France designates network of 14 Caribbean ponds

France designates network of 14 Caribbean ponds

1 May 2012

The Secretariat is delighted to announce that France has designated its 41st Wetland of International Importance, called "Zones humides et marines de Saint-Martin" (2,997 hectares, 18°05'N 063°05'W), a Protected Biotope and Nature Reserve on the Caribbean island of Saint-Martin, shared by France and the Netherlands (as Sint-Maarten). The site, as summarized from the Ramsar Information Sheet by Ramsar's Kati Wenzel, comprises shallow marine waters, sea grass beds, coral reefs, mangroves, lagoons and a network of 14 ponds dispersed throughout the French side of the island.

The ponds are influenced by the sea and serve as feeding, breedig and wintering areas for as many as 85 bird species, many of them threatened and some endemic. The marine part of the site harbours most of the coral reef areas surrounding the island and is habitat to several endangered and critically endangered sea turtles such as Leatherback Dermochelys coriacea. It constitutes a feeding and spawning area for more than 100 species of fish and is also important as shelter, nursery and migration path.

The site fulfills a diverse set of ecological functions like water flow regulation, oxygenation of water, stabilization and storm protection as well as the reduction of pollutant loads entering the Sea. The marine part of the site is used for recreational activities such as diving, sailing, kayaking and surfing. Threats include poaching, water pollution from sewage, and extreme weather events as well as increasing water temperatures.

Bécasseaux à échasses à Grand Etang (Photo: Réserve naturelle de Saint-Martin)

Etang de Baie Lucas (Photo: Réserve naturelle de Saint-Martin)

Etang du Cimetière, aigrettes et palétuviers rouges (Photo: Réserve naturelle de Saint-Martin)

Mangrove de l'étang aux Poissons (Photo: Réserve naturelle de Saint-Martin)

Milieu marin autour des ilets de Petite Clef, Pinel et Tintamarre (Photo: Réserve naturelle de Saint-Martin)

Milieu marin de la Baie de l'Embouchure, étang des Salines d'Orient en arrière-plan (Photo: B. Delaitre)

Etang Chevrisse (Photo: Conservatoire du litoral)

Chirurgiens gris et bleus avec gorgones arborescentes (Photo: Réserve naturelle de Saint-Martin)