Nederland sticht zeezoogdierreservaat in Caraïbisch gebied

Bericht uitgegeven door Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) op zaterdag 27 oktober 2012

In het Caraïbisch gebied leven 36 verschillende soorten zeezoogdieren. Hun leefgebied staat onder druk door overbevissing, vervuiling en toerisme. Aanvaringen tussen cruiseschepen en walvissen zijn bijvoorbeeld niet ongebruikelijk. De Caraïbische monniksrob (Caribbean monk seal) is halverwege de vorige eeuw uitgestorven in het gebied. Beheersmaatregelen zijn nodig om te voorkomen dat andere soorten volgen. Het sinds kort beschermde gebied ‘Man of War Shoal’ bij Sint-Maarten is nu een zeezoogdierhotspot waar tijdens een inventarisatie begin dit jaar bultruggen (humpback whales), potvissen (sperm whales), tuimelaars (bottlenose dolphins) en langsnuitdolfijnen (spinner dolphins) werden gezien. Dergelijke inventarisaties dragen bij aan kennis over onder andere de trekroutes van de zeezoogdieren. De laatste jaren hebben verschillende landen, waaronder de Verenigde Staten en Frankrijk, zeezoogdierreservaten gesticht in de Caraïbische wateren. Nederland volgt eind dit jaar.

Lees verder in het Engels...

The Caribbean waters are home to 36 species of marine mammals, but surprisingly little is known about the lives of these intelligent and social creatures. Highly dependent on large, intact and healthy underwater ecosystems, marine mammals are sensitive to human-based pressures such as overfishing, land-based pollution and even cruise tourism (cruise ship collisions with whales is not uncommon). One species of marine mammal, the Caribbean monk seal, suffered from overfishing of their food source (reef fish and invertebrates such as lobsters and octopuses) and habitat loss through coastal development. Those threats combined with large-scale hunting of the seals pushed the species to a population collapse and extinction in the 1950s.

Bultrug, Humpback whale (foto: St.Maarten Nature Foundation)
Bultrug, Humpback whale (foto: St.Maarten Nature Foundation)

To prevent other marine mammals from going extinct, conservation efforts are crucial. The establishment of marine protected areas of the Dutch Caribbean, most recently on Saba Bank and in St. Maarten are significant steps in safeguarding habitat and ecosystems for our marine mammals. Several nations, including the USA, the Dominican Republic and France, have established marine mammal sanctuaries in Caribbean waters. The Netherlands will now follow suit with the establishment of a marine mammal sanctuary in the Dutch Caribbean by December 2012.

The recently established ‘Man of War Shoal’ marine protected area in St. Maarten is an important hotspot for marine mammals. A survey conducted by the St. Maarten Nature Foundation counted 41 humpback whales, numerous sperm whales, 21 bottlenose dolphins and 15 spinner dolphins in the period February – June 2012. The survey contributes to closing the knowledge gap as it increased the understanding of migration routes, feeding behavior and occurrence in general of marine mammals in the Dutch Caribbean. Video of marine mammals in St. Maarten.

The waters around St. Maarten and Saba have proven to be important breeding areas for marine mammals. This was one of the reasons the conservation efforts for the Saba Bank and the Man of War Shoal Park were vigorously driven and finally succeeded in 2010. In October 2010 a decree was passed that prohibits anchoring of tankers and other big ships on the Saba bank, the third largest submerged atoll in the world. This makes the Saba bank the fifth largest marine protected area in the wider Caribbean.

A similar success was the establishment of the Man of War Shoal Marine Park in St. Maarten in late December 2010, the first protected area of St. Maarten. The area is of fundamental ecological, economic and cultural value as a home and migratory stop over for over 100 endangered and protected species. It is an area with a relatively healthy population of marine mammals including migratory whales and dolphins; numerous species of shark, sea turtles and fish species. As marine mammals travel at great speed and migrate to and from the Caribbean swimming also through Dutch Caribbean waters, the Dutch Government will establish a Marine Mammal Sanctuary before the end of this year.

In a meeting representatives from the Netherlands, France, the US, and the Dominican Republic discussed how they could collaborate on the conservation of marine mammals. In all of these countries except the Netherlands marine mammal sanctuaries already exist. Some of these sanctuaries are working together with so-called sister sanctuary agreements. The French Agoa Sanctuary and the Dutch Caribbean islands are working together on surveys for marine mammals. The joint survey work will be continued in October and start in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao and continue through the arc of Eastern Caribbean islands via the French islands to the Dutch Windward Islands (SSS). In addition, a regional network of acoustic underwater listening posts has been set up. They record songs and other sounds produced by marine mammals but also document underwater noise generated by humans such as ships, jet skis and speedboats in order to assess the impact of these noises on the mammals.

Go to wordpress.iworklab.com to read the entire article.

Text: Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance
Picture: St. Maarten Nature Foundation
Nederlandse introductie: Sara Mulder, De Natuurkalender

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