Ecology

Even before the ecology became a leading concern of the 21st century, St Barts has tried to preserve its environment. The creation of a marine park, separating and recycling household trash before incineration, cisterns under houses to collect rainwater, incentives to use low-energy light bulbs, protection of the salt flats…all gestures that can be considered the first steps in protecting the ecosystems of the island.

“Les Saint-Barths”, or native islanders, have never forgotten their past and often refer to their lives “in the old days,” before the island became a top tourist destination. They led a simple life, eating fresh fish, and fruits and vegetables cultivated in small gardens, collecting salt from the salt flats, trading necessities with a neighbor, or going to Gustavia to buy basic goods that came in by schooner from Guadeloupe. Even if their lifestyle has greatly evolved, the population remains close to nature, trying to protect the ecosystem of their island. A popular pastime for many is fishing, using the same traditional methods as the island’s professional fishermen, with fish such as red tuna, mahi-mahi, and wahoo still plentiful on the menu and in the waters surrounding the island.

Founded in October 1996, a Marine Park allowed the creation of protected underwater zones around St Barts. Fishing and gathering of certain species (living or dead) is controlled on the shores and underwater throughout the marine park zones. Professional fishing in these areas is strictly regulated and subject to authorization. Two zones are highly protected (Petite Anse, and between Marigot and Petit Cul de Sac) where it is strictly forbidden to fish, anchor, or dive using air tanks, in an effort to create areas for the reproduction and development of marine species. Fishing with a line from a non-anchored boat is authorized in these protected zones, while water-skiing and anchoring are forbidden as well, an exception being mooring in zones specifically equipped. Mooring blocks have been places in the bays of Fourchue, Colombier, and Petit Cul-de-Sac, so that boats can anchor without destroying the ocean bottom. At authorized dive sites, mooring are also in place so that professionals, who pay a local fee, can anchor safely.

In 1998, St Barts became the first island in the Caribbean to institute a recycling program for household trash, which is burned in a modern incineration that needs European standards. The steam it produces is used for the desalination of water, a high-tech system not used elsewhere in the Antilles. No trash is thrown into the ocean: that which cannot be burned is stockpiled and sent to Europe by barge for recycling. At a recent territorial council meeting, it was voted to use low-energy lamps for all public lighting. And finally, the council will offer financial aid for the installation of solar water heaters and solar panels to encourage individual homeowners to embrace energy conservation.

St. Barths' Marine Reserve

St. Barths has joined its sister islands of the Caribbean in their attempt to protect their marine resources. The decree of creation of St. Barths' Marine Reserve was signed, in Paris, on October 10, 1996 by the Prime Minister of France and the French Minister of Environment, making it the 132nd natural reserve of France.


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