St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation (STENAPA) is the only active environmental non-government organization on St. Eustatius, and was legislated in 1996 with a mandate from the Island Government to protect and manage the island’s marine resources. St. Eustatius Marine Park was established in 1996 and became actively managed in 1997 to conserve and protect the marine environment surrounding the island from the high water line up to and including the 30 meter (100 feet) depth contour. The marine environment of St. Eustatius supports 27.5 km2 of biologically diverse coral reef, seagrass, sandy seabed and open ocean communities. The Marine Park is one of the top 5 sites in the Caribbean to see healthy coral and fish populations. The 2 reserves have 43% hard coral cover and the Protected Area is a home, migratory stop over or breeding site for 14 IUCN Red List species, 10 CITES Appendix I species and 98 Appendix II species.
St Eustatius Marine Park attracts around 500 yacht visitors and 2500 diving/snorkeling visitors per year contributing to income for the 70% of the islands population employed in restaurants, hotels and other services1. Other uses of St Eustatius Marine Park are for Fisheries (25 fishermen use the waters of St Eustatius) and in excess of 1000 tankers a year using the oil storage facility at Statia Terminals NV. Anchoring is the main threat to the marine resources caused by the operations of Statia Terminals NV, although pollution is also an important issue with sewage and other wastes including ballast waters entering St Eustatius Marine Park waters from vessels.
Field work carried out involving survey dives, stakeholder consultation and photographic records found that significant damage has been done to the reefs within and beyond the designated anchoring zones for the vessels using Statia Terminals NV. The main impacts of the damage are:
- Broken individual coral colonies
- Structural damage to the reefs
- Decreased fisheries production for subsistence, commercial and sport fishing.
- Decrease in dive tourism, and related activities.
- Change in community structure
- Ciguatoxic (poisonous) fish
- Decreased recruitment and coral larvae survivorship
Recommendations to manage the anchoring issues are:
- Install a Vessel Monitoring System with alerts to unsustainable practices.
- Monitor the current status, ongoing damage and recovery of the coral reefs
- Establish a protocol for response and restoration after damage has occurred.