The most recent management council meeting for the Agoa sanctuary for the protection of marine mammals took place on January 11, 2017 in Martinique, in two parts.
Saint Martin was represented by Ramona Connor, vice president of the Collectivité ; Nicolas Maslach, director of the Réserve Naturelle ; Bulent Gulay, president of Métimer ; Laurence Vallette for Marine Time ; and Romain Renoux on behalf of Agoa in Saint Martin. First, the council concentrated on several achievements from 2016, notably whale watching and the good practices that should accompany this activity. Most of the whale watching companies benefitted from training in October 2016 to help reinforce these practices. In addition, Agoa worked with the organizers of large nautical events — Heineken Regatta in Saint Martin, The Bucket in Saint Barth, Karujet in Guadeloupe, Jet Race in Martinique — on the one hand to make sure the participants know exactly what to do in the case of encountering a marine mammal, and on the other hand, to verify if marine mammals are present in the area to reduce the risks of a collision. A report on the partnership with the association, «My School, My Whale”, highlighted not only the use of pedagogical tools and visits to 14 classes on the four French Caribbean islands, but also an excursion by boat in late June 2016 for a seventh grade class at the French Quarter middle school.
Le renforcement de l’intégration régionale Reinforcement On A Regional Level 20 Le Journal de la Réserve Naturelle Nationale de Saint-Martin n°28 avril 2017 In the second part, council members discussed projects for 2017, with the principal focus on the REMMOA program for the «census of marine mammals and other pelagic fauna by aerial observation”. This national program was launched in 2008 in the French West Indies by the Agency for Protected Marine Areas and its goal is to increase our knowledge about such species as marine mammals and birds, rays, sharks and sea turtles, in order to reinforce their protection. The different marine zones covered by REMMOA in 2017 — Martinique, Dominique, Guadeloupe, Saint Barth, Saint Martin, Sint Maarten, Saba, Saint Eustache — will be the subject of new aerial coverage. The comparison between the results of the different phases should allow for an estimation of the evolution in the populations of various species, and provide useful information on the quality of the overall marine environment. The program also provides a look at the distribution at sea for certain human activities — maritime traffic, pollution, fishing — that can be potential threats to the pelagic fauna in that same zone. A second project, titled CARI’MAM, hopes to reinforce the international cooperation between several Caribbean countries, including the French islands, in order to improve our knowledge about marine mammals and the management of sanctuaries. Finally, the council proposed a new regulation by the prefect on the observation of marine mammals that concerns all of those who are involved in nautical activities, including individual boat owners, as the current regulation concerns only professionals in the whale watching business. With such a regulation, the rules about approaching and observation that are only recommendations today would become obligatory tomorrow.