Sint Eustatius National Marine Park (Caribbean)

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Sint Eustatius National Marine Park (Caribbean)

Fri, 03/08/2019 - 14:59
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The Sint Eustatius National Marine Park encircles the Caribbean island and extends up to 3 km offshore. The Park protects habitats, including pristine, biologically-diverse coral reefs, seagrass beds, sandy seabed, and open ocean communities.

Sint Eustatius National Marine Park

The Sint Eustatius National Marine Park encircles the island from the high water line to the depth contour of 30 m (100 feet). It extends up to 3 km (1.8 miles) offshore. The island of Sint Eustatius lies in the Caribbean Sea, in the northern Leeward Islands portion of the West Indies.

Created in 1966, the Park covers an area of approximately 2,750 ha (6,800 acres). It protects various habitats, including pristine, biologically-diverse coral reefs, seagrass beds, sandy seabed, and open ocean communities. Eighteenth-century shipwrecks and modern-day artificial reefs promote fishing and dive tourism.

Within the Park, two marine reserves have been designated where fishing is prohibited: the Northern and Southern Reserve. In addition, no boats are allowed to anchor to promote sustainable tourism. However, diving is permitted, and dive moorings have been installed to protect the reefs.

The Sint Eustatius National Marine Park is one of the top five sites in the Caribbean for healthy coral and fish populations. In some parts of the Park, coral cover reaches 50%, including some strands of rare black coral.

The reefs shelter many species, including sea horses, octopuses, lobsters, manta rays, sharks, and turtles. The Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), and the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) nest on the sandy beaches of the island.

The Park also lies on the seasonal migration route of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), which can be spotted around Sint Eustatius from January to April.

The Sint Eustatius National Marine Park reefs are highly varied in morphology, having developed on the remains of an extinct volcano (Boven area) and a dormant volcano (The Quill). Reef formations include drop-off walls, volcanic 'fingers' and 'bombs,' and a distinctive spur and groove zone in the Southern Reserve.

The Park also includes shipwrecks that date from the 1700s as well as modern-day artificial reefs. These features and the Park's rich and unique biodiversity provide opportunities for high-quality diving experiences.

Snorkeling is also popular in the Park. In Oranje Bay, snorkelers can see cannons, anchors, submerged sea walls, crumbling warehouses, and the remains of old piers.

Sint Eustatius National Marine Park map - via Wikimedia Commons

Sint Eustatius National Marine Park map