Surveillance of the island and police

Surveillance of the island and police

Surveillance of the island and police

During the period of confinement, the Réserve Naturelle has maintained its surveillance activities on land and at sea, in order to enforce the regulations. Several individuals who tried to take advantage of the confinement situation to go fishing in the waters of the Réserve or engage in a commercial activity were obliged to abandon their plans after being reprimanded by the Réserve, which works in close collaboration with the nautical brigade of the national gendarmerie.

Environmental Police Activities

In 2019, the technical office and nature police of the Réserve Naturelle carried out 423 patrols from January through December 2019: 306 patrols on land and 141 at sea. Of these patrols, 398 were in accordance with the regulations, and 15 were not—10 on land and 15 at sea. From January 1 through May 2020, the same group carried out 108 patrols, 50 at sea and 58 on land. Of these patrols, 93 were in order, 18 were not—7 on land and 8 at sea. They resulted in four tickets: for leaving trash at Galion; an unauthorized charter activity; two illegal fishing operations during confinement, as well as several reminders of the law for the use of a dune buggy, practicing kite surfing, using a fishing rod, and allowing dogs off leashes.

Avant... Before..
Avant... Before..

865 kilos of tile dumped at Galion

On February 19, 2020, the Réserve Naturelle had to remove 865 kilos of broken tile that had been dumped illegally at Galion by a professional builder, and carted to the ecosite at Grandes Cayes. Luckily, an eyewitness was able to note the license plate of the vehicle used by the offender. The Réserve Naturelle lodged a complaint that was sent to the public prosecutor.

36 lambis sortis de leur coquille 36 conch out of their shells
36 lambis sortis de leur coquille 36 conch out of their shells

Poaching of protected species

On April 21, 2020 at around 2pm at Galion, a guard of the Réserve Naturelle surprises two individuals coming out of the water with masks snorkels, and fins, and heading toward a vehicle. The guard reminded them that swimming is prohibited during confinement and fishing is also forbidden in the waters of the Réserve. He then backed off, but with the intention of coming back to the site. A few minutes later, he saw the two men running toward him, each with a large bag in his hand, and split off into two different directions. The guard called the gendarmerie, where no one was available to help, but a territorial police car arrived just in time to give him a hand. He caught one of the fugitives hiding in the mangrove, without the bag, and turned him over to the police, and then found the bag a little later, Inside were 36 conch already removed from their shells, two red helmet shells still alive and a giant triton also alive. The man admitted to having caught these protected species and provided his identity as well as that of his accomplice. A report has been sent to the prosecutor and the two poach will be called before the judge, not only for having caught these protected species, but having done so in the waters of the Réserve Naturelle. The guard put the living shellfish back in the water as well as the dead conch, in two different places in the bay.

Fishing is strictly forbidden in the Réserve Naturelle and the acts committed by these two poachers are even more illegal as conch is a protected species. Amateur fishermen are prohibited from taking them, at all times and in all places. Fishing for conch is limited to professional fishermen between October and December, an only outside of protected zones, it goes without saying. When it comes to illegal fishing of conch or illegal possession of this shellfish, the offenders are subject to administrative fines and penal sanctions that as high as 22,500€ and six months in prison.

On April 29, the Réserve seized a trap recently placed offshore by the beach of Coralita, in the middle of the Réserve Naturelle. The fish were set free and the trap destroyed and transported to the eco-site at Grandes Cayes.

Pêche illégale pendant le confinement
Pêche illégale pendant le confinement

On May 1, while the island was under full confinement, the Réserve surprised four fishermen who arrived at Pinel by kayak. All very young, at first they denied that they had been fishing then had to admit their crime after two underwater spear guns and the fish they caught were found. The kayak, as well as their fishing gear, was seized, and the Réserve reported them for illegal fishing.

Bienvenue au commandant de gendarmerie
Bienvenue au commandant de gendarmerie

The staff at the Réserve Naturelle met with Stéphan Basso, the new commandant at the gendarmerie, who arrived on the island on August 1, replacing Sébastien Manzoni. The brigade chief voiced his interest in the various missions assigned to the rangers and assured the Réserve that it can count on the support of the gendarmerie, especially in the identification of scofflaws. Basso also invited the Réserve to be present when the next group of mobile gendarmes arrives on November 6, and to make a 30-minute presentation at that time, to best inform the new arrivals about the challenges encountered at the sites that are officially part of the Réserve Naturelle de Saint-Martin.

Since November 23, 2019, the Réserve Naturelle de Saint-Martin has been attending police meetings at the prefecture once a month, at the request of the prefect Sylvie Feucher. The police activity report for the Réserve is presented at these meetings. To date, since the beginning of the year, the Réserve police have accomplished 60 controls at sea that were in compliance and eight that were not, as well as 237 terrestrial controls in compliance and 17 that were not. For the most part, the infractions to regulations are minor, such as anchoring in a sea plant bed, use of a quad, dogs on the loose, or kite surfing at Galion.

Palais de Justice de st.Martin

La Réserve Naturelle was a plaintiff in a civil suit concerning illegal fishing, with Franck Roncuzzi, director of the technical department of the nature police representing the Réserve as its legal entitity. The case dates back to May 14, 2019, when a patrol from the gendarmerie found a fisherman on the beach in Grandes Cayes, right in the middle of the Réserve Naturelle. Inside the fisherman’s car, they seized two lobsters, a slipper lobster, two fish, and an underwater spear gun. Judged for maritime fishing in a prohibited zone and leisure fishing without marking his presence by a buoy, two infractions worth fines up to 9000 and 1500 euros respectively, the fisherman was condemned to pay 500 and 250 in fines, as well as 2500 euros in damages and interest to the Réserve naturelle.

The Minister of Ecology has published a directive recommending that managers of natural sites to bring an independent action for damages in cases that infringe on the environment, so that the guilty parties participate financially in the compensation of loss to the biodiversity for which they are responsible.
Pas de kite surf au Galion - No kite surf in Galion
Pas de kite surf au Galion - No kite surf in Galion

Since January 1, 2019, the police of Réserve Naturelle have completed 153 patrols on land, of which 141 were in keeping with the regulations, as were 35 of the 39 patrols done at sea. The only reprimand was addressed to the president of the Tropikite association on April 14, when a group of kite surfers assembled on the beach in Galion, in spite of an order from the prefect prohibiting the sport at this protected site. A first such assembly was given the same warning, and the person incriminated was interviewed by the gendarmerie, which sent the report to the prosecutor’s office. Please note that kite surfing is authorized throughout the Réserve Naturelle except over the waters of Galion bay, which is a site set aside for family activities, swimming, and nautical activities that do not present a danger for those using the site.

Residents notified the Réserve Naturelle when they saw a horse on the land at Babit Point— land that belongs to the Conservatoire du Littoral and is managed by the Réserve. The veterinary services went to see about the horse, accompanied by agents of the Réserve and territorial police. Brought to the site by its owner, a resident of Oyster Pond, the animal had been left in an enclosure made of rebar and barbed wire, in the full sun, close to a shelter without a roof implanted illegally by its master. Present during the control, the owner was informed that he was using land belonging to the Conservatoire du Littoral without authorization. He explained that he had to quickly remove his horse from its previous quarters, and that he planned to move it again soon, but not sooner than two months. He was told he had a short window to contact the owner and request temporary use of the site—otherwise the horse must be removed. He opted to move his horse to private land that had the same conditions, but leaving behind the enclosure and the shelter. Existing regulations forbid leaving equines in the open air without providing the proper facilities to avoid any suffering in case of climatic variations. It is also illegal to place animal or vegetal species on a protected natural site.

A lot of criticism has been directed at the Réserve Naturelle, claiming “they aren’t doing anything,” when it comes to the container sitting on the side of the Coralita road, in the parking lot for the whale observatory. However, the container is sitting on private land and the Réserve is not authorized to act. The Operations Committee of the Environmental and Urbanism Police (COPOLENU) discussed the issue at great length to rule on the jurisdiction of the Collectivity in this matter. The Collectivity then sent a letter to the owner of the property. Stay tuned for the end of the story.

Called by the CROSS Antilles Guyana on February 15 close to 1:30pm, two agents of the Réserve Naturelle went to the rescue of two boaters in danger within the waters of the Réserve. Coming from the Dutch side toward Pinel aboard their 40’ cabin with its two powerful motors, the two men aboard went too close to the reef at Grandes Cayes and hit the coral reef before finding themselves immobilized and unable to maneuver, taking a lot of water into the hull and their propellers bent. Franck Roncuzzi and Julien Chalifour leapt to their aid aboard the Contender belonging to the Réserve and succeeded in towing the boat as far as the bay in Cul-de-Sac. The owner, an 82 year-old American, spent the night aboard to avoid having his boat sink, and had it towed the next day to a shipyard in the lagoon.

From February 1 through May 31, 2018, the rangers of the Réserve Naturelle conducted 95 controls that were compliant to regulations, while 10 other controls proved non-compliant:

  • Presence of a jet ski in Galion Bay
  • Kite surfing by three people in Galion Bay, where this activity is prohibited by order of the prefect
  • Four individuals surprised while fishing in the waters of the Réserve
  • Two drones flown without authorization within the Réserve Naturelle

No charges were filed while the laws were repeated to the offenders.

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