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Two Dutch Caribbean Tagged Tiger Sharks Follow Similar Migration Patterns in the Caribbean

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - Two years ago, the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) organized the first of its kind shark tagging expedition to the Saba Bank and St Maarten as part of the Dutch Postcode Lottery funded “Save our Sharks” project.

Eight shark researchers with a support crew and two camera teams captured and tagged tiger sharks on St Maarten and the Saba Bank using an expedition ship. During the expedition, scientists and conservationists from the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF), Nature Foundation St. Maarten (NFSXM), Florida International University (FIU) and Sharks4Kids equipped five tiger sharks with satellite tags in order to track their movements and presence to determine how best to manage and protect these important apex predators.

Wildlife Computer SPOT (Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting) satellite tags were attached to the first dorsal fin of large tiger sharks. These tags transmit to satellites, which allow the sharks to be tracked through the ARGOS satellite system for up to 4 years.

The tag uses radio transmissions, so the satellite unit must be exposed to air in order to transmit. Each time the dorsal fin breaks the surface a geo location provides an approximate location with an accuracy of up to 250 meters.

Up to now, two tiger sharks with satellite tags named ‘Sea fairy’ and ‘Quinty’ have provided the research team with some interesting preliminary results. The sharks indicate a similar migration track following the Aves ridge, a ridge in the Eastern Caribbean Sea of about 500 km in length probably of volcanic arc origin.

“The preliminary data we have been receiving is starting to show some interesting results in terms of the migratory patterns of tiger sharks in the Eastern Caribbean Sea. Not only is this data important but it is also critical for the transboundary management of a marine species critical to the health of our Caribbean Sea.

“Sharks are apex predators and as such keep the ocean food chain healthy, a food chain which in turn supports regional fisheries for example. With recent shark finning and fishing activities occurring in the wider Caribbean including incidents in Curacao, Dominica and Aruba it behoves nation states in the Caribbean to establish a Wider Caribbean Managemant Plan for the species,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Project Manager for the Dutch Caribbean Alliance Save our Shark Project.

Shark Quinty was tagged under the supervision of Dr. Mike Heithaus on the Saba Bank. This 3.43-meter female tiger shark provided regular location updates. Quinty left the Saba Bank following the Aves ridge down south and subsequently swam all the way to Trinidad and Tobago, a territory known for its shark finning activities. The last received location of Quinty was close to Barbados about a year ago.

Another Shark dubbed Sea fairy was the first shark which was equipped with a satellite tag in this region and surfaced very frequently, providing researchers with a wealth of location and movement information. Sea fairy was a 2.40-meter female tiger shark at the moment it was tagged in the waters of St Maarten.

She stayed the first months around St Maarten while doing forays to Anguilla, St Barths, Saba and the Saba Bank. In May 2017 Sea fairy migrated south following the Aves ridge in a similar movement pattern as tiger shark Quinty. After spending two months at the Aves ridge Sea Fairy explored the open Caribbean Sea and headed to Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. The last location received for Sea Fairy was close to Puerto Rico also about a year ago.

“Sea fairy’s movement patterns can indicate a nursing area for tiger sharks around St Maarten, spending their juvenile years in sand and seagrass habitat before migrating around the Caribbean when large enough in size and maturity. It is interesting to see that both actively tracked sharks are showing similar migration routes following the Aves ridge, which may supply the sharks with an abundant food source” stated Nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

“In the coming year, we will expand our shark movement study and will install another satellite tag on a tiger shark on St Maarten and two more sharks will be equipped with a satellite tag on Aruba. This research will improve our understanding of the life characteristics of sharks and will provide knowledge about the population structure, abundance and migration of sharks in the Caribbean” explained Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Sharks are often portrayed as being dangerous killing machines, however the facts show the opposite. Occasionally shark bites do happen, however no unprovoked attack has been ever recorded on St. Maarten. It is more likely that one gets killed by a coconut falling on one’s head than by a shark. The species are actually the victims of human impacts such as poaching, finning, overfishing and irresponsible coastal development pressure. Worldwide over 100 million sharks are killed per year resulting in half of all shark species being threatened or endangered with extinction.

nature inside map Quinty 8nov2018 SATview

The track of Tiger shark Quinty through the Caribbean.

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Customs fines Jordanian traveler for undeclared $71,000+. Cocaine found on Curacao passenger

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - On Saturday October the 27th Custom Officers at the Princess Juliana International Airport during an intense and routine control gave a fine to a Jordanian national with initials D.Y.B. departing to Panama.

The passenger was travelling with US$ 71.700,- and didn’t declare his monies to the Customs officials. All fines are ordained by the Public Prosecutor.

On Sunday November 4th, during another intense and routine control, Custom Officers at the Princes Juliana International Airport confiscated (2) packages of cocaine weighing +/_ 2135 gram, Gross, from a passenger with initials I.C.S. a Dutch national from Curacao.

The two packages were hidden inside his suitcase. The suspect arrived on a Winair flight from Curacao and has been arrested. No further information can be given as investigation is ongoing.

Intensified controls will continue at both airport and harbor locations. (Sint Maarten Customs)

cocainefindings2

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Prime Minister Romeo Marlin clarifies Public & National Holidays

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Prime Minister Leona Romeo Marlin has taken note of the debate that has spread through the community concerning her statement during the Council of Ministers Press Briefing on Wednesday morning.

Through this press release, the Prime Minister aims to clarify the difference between a Public & National holiday.

During the Council of Ministers Press Briefing, Prime Minister Romeo Marlin stated the following, “……I also take this opportunity to clarify that Sint Maarten Day is not a National holiday, thus Monday November 12th will be a regular working day.”

Sint Maarten Day by law is celebrated only on the date November 11th, unlike other Public holidays, there is no provision for an alternate date if the holiday falls on a weekend. 

By definition a Public holiday is a holiday that is generally established by law and is usually a non-working day. While a National holiday is a day when a nation or a non-sovereign country celebrates its independence, establishment or an otherwise important occasion.

With that being established, Sint Maarten is not an independent nation and thus its holidays are referred to as Public Holidays or in Dutch “feestdagen”. Therefore, by definition Sint Maarten Day is a Public holiday.

It is also worthwhile to note that France and all its Territories including French St. Martin have been celebrating Armistice Day on November 11th since 1918 as a Public holiday.

In the early 1950’s the local elected officials of both Dutch & French side got together to establish a celebration that acknowledged Christopher Columbus sighting of Sint Maarten on November 11th, thus establishing St. Maarten day as a shared holiday that alternates on both sides.

Prime Minister Romeo Marlin also reminds the public that the Sint Maarten flag is celebrated on Sint Maarten Day, “so let us hold our flag high and take pride in our country as we celebrate our “Sweet Sint Maarten Land”.

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Sarah hails AUC’s partnership to create a Caribbean Center for Disaster Medicine

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Following her queries to Ministers Johnson, Smith and Lee of respectively TEATT, MECYS and VSA, regarding the partnership recently entered into by the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) in a Memorandum of Understanding to create a Caribbean Center for Disaster Medicine (CCDM), Member of Parliament (MP), Sarah Wescot-Williams was recently privy to the discussions between aforementioned Ministers and AUC regarding this very topic. 

The MP, upon learning of the partnership had written to the three ministers, informing them of the Agreement. As a follow up, AUC was invited to present details of the partnership to the Government Ministers. 

“The CCDM’s purpose is to increase disaster resiliency in the Caribbean and throughout the world by providing education in disaster medicine, conducting research, and collaborating with disaster management systems on Sint Maarten and within the region” stated Heidi Chumley, Executive Dean at AUC. 

The MP’s queries to the Government Ministers centered on the possibility of tag-teaming with the AUC in this venture.

“I am of the opinion that this partnership could have a spinoff for St. Maarten in several ways - educational, medical and touristical. From the meeting with AUC officials it became evident that indeed this partnership is good for the country as a whole. I encourage the government to pursue this route, as no stone should be left unturned as we seek to rebuild our country and our economy. Small steps, big steps, they all are part of the journey to recovery,” Wescot –Williams stated.

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School bus fight investigation leads to arrest of a 19-year old

PHILIPSBURG - In connection with the fight which took place on the school bus on November 5th, 2018, which was posted on Social Media, detectives of the Police Youth and Morals Department have located the victim. The victim in the presence of her parents has filed an official complaint.

The suspect with the initials: M.R.K. 19 years old was arrested in connection with this investigation and she will remain in custody for questioning and further investigations. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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Minister Johnson gives message of hope to mark Caribbean Tourism Day

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – On September 7th, 2017 the outlook as a nation was bleak. “Hurricane Irma ravaged our beautiful island in the sun, yet through the strength and will of our people, St. Maarten now has more than just a glimmer of hope, “we are on track to re-establish our dominance as the preferred tourism destination in the Caribbean, taking full advantage of the opportunity to rebrand and improve our product.” 

Those were the words of Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunication (TEATT), to mark the celebration of Caribbean Tourism Day (CTD). Celebrated annually under the theme “One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean,” CTD seeks to create greater tourism awareness among Caribbean citizens. 

Work continues annually to increase tourism awareness by enhancing the profile of the Caribbean tourism sector in the marketplace and through positive international media coverage of the Caribbean. 

“This year I wish to highlight the character and strength of the people of St. Maarten, who have persevered through perhaps the most difficult challenge many of us would face throughout our entire lives,” said Johnson.  “While we work to ensure infrastructural developments remain on target and the return of all major and regional carriers to our destination, in pre-Irma numbers, it is our people who will be the main ingredient in our rebranding efforts as a tourism destination," said Johnson. 

He said his ministry continues to work diligently to ensure cruise lines return with the numbers rapidly exceeding the 3 million passenger mark. Hotel operators continue working tirelessly to get their resorts back on track, and this shows our collective determination to persevere in the face of great odds.

"While we are nowhere near where we need to be as a country, we have every reason to be proud of where we are today," said Johnson.

For many years, St. Maarten has been a unique vacation destination with its French counterparts inhabiting the entire coast which faces Anguilla and providing a fresh Caribbean flavour of fun in the sea, sand and sun. They complement the audacious Dutch side on the south coast that continues to be the entertainment mecca of the Caribbean, with a variety of places to see and things for couples and families to do. 

“Even though both sides are governed independently, we work well with each other and the islands in the region. We provide a stable hub service for travel through the region, which we hope to expand on at Airport SXM, and we are also a regional transhipment point for many islands whose goods are transported through Port SXM to its final destination." 

“Naturally, the mix of nationalities that makes up our citizenry who share the same landmass, makes us one of the most unique destinations in the world,” said Johnson. 

No doubt, these beautiful features will be on the minds of many who have accepted our invitation to return to St. Maarten, and every individual on St. Maarten must ensure that they are ready to welcome our guests. 

Minister Johnson said, "This tourism season, which incidentally commences in the month in which we celebrate Tourism, will perhaps be one of the most important seasons for St. Maarten as we strive to build a sustainable destination."

He said, "Our actions over the past year has shown, not just our resilience but our determination not to be reduced to less than what we were valued at, as a Caribbean tourism destination. I, therefore, challenge every citizen to reach deep within themselves, and search for that extra St. Maarten flavoured ounce of enthusiasm and utilise this energy to propel us through to the end of a successful 2018 – 2019 tourism season. 

Join me in thanking the many who have wished us well and have contributed over the past year to our rebuilding efforts and in extending a warm welcome to our shores and a hearty thank you to all of our visitors today and in the future. 

“Thank you for trusting us with your vacation as we are acutely aware of the many options you have globally. Your confidence in our destination is what drives us to continuously strive to exceed your expectation of excellence in service, hospitality and quality products.” 

Your confidence shown encourages us to continue to work towards ensuring the completion of developments such as the reopening of the main terminal of Airport SXM to make travel hassle-free.  We will continue to work diligently to finalize US Pre-Clearance, and we will continue to work with our industry partners throughout the world including our airline partners to show that St. Maarten is indeed open and ready for to welcome its guests back home.

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Guyanese Association to Host Diwali celebration

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Guyanese Association (SMGA) will on Tuesday, November 6, join with our Hindu brothers and sisters to celebrate the annual Diwali, 'Festival Lights', the SMGA said in a statement on Monday.

“SMGA would like to take this opportunity to wish all Hindus a Happy Diwali, especially those in the Diaspora who are spending this festivity in our adopted homeland, St. Maarten.

“President of the Association, Ms. Velda Blackett is encouraging our Hindu brothers and sisters to come out and celebrate this auspicious occasion with the Guyanese Association at the Back Street meeting room in Philipsburg on Tuesday from 7:45pm.

“A member of the St. Maarten Hindu Organization will be conducting the evening's proceedings. Persons who are not familiar with this Hindu festivity are invited to come out dressed in white or Indian wear to learn more about it.

“SMGA will also be lighting diyas (earthen lamps) to welcome this magical time. There will be lots of Indian dishes to eat and drink. Diwali will be observed on November 7.

“Blackett said this is an opportune time to celebrate and embrace love, joy, and everything else that is good. May your life be filled with infinite joy, wealth, and health. Happy Diwali to you!”

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SCDF pushing St. Maarten Carnival on Uber Soca Cruise

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) has joined soca lovers from around the world on the Uber Soca cruise to promote Carnival 2019 “Carnival 50” as well as destination St. Maarten.

Along with the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB) and many other persons and partners from St. Maarten and French St. Maarten, the SCDF will seek to build long-standing relationships in the region that could lead to beneficial partnerships for the further growth of Carnival.

The very popular cruise not only attracts Soca music and Carnival lovers, but key power players in the industry. Festivals throughout the Caribbean have a presence on the cruise. SCDF not only have representatives present, but a Carnival video is being played on screens aboard the ship, there is signage and other material to leave an impression. The foundation members also took part is a presentation for St. Maarten and St. Maarten Carnival.

“Attending Uber Soca cruises is something we have always targeted. It’s a positive step that we can do so in collaboration with the STB since Carnival ties into what STB’s core objective is, and that is to promote and attract people to destination St. Maarten.

“We are also joined by many St. Maarteners, some who live on St. Maarten others who live elsewhere. We wave our flags proudly and of course we fete the way we fete. We plan on taking full advantage of every opportunity,” President of the SCDF Alston Lourens said.

Uber Soca Cruise is the largest Soca festival at sea, the 5-day, 4-Night cruise experience fuses the energy and excitement of Carnival with the feel of a luxury cruise to create an experience beyond music. It features non-stop Soca fetes and the best Soca entertainers in the world. 

With over 45 events including a pre-party, live concerts, themed-parties, Mas, a J’ouvert, sports competitions, comedy shows, pool parties and panel discussions, USC is the ultimate carnival experience.

carnival scdf on ship

St. Maarten is well-represented on the Uber Soca cruise. This is just a small portion of the amount of St. Maarteners on the cruise.

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Sarah Returns from 73rd UNGA Meetings. Presents Report to Parliament

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - President of Parliament, Sarah Wescot-Williams returned from New York last weekend where she participated in the Political-Civil Society Delegation to the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

It is the second consecutive year St. Maarten was invited to be part of the Kingdom Delegation, consisting of Members of the First and Second Chambers of the Netherlands and Civil Society representatives. 

Gender, Peace and Security were but some of the topics that were presented in several Committee meetings as well as in presentations, tailored especially for the visiting Delegation.

So-called “hot regions” that have the special attention of the Security Council, but also other programs that look at the fall-out of conflicts all over the world were approached from the contexts of migration and human smuggling, sexual violence, human rights, extremism and prosecution. In this context, the International Court of Justice was also a topic of discussion. 

In her report to Parliament, MP Wescot-Williams also outlined that St. Maarten and the other Dutch Caribbean constituent countries (Aruba and Curacao) were given the opportunity to talk with the Dutch Permanent Mission to the UN about the Dutch Caribbean countries’ drive for stronger representation in international affairs and the diversity of the Kingdom partners, which work against the Caribbean countries, when it comes to tapping into funding available for developing countries. Nevertheless, the three countries’ representatives were able to have separate talks with the UN Women agency as well as UN Water representatives. 

In the meeting with UNDP representatives, this agency’s reform agenda was also expounded upon. The UNDP is no stranger to St. Maarten and is a partner in the hurricane recovery efforts on the island. 

MP Wescot-Williams concluded her report to Parliament recommending that: 

  • The Parliament of St. Maarten keenly monitors the compliance of the Kingdom Government with the joint Parliamentary instruction regarding the Dispute Regulation.
  • The agreed upon periodic consultation-outside of IPKO- with Aruba and Curacao takes place urgently.
  • More effort is put into ensuring a more equitable representation in organizations that could benefit the country.
  • The Kingdom Government be asked (via the St. Maarten Government) to find ways to put us on the side of the receiving countries, when it comes to benefitting from UN funding and programs, most if not all which are heavily funded by the very Dutch Kingdom itself.
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Winair’s inflight magazine will receive a make over

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - After careful consideration and extensive negotiations WINAIR has reached an agreement with publishing company Les Editions Ante Insulae to create a new and improved inflight magazine.

The magazine will not only provide essential information with regards to WINAIR and Caribsky but will feature exclusive interviews and interesting articles focused on tourism, culture, art, nature, wellness and so much more! And it will be bilingual; in English and French.

The magazine will also have online and social media presence, to provide our customers with interesting, helpful and fun information about WINAIR, Caribsky and WINAIR’s destinations. The first edition is expected to be distributed December 15, 2018.

“WINAIR is excited to work with Les Editions Ante Insulae to take our inflight magazine to the next level. We are positive that customers will love to read this new magazine on our flights and at home but will also consider it a must follow on social media” states Helena de Bekker, Marketing and Media Manager WINAIR.

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