Nature Fund projects on Statia

Restart after one-year delay

The overall aim of the Nature Fund is to ‘maintain and sustain nature’ in the Caribbean Netherlands. It is considered urgent given the various problems, such as overgrazing, invasive species and fisheries. Proposals on the three islands intend to address some of these issues.

By Hannah Madden

The Nature Fund, totaling 7.5 million Euros, was first approved in the Netherlands in 2013 but was retracted when the government at the time collapsed. It was reinstated in 2014 under the new government. The overall aim of the fund is to ‘maintain and sustain nature’ in the Caribbean Netherlands, which is considered urgent and long overdue given the various problems of free-roaming herbivores, invasive flora and fauna, erosion, fisheries, hurricanes, pollution, and the negative impacts of divers and snorkelers. Thus, the Nature Fund proposals on the three islands intend to address some of these issues.

An overview of the five projects that have been approved by the Island Government and submitted to the Ministry of Economic Affairs is given below.

Nature awareness

In 2014, the results of the study “What is St. Eustatius’ Nature worth?” demonstrated that the economic value of the nature of St. Eustatius is USD 25 million per year and contributes enormously to the wellbeing of its people.

The overall objective of this project plan is the successful and efficient implementation of any nature plan/policy. The project purpose is to create a mind shift in the community towards a sustainable relationship with nature. Momentarily, the community sees nature as a non-profitable asset of the island, instead of one of the main driving forces for tourism and economic development.

Via workshops and a media communication strategy plan, the nature awareness project is aimed at the entire island community, and more specifically civil servants, managers, customs officers, students and teachers. Awareness of the importance of nature for mankind and the island itself should be island-wide.

Invasive species, such as lionfish, Corallita, green iguanas and the giant African land snail, and their impacts on native species and ecosystems will be a focus topic of one workshop. Booklets and posters have already been produced for the workshop, which will be one of the first activities of the project once it gets underway.

In addition, the importance of a number of flagship species such as Statia’s national flower the Statia Morning Glory, the endangered Lesser Antillean Iguana, the iconic red-billed tropicbird, and the island’s diverse marine life will be showcased through informative signs, webcams, and an iguana sanctuary.

Local and international stakeholders for the nature awareness project include the Executive Council, Directorate of Infrastructure and Economy, Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute, STENAPA, St. Eustatius Tourism Development Foundation, St. Eustatius Public Health Department, primary and secondary schools, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Vrije University, and Wageningen University.

Strengthening management of nature

The overall objective of this project plan is general capacity-building and improvement of nature conservation management foundation, STENAPA. The proposal includes a budget for much-needed trucks and equipment, additional staff capacity and materials at the Miriam C. Schmidt Botanical Garden, and additional equipment, training and capacity in the terrestrial and marine parks.

STENAPA has been operating with minimal funds since 2008 and the foundation is in desperate need of a financial injection to support its ongoing operations.

Rodent assessment and control

The overall objective of this project is to significantly decrease the number of rats on the island and implement a sustainable rat control program on the island. This will be accomplished through the establishment of a rat control program that consists of three parts:

  • Determining the rat density, distribution and ecology on St. Eustatius
  • Implementing a baited poison program
  • Reaching out to and empowering the community through public awareness

While it is almost impossible to eradicate rats from an inhabited island like St. Eustatius, the project aims to reduce the rodent population, thus improving human and ecosystem health, protecting native species, promoting agriculture, and preventing the spread of infectious disease.

Erosion control

The overall objective of this project is to significantly reduce the amount of erosion that occurs on the island. Erosion is caused by wind and rain or water runoff, and sediments often end up washing into the waters that surround the island. This results in nutrient loss from land and has a negative impact on nearby coral reefs.

The aim of the project is to improve the drainage system along key water routes (e.g. roads) on the island and create additional water catchment areas that will store rainwater and prevent it from entering the sea. The water can be used for agriculture and animal husbandry.

Coral restoration

The aim of this project is to re-establish a healthy branching coral community by creating a coral nursery which would supply second and third generation planting out sized coral colonies.

The project intervention is targeted towards selecting healthy Acropora palmata and Acropora cervicornis colonies and, using fragments of these colonies, to populate a nursery. When the fragments grow to planting out size, some will be planted out while others will have fragments taken that will be used to create a sustainable nursery.

Due to the fact that St. Eustatius fell under higher supervision by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations in the second half of 2015, none of the new projects submitted to the nature fund could be reviewed. This caused a significant delay in the review/approval process. And one of the recommendations of the project leaders was to extend the deadline for submitting and completing projects. Officially all new proposals must be submitted by September 2016 and all projects must be completed by October 2017, however an appeal may be lodged to extend these dates.

Nature Fund as financial support mechanism

Director of Infrastructure and Economy Roy Hooker is happy with the Nature Fund as a financial support mechanism for nature-related projects on the island. He is eager to receive the Ministry’s response with regard to financial accountability of the roaming animals project, and is currently working on the service level agreement (SLA) with STENAPA which will be sent to the Island Council for approval. He recently met STENAPA’s new interim director, Clarisse Buma. Part of the delay with the SLA was the introduction of the new harbor ordinance in 2015, which at the time the SLA was drafted did not exist, therefore the document requires adjustment to reflect this. Ultimately Hooker would like STENAPA to be financially sustainable through the trust fund that was established in 2008 to assist all six Dutch Caribbean park management organizations. In the meantime, he will continue to support projects that will improve nature on the island since there are still many issues that need to be addressed.

Foto bovenaan: Dale Morton

25 augustus 2016