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To promote the conservation of the coral reefs and related species

Project ReCorEA: Protecting coral and associated ecosystems

The Réserve Naturelle won the call for projects launched by the French Office For Biodiversity (OFB), for the resilience of coral reefs and their associated ecosystems (seagrass beds and mangroves). Baptized ReCorEA, this project aims to reduce the pressure put on these three coastal ecosystems. The project proposed by the Réserve Naturelle desires to evaluate and limit the impact created by the restoration of the mangrove, on one hand, but also the impact linked to nautical activities on the other hand, through the reinforcement of mooring zones—at Rocher Créole, Tintamarre, and Pinel—accompanied by a new management strategy and usage regulations. The goal of this project, which will comprise the updating of the mapping of the coastal habitats and surveying the health of the three ecosystems targeted by the Réserve Naturelle, consists suggesting activities to restore the mangroves, redeployment of the zones for mooring and light equipment (ZMEL), protecting the seagrass beds, and coral communities. These actions, planned for 2023 and 2024, will be run within the Réserve and its immediate periphery by a project manager recently recruited. Financed by the OFB, the ReCorEA project has also been funded by the Véolia Environmental Foundation and Atout France. These activities are consistent with other activities led by the Réserve Naturelle for several years, as well as by the Galisbay Port Authority, in the bays of Marigot, Grand Case, and Cul de Sac.

Le mérou géant The giant grouper

Life BIODIV’OM: collaboration with French Guiana

As part of the Life BIODIV’OM, a close collaboration between the group for the study and protection of birds in French Guiana (GEPOG) and the management of the Réserve Naturelle de Saint Martin, for the emergence of efficient solutions for the conservation of the giant grouper. Based on discussions and distance learning, as well as the arrival of an employee of GEPOG in Saint Martin, AGRNSM benefits from feedback from French Guiana for the implementation of research for the coordination and awareness of local users for better understanding of the groupers. The goal is to establish management measures for this essential element for biodiversity, also considered a driving force for local economic development.

Participation in the second seminar for the Life BIODIV’OM project

The second seminar for the Life BIODIV’OM project was held in French Guiana on September 19-23, 2022, on the theme of territorial dialogue and participatory sciences. All of the partners and beneficiaries of Life BIODIV’OM were present... except Aude Berger and Vincent Oliva, stuck in Saint Martin due to delays in air traffic due to uncertain weather. Luckily, they were both able to participate via video conference. Video link for the seminar:


Video link for the seminair : 

Réunion du comité de suivi Meeting of the steering committee
Réunion du comité de suivi Meeting of the steering committee

Further validation of Life BIODIV’OM

On December 1, the steering committee for the Life BIODIV’OM project met once again in the offices of the Réserve Naturelle at Hope Estate. These scientific experts were informed on the progress of the project’s activities, before validating the established strategy. The goal of this consultative committee is to evaluate the approach and results of the activities developed by AGRNSM in Saint Martin, in order to propose solutions adapted on a local level, in order to ensure the success of Life BIODIV’OM in Saint Martin (achieve set goals for the conservation of targeted species). This project is part of the activities set out by the management plan for the Réserve Naturelle de Saint Martin (promote the conservation of marine biocenoses with legacy importance: coral reefs and marine seed plants.)

Delphine Morin & Aude Berger
Delphine Morin & Aude Berger

The LPO Visits Saint Martin

From December 7-9, Delphine Morin, coordinator of the Life BIODIV’OM for the LPO (League for the Protection of Birds) met with the Réserve Naturelle. This visit was an opportunity for the LPO to observe the situation on the island and make a report on recent activities, as well as discuss with the management team the eventuality of a request to prolong the Life BIODIV’OM in Europe, as solicited by the other partners of the project, except the AGRNSM. This question is currently being debated internally and with the LPO, in terms of potential technical or financial consequences.

Biodiversity Nursery Project Progress

A recap of activities financially supported by the Foundation of France in Saint Martin— including restauration of mangrove nursery along the edge of the Salines d’Orient pond — took place on October 27, 2022. This presentation provided an opportunity for the Réserve Naturelle to announce its progress on the Biodiversity Nursery Project. Part of the nursery was created by the Réserve to reclaim the natural areas and restore the wetlands badly impacted by hurricane Irma, this project will extend around the nursery. It will comprise restoration of the wetlands historically filled in for the creation of the roadway; the ponds will now be reconnected with the formation of small islands, with the planting of mangrove shoots, and finally adding public amenities including a raised walking path and a bird observation platform. The Réserve Naturelle has already received all of the administrative authorizations required to launch the work of rejuvenating this natural site, which has been in bad shape for too many years.

To promote the conservation of the sea turtle population

2022 Sea Turtle Report

The 2022 report on the activities of sea turtles has been completed as their egg-laying season closed on December 1, 2022. Thanks to 331 readers on the mailing list, of which 38 are very active, there were close to 500 patrols along 15 beaches on the French side, which yielded 182 traces of egg-laying activity between March and November. This marks a decrease in such activity compared to the 2021 report with 268 traces. This slight decline can be explained by way of life cycles and reproduction cycles, as every two or three years a smaller number of females are able to reproduce on the beaches. Green turtles predominated as usual, with 108 traces (227 in 2021), followed by hawksbill turtles with 72 traces (compared to 41 in 2021). There were no traces for leatherback turtles; two traces were illegible. Plum Bay wins first prize for the busiest turtle beach in 2022, with 72 traces, followed by Long Bay with 42 traces, and the lagoon beach on Tintamarre takes third place (27 traces). This high level of egg-laying on the beaches of the Lowlands confirms the importance of the decree for the protection of the biotope issues in January 2021, and reinforcing the protection programs at these major sites. The three beaches in the Lowlands and Tintamarre represent 99% of the traces observed in Saint Martin. All of the participants that contributed to the 2022 egg-laying project were sent a copy of report that includes a synthesis of their contributions. The amassed data has already been sent to the ONF (French National Forests Office), which manages the sea turtle network in the French West Indies. Public review meetings will be organized in February and March 2023.

To maintain or improve local conditions for nesting bird populations

Un rat s’approchant de nuit d’un piège A rat approaches a trap at night
Un rat s’approchant de nuit d’un piège A rat approaches a trap at night

The fight against the proliferation of rats continues

The project to battle the proliferation of rats on the small island of Tintamarre continues. Part of Plan France Relance, this operation against exotic invasive species placed 150 baited traps in June 2022, covering one third of the island. The advantage of the rat traps used it that they are automated and kill the rodents immediately. In the past, the traps required two visits per day to kill one captured animal: a very time-consuming solution, but indispensable to identify the species present on the island, and therefore the technical means of regulation. Today, each baited trap is designed to attract the rats, who release a small hammer, activated by gas in a canister. The rat then falls on the outside of the trap, which is once again operationnal, and can reset itself 24 times per canister. The rat is also available as food for local fauna and can be consumed without risk, which avoids a progressive impoverishment in an area with limited resources. Every 15 days since the traps were set, they have been inspected and if necessary refilled with CO2 and bait, an action that employs the time of most of the agents from Réserve; luckily they are helped by a team of volunteers. The mission will continue until the island is covered with traps, with the permanent retention of a sanitary cord with traps behind the beach at Baie Blanche, to avoid new arrivals of rats by the sea, and to maintain the pressure in this zone open to the public.

Faucon émerillon Merlin
Faucon émerillon Merlin

A project for the protection of birds

known and certain species benefit from regular scientific monitoring, the same is not true for the rest of the island. It is to fill this gap that Vincent Lemoine, a naturalist fascinated by ornithology, has covered the entire French side, binoculars in hand. Commissioned by the LPO for the LIFE BIODIV’OM program as part of the ZICO (Zone of interest for the protection of birds), his goal for this project was to create a map of the species present on the island, starting by doing an inventory. As a result, Vincent Lemoine explored more than 130 sites between November 1, 2022 and February 28, 2023, and discovered a wide general diversity, divided among the salt ponds and the heights of Pic Paradis, as well as along the coasts, and observed 94 species of birds. He made a special mention of migrating species, with a minimum of 170 blue-winged teals at just one site, and he observed eight species of new world warblers. Shorebirds—sandpipers, greater yellowlegs, little ringed plovers—are often seen, as well as the presence of a group of 200 blackwing stilts, regrouped in a small corner of the pond. Tropicbirds are among the others who chose to live on the well-named Cliff of Birds, where at least three nests were noted with 15 individual birds observed. Vincent Lemoine also noted several differences between the ornithological history of Saint Martin and that of Guadeloupe. For example, if the three species endemic to the Lesser Antilles— the scaly-breasted thrasher, the purple-throated Carib hummingbird, and the bridled quail-dove (also present in Puerto Rico)—all live in Saint-Martin, they are very lightly represented, even rare for the latter two species, and the island does not have a single species endemic it to alone. On the other hand, certainly due to decreased activity, various hunted species are perhaps more numerous than in Guadeloupe. As for birds migrating from North America, their populations are more numerous than in the islands in the southern Caribbean, due to Saint Martin’s proximity to the North American continent. Shared species such as the black-faced grassquit, the bananaquit, the Zenaida dove, and the common ground dove are everywhere. There are also non-endemic species such as the Eurasian collared dove and the house sparrow, and a newcomer, the bare-eyed pigeon. The essential goal for this ornithologist is, outside to the sites already protected in the Réserve Naturelle, to reinforce the protection of birds by designating sites as the most important for conservation, such as Pic Paradis or the Cliff of Birds.

To maintain or improve local conditions for marine mammal populations

Une baleine à bosse emmêlée dans un filet © Guide MEGAPTERA : Les baleines à bosse du banc d’Anguilla A humpback whale tangles in a fishing net © The Humpback Whaleso f the Anguilla Bank MEGAPTERA guide
Une baleine à bosse emmêlée dans un filet © Guide MEGAPTERA : Les baleines à bosse du banc d’Anguilla A humpback whale tangles in a fishing net © The Humpback Whaleso f the Anguilla Bank MEGAPTERA guide

Professional fishing and marine mammals: what are the consequences?

The Réserve Naturelle participated in a commissioned study by the OFB staff at the Agoa sanctuary on the interaction between professional fishing and marine mammals within the Agoa sanctuary. A case based on the fact that marine mammals get tangled up on lines and cords of a fish aggregating device. After the inquiry, it looks as if the local techniques used around Saint Martin involve no, or few, interactions, but observations at large have provoked numerous meetings around the use of fish aggregating devices.

Managing The Impact Of Human Activities In Protected Areas

Patrols on land and at sea

The nature police department of the Réserve Naturelle— represented by Christophe Joe—completed nine patrols at sea, working jointly with the nautical brigade of the gendarmerie, between October and December 2022. Numerous controls of boats, at sea and on moorings, revealed the presence at Tintamarre of three boats belonging to rental companies that forgot to request authorization from the Réserve. Another vessel was given a warning for speeding. And a final boat was fined for troll-fishing in the waters of the Réserve Naturelle. On land, the department ran two patrols by day and were happy to find a major decrease in the number of infractions, especially when it came to fishing.

The prefect visits the Réserve

On November 10, 2022, prefect Vincent Berton embarked on the Réserve Naturelle’s boat for a presentation of the challenges and issues encountered in terms of the management of protected species. The representative of the French government was very receptive to various topics: endemic species or those with uncertain conservation status, and integration of the Réserve in the local economy, primarily thanks to permission given by the prefect for certain commercial activities in the Réserve.

Ensuring environmental communication, awareness, and education

A More Than Positive Report For The Education Department

In light of its final report for 2022, the Education Department can be proud of its continued growth in academic activities and public awareness. Sixteen schools, three training centers, three businesses, and eight associations, or a total 7,243 children and adults, benefitted from their awareness activities on site or in the field last year. Victim of its own success, the department had to refuse several new candidates who wanted to sign partnership agreements, including Eliane Clark Nursery School and Hervé Williams Elementary School, as well as classes from Aline Hanson Elementary School, the middle schools in French Quarter, Mont des Accords and Soualiga middle schools, and Robert Weinum high School. All of which already have working agreements with the Réserve Naturelle, which in turn provides free activities for their students. In the hopes of having one additional staffer, and in the event that the Collectivité wants to develop its competence in terms of the environment, the Réserve Naturelle has submitted an official request for the funds to recruit someone they will train for the job.

The Réserve Naturelle, A Pedagogical Outlook

When invited to share its pedagogical mission with several of its partners, the Réserve Naturelle always replies positively.

Discovery Of Open-Air Activities

On November 2, 3, and 4, 2022, during the Toussaint vacation, 187 enfants from the ages of 7 to 12, from the neighborhoods of Sandy Ground, Concordia, and French Quarter, had the change to discover the island of Pinel and take part in various sports activities. The Réserve did not fail in its task of environmental awareness when responding to the request from the Nautical Club of Saint Martin, the association that organized these three days for the Discovery Of Open-Air Activities. Aude Berger, Ashley Daniel et Brenton Larmonie l organized pedagogical visits in small groups in order to make the children aware of the necessity to protect both marine and terrestrial eco-systems on this small island that welcomes a lot of tourists.

Sea Discovery Day

On November 16, 2022, 54 kids from under-privileged neighborhoods participated in Sea Discovery Day, which has been organized for several years by Métimer, the association for nautical professionals. This event allows the kids to discover sailing and the little island of Tintamarre, where Ashley Daniel and Brenton Larmonie, both on the staff of the Réserve Naturelle, taught them about the fragility of the eco-systems during a hike along the coast and on the interior of this magnificent protected site.

Nautical Professionals Trade Show

December 8 & 9, 2022 marked the date for the Nautical Professionals Trade Show at which middle school and high school students from 10th to 12th grade stopped by the stand run by the Réserve Naturelle. Aude Berger, Ashley Daniel, and Christopher Joe answered all of their questions and presented various environmental professionals to the youngsters, many of whom have been already been made aware of the importance of protecting nature through the Education Department.

New Projects For Educational Marine Zones

In 2022, Happy School, recently named an Educational Marine Zone, continued its project for the protection of sea turtles, via a public awareness campaign about the threats created by human activity. At the same time, the school started a study of coral reefs, which gave some of the students an opportunity to take their first underwater dive. These two projects, as well as their ongoing work for the protection of sea turtles—notably with the creation of signage with a QR code for access to a link citing the dangers threatening the sea turtles—will be presented by the students to their teachers and invited guests during the annual Sea Council in order to get their official Educational Marine Zone label. A third class is working on a study of exotic invasive species launched in 2021. Equipped with a GPS, a brochure, an informational sheet for each species, and a camera, each group of five students was assigned to research the different species in a zone close to the beach in Galion. This project will be presented during the Sea Council planned for March 31, 2023.

The Roche Gravée de Moho Middle School in French Quarter

also now an Educational Marine Zone for the 2022/2023 school year. Their project is to revitalize the mangrove at Galion, by replanting saplings they will grow in their classroom, and others that were grown in the nursery within the Réserve Naturelle.

Students from Clair Saint-Maximin Elementary School,

part of the Educational Marine Zone at Galion for the past six years, are working on a diagnostic of the beach, or an evaluation of the sites where sea turtles lay their eggs, in order to determine if this beach is suitable for egg-laying by the turtles. The goal is to make local residents and professionals aware of the importance of protecting these reproductive sites.

Optimizing management means

Agreement With The EDF Foundation

A partnership agreement with the EDF Foundation, for the sum of 11,000 euros, will allow the Réserve to enrich its pedagogical materials concerning the marine milieu in Saint Martin. New anatomical sculptures of sea birds will join the existing menagerie and new films for the 360° virtual reality dive masks will multiply the possibilities of discovering the underwater world without getting wet, building on the huge success of this program. The Education Department will also have a camera that will capture images to use in editing of films made locally, in the mangroves, in the coral reefs or seagrass beds, where one can observe the evolution of underwater fauna, especially sea turtles, sharks and marine mammals.

  • As part of its partnership with Te Me Um, the Réserve has received five new anatomical sculptures of sharks: a Caribbean shark, a nurse shark, a lemon shark, a tiger shark, and a hammerhead shark.
  • In their quest to acquire new pedagogical tools for the students of Saint Martin, the Réserve Naturelle hopes to establish partnerships with new sponsors.

Conclusions of the Récréafish study

In mid-September 2022, the Récréafish study, commissioned by the OFB, and run by IFREMER with the reserves of Saint Martin and Saint Barth, has concluded. At the end of the study, 50 excursions at sea were reported by recreational fishermen in Saint Barthélemy, compared to four in Saint Martin. For the nine contributors in Saint Barth and three in Saint Martin, this study coincided with unfavorable weather conditions on many occasions in 2022. The report summary produced by IFREMER will be addressed to all the contributors, who will also be able to participate in a raffle to win vouchers good for purchases in fishing stores. The study will be presented as part of the Life BIODIV’OM project.

Understanding and continual study of the natural heritage

Anolis de Saint-Martin © Karl Questel
Anolis de Saint-Martin © Karl Questel

Inventory of herpetofauna

Late September was the occasion for the consulting firm, ARDOPS Environnement, to complete an inventory of herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) in Saint Martin. The goal was to consolidate the list of species present on the island, to localize the different species and define their status—indigenous or introduced—but also to identify the issues involved in the fight to regulation invasive species: Iguana iguana, red-footed tortoise, certain lizards—such as the anoli—as well as all of the frogs found in Saint Martin, and the snakes, including the grass snake of the Anguilla Bank, the European worm snake, and the corn snake. The introduction of non-native species represents one of the main causes of the destruction of the biodiversity, and in a more assertive way in insular territories.

Rondeletia anguilensis photographiée aux Terres Basses A species of plants in the Rubiaceae family photographed in the Lowlands
Rondeletia anguilensis photographiée aux Terres Basses A species of plants in the Rubiaceae family photographed in the Lowlands

Interesting discoveries in the Lowlands

On December 2, 2022, in the presence of expert Puerto Rican biologist Franklin Axelrod, Julien Chalifour went to the Lowlands to explore an undeveloped tract of land. Identified by the naturalist association, Bivouac, during their Insularis 1 expedition, this site has been of interest for the plants found there, as well as for its herpetofauna. This visit revealed a wide diversity of plants endemic to the Anguilla Bank, or strictly to Saint Martin, all of which are protected. The relief and geological formations unique to our island lead one to believe that they are at the root of this biodiversity, a fact confirmed by geology expert Denis Vaslet, during a visit to Saint Martin. In addition to noting Melocactus intortus (Turk’s head cactus) and orchids, the two scientists also observed a Merisier de Boldingh or Myrcia boldinghii, a very rare endemic shrub, known via specimens used to create its description and not seen again since its discovery in 1908. The scientists also found a species they thought was strictly endemic to Anguilla: Rondeletia anguilensis, a species of plants in the Rubiaceae family. The scientific department from the management association of Réserve naturelle (AGRNSM) sent a technical note to the attention of the DEAL (Direction of Environment) and urbanism services of the Collectivité on the challenges facing the conservation of these species and this piece of land. The geological diagnostic did not simply confirm the exceptional nature of the rocks and the soil on this land, but also its unique character in Saint Martin. These types of rocks are not found anyplace else on the island— rocks rich in limestone— as well as a scarcity of soil, which lends itself to the development of the orchids observed here.

Postponement of the PACO mission

In early December 2022, the Réserve Naturelle hosted two scientists who specialize in coral. They are members of the PACO mission (Coral Adaptive Potential) to support coral reefs in the French West Indies and Mayotte. Their objective was to take samples from three species of coral, two of which are protected, in order to study their genetic diversity as well as the diversity of their growing conditions, with the goal of identifying the specific predispositions of resistant individual coral. The Réserve lent its logistical support—boat, divers— to this initiative. However, lack of administrative authorization for the two protected species, and bad conditions at sea, meant that the samples were unable to be taken. Postponement!

Reinforcing local and regional commitment to the Réserve

Collaboration between reserves
Like every year, the Réserve Naturelle’s team of deep-sea divers lent a hand to their colleagues in Petite Terre (Guadeloupe) and Saint-Barthélemy, as part of their annual check-up on the health of the coral communities and underwater seagrass beds. Aude Berger visited in Petite Terre from October 3-6, 2022 and Julien Chalifour was in Saint-Barth on October 17-21, 2022. This allowed them to count numbers of fish, estimate the extent of coral formations, and other living species, as well as check on the diversity and the density of the seagrass beds and associated fauna. Unfortunately, this operation did not take place in Saint Martin in 2022, due to scheduling and unfavorable conditions at sea, as well as a shortage of professional divers as part of the management team. This operation will be scheduled for 2023, with the support of its partners.

A symposium on sea turtles

From November 14-18, Aude Berger and Julien Chalifour participated in a national symposium on sea turtles, organized at the Grande Motte. They were both able to meet their counterparts on a national level, as well as highlight the work done since 2009 and share common problems and the solutions developed by each of them. The large quantities of consecutive data has an important impact on the production of information about the Antilles islands and will eventually be processed and validated by professor Marc Girondot, a national expert on sea turtles.

A focus on sea turtles

Every year for quite some time, and throughout the year, the Réserve Naturelle de Saint Martin has participated in various meetings, steering committees, and technical committees on a national level for the protection of the sea turtles of the French West Indies and the iguana of the Lesser Antilles. These meetings allow the Réserve to participate in activities led by the ONF (French National Forests Office) and commissioned by the DEAL (Direction for the Environment), as well as benefit from their support and go over problems specific to the island, knowing that the conservation of these species and their habitats is part of the management plan for the Réserve Naturelle.

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