional Activity Center for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (RAC-SPAW), part of the United Nations Environmental Program. Expenses were paid by the Spanish government through a voluntary contribution to SPAW.
Cetacean conservation in the Caribbean and South America has grown greatly in recent decades as sanctuaries are established and the whale-watching industry grows. Ambitious new initiatives for marine protected areas include several trans-boundary initiatives across the Caribbean. “Without exception, marine mammals represent widely migratory species that make use of widespread areas for different critical functions during the course of their long lifecycles.” the group stated. Most species of cetacean fauna found near St. Maarten, Saba and Statia are internationally endangered and/or protected. The sub-region also lies adjacent to two marine mammal problem areas. It was concluded that vital information could be obtained only through joint cooperative projects and it was critical for any national research programme to contain a major component of international collaboration.
The Netherlands has assumed a leading role in cetacean conservation and research in the region. The governments of the Netherlands and its island partners are looking to install a large Marine Mammal Reserve in the Caribbean by the end of 2014.