National Marine Park was established in 1996 with the objective
of conserving and managing the marine resources for
the benefit and enjoyment of the people and future generations.
The park surrounds the island (encompassing the entire
coast) and extends from the high water mark out to a
depth of 30 metres (100 ft). The total area of the park
is 27.5 km2. Within the Marine Park, there are two actively
managed reserves where anchoring and fishing are not
permitted in order to protect pristine coral reef.
Marine Life of Statia
There are 3 types of coral reef within the marine park.
Many of the reefs have developed on the remains of an
extinct volcano (the Boven area) and a dormant volcano
(the Quill area). The types of substrate corals have
colonized range from bombs and lava blocks to solidified
lava flows shaped like ‘fingers’. In the
Southern Reserve, a distinctive spur and groove zone
(a series of alternating rocky fingers and sandy channels)
has formed. The third reef type has formed on the remains
of wrecks, both new and old, dating from the 1700s to
The coral reefs of the Marine Park also boast a high
biodiversity. 100% cover (with over 43% coral and 15%
sponges) has been recorded in the Reserves. A wide array
of tropical reef creatures resides in and around these
reefs as well. Among these species are: Angelfish, Butterflyfish,
Flying Gurnard, Moray Eels, Spotted Drums, Frogfish,
Sea Horses, Octopus, Lobster, Rays, Sharks, and Turtles.
From January to April, the calls of Dolphins and Whales
can often be heard as they migrate through the Marine
Park. The Botanical Garden presents a popular viewpoint
for Humpbacks during this time.
on Reefs and Their Status Worldwide
Corals themselves are very delicate structures made
up of tiny animals called polyps. A coral polyp consists
mostly of a soft stomach, stinging tentacles, and a
mouth surrounded by a hard limestone skeleton. The formation
of a large reef is a long and arduous process. Colonies
of thousands of coral polyps can take hundreds of years
to form massive reefs. The structure of each reef is
developed through growth of new colonies over older
Coral reefs around the world are under threat resulting
in the possible loss of the most highly productive and
diverse ecosystem. Coral reefs support thousands of
species, provide food to millions of people, and act
as barriers against floods and coastal erosion.
Factors Currently Threatening Coral Reefs in the Caribbean
- Natural events such as hurricanes and diseases can
destroy entire reefs.
- Physical impacts from anchors, boat groundings,
and divers have an adverse affect on reefs.
- Climate change, leading to increased water temperatures,
causes coral bleaching (coral turns white as it loses
the algae upon which it depends for food). Prolonged
bleaching may cause death.
Within the Marine Park, there are two marine reserves
(the Northern and Southern Reserves). No fishing or
anchoring is allowed in these areas in order to protect
pristine coral reefs. The majority of the coral reef
area around Statia is contained within the Reserves.
Throughout both Reserves, dive moorings are maintained
to prevent people from anchoring, while still allowing
them the opportunity to enjoy the unique experience
of diving on a reef. The Reserves were set up to conserve
marine biodiversity, restore dwindling fish stocks,
promote sustainable tourism, and safeguard the marine
of the National Marine Park
- Installation and maintenance of 42 dive, snorkel,
and yacht moorings.
- Education and raising awareness about the importance
of marine conservation.
- Research and monitoring including:
- Reef Check
- Fishery Assessments
- Coral Watch (to monitor bleaching)
- Turtle Conservation and Monitoring
- Tanker Impacts
- Recreational Use
- Patrolling and enforcement of park laws and regulations.
- Working closely with local dive operators and live-aboards.
- Diving and fishery enhancement through creation
of artificial reefs.
- Advisory role to government for coastal development,
tourism, and pollution.
Snorkeling is a popular pastime for those visiting Statia. While many of the coral reefs are only accessible by diving, there are a number available to snorkelers. In Oranje Bay, you can get a snorkelers introduction to the history of Statia with a view of many cannons, anchors, submerged sea walls, crumbling warehouses, and the remains of old piers. Entry points include Oranje Bay beach, Golden Era Hotel pier, and the harbour beach.
There are also 3 snorkel sites available by boat (Blind Shoal and Twelve Guns in the Southern Reserve and Inner Jenkings Bay in the Northern Reserve). There are moorings available at these three sites. Snorkelers wishing to use the Marine Park moorings are required to purchase a dive tag: $6 for a single dive or $30 for an annual pass (proceeds go towards mooring maintenance).
Yachts are welcome to anchor or moor in Oranje Bay.
The Marine Park maintains 12 yacht moorings in the bay
(white buoys). There is a yacht fee of $10/night or
$30/week. Fees go towards regular maintenance, cleaning,
and rope replacement of the moorings.
Guidelines for Yachts
- The Park Rangers collect mooring fees daily and
can advise on available facilities (water, laundry,
shopping, fuel, ice, and weather forecasts)
- For Customs and Immigration proceed to the Harbour
Office (open Monday-Friday: 0800 – 1600, weekends:
0800 – 1100) for paperwork and registration.
- The Parks Office is open Monday-Thursday: 0800
– 1700, and Friday: 0800 – 1600.
- The Marine Park can be contacted on VHF 17/16 and
the Harbour Office may be reached on VHF 14.
- Waste disposal bins are available at the City Pier.
- The international law (MARPOL) prohibits the discharge
of any type of solid or liquid waste, including food,
into the sea within 3 miles of land.
- Vessels with onboard holding tanks are encouraged
to use them and to dispose of waste periodically offshore.
Mooring Your Yacht
Visiting yachts are only allowed to moor on the yellow
Marine Park moorings provided in Oranjestad Bay. To
moor your boat:
- Approach the floating pick-up line of the mooring
by heading into the wind or current at a very slow
speed. Shift engine into neutral before reaching the
- Pick up the eye of the pick-up line with you boat
- Thread your bowline through the eye-splice of the
pick-up line twice, or thimble once, to prevent chafing.
Do not tie off eye at the boat stern.
- Bring your line back to the boat and cleat it off
on the same side. DO NOT put the pick-up line eye
over your boat cleat.
- When leaving the mooring, back away with the wind
after casting off the pick-up line.
* Rafting with other boats is not permitted while occupying
Marine Park moorings. During heavy seas, it is recommended
to use an anchor as additional support.
Anchoring Your Yacht
If moorings are not available or their use is inappropriate,
please use these guidelines to anchor:
- Shift engine into neutral and slowly head into the
wind or current and be sure crew, anchor, and anchor
line are ready.
- When selecting an anchorage, observe the bottom.
Make sure your anchor line is 5 times the water depth.
Do not drop your anchor on coral reefs or seagrass
beds. Most of Oranje Bay has a sandy bottom.
- Once an anchorage is determined, lower the anchor
over the side; never throw the anchor.
- Slowly play out the anchor line to avoid the line
from dropping into a pile on the bottom.
- Allow time for the anchor to catch hold. Let the
current or wind drift the boat back. Once the anchor
is set, fasten the anchor line to the bow cleat.
- Reverse the boat slowly, creating a steady strain
on the anchor line to ensure the anchor is holding.
If the anchor is moving, pull it up and try again.
- Check for dragging by noticing vibrations on the
anchor line, or by visible jerks on the line.
* Do not anchor within 30 m (100 ft) of any mooring
or regulatory buoy. If in doubt where to anchor, call
the Marine Park on VHF 17/16.
the Statia National Marine Park dive map here
- Diving within the Marine Park is allowed only through local dive operators. (There are three dive operators on the island.)
- Each diver must purchase a dive tag (sold through
the dive operator).
-annual diving pass= $30
-single dive pass= $6
*All fees go towards operational and maintenance costs of the Marine Park.
- Avoid wearing gloves and touching or collecting marine life, including shells.
- When diving near coral, be aware of trailing equipment and your fins. The slightest touch can damage or kill sensitive coral.
- Do not feed fish. It changes their natural behavior
- Leave historical artifacts undisturbed to allow
future divers to enjoy them.
- Report any turtle and cetacean sightings to the
National Parks Office.
- Never touch, disturb, or harass a turtle or any
other encountered marine life.
All species of sea turtles in the Caribbean region have come under threat in recent years due to a multitude of factors and are currently under stress for a growing number of reasons. Natural habitat destruction and modification as well as human impact are playing a large role in current population declines.
Jessica Berkel – Marine park manager
The Sea Turtle Conservation Program was initiated in 2001 and is managed by St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation (STENAPA), coordinated by Marine park manager– Jessica Berkel – and affiliated to the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST). STENAPA established the Sea Turtle Program following concerns that the island's sea turtle populations were being threatened by anthropogenic disturbance and destruction of nesting beach habitats through sand mining, joy riding and pollution. The main goal of the Sea Turtle Program is achieved by safeguarding critical sea turtles habitats, conducting research to provide policy and decision markers with current, relevant data on the status of sea turtles in the Caribbean region and limiting environmental impacts on nesting beaches and near–shore waters. One of the most important factors to ensure the success of the projects is the direct involvement of the local community as well as children in the program to promote a better understanding of the importance of long term conservation of these reptiles.
The Sea Turtle Conservation Program activities include:
- protection of nesting beaches
- beach cleanups
- anti–plastics campaign
- education, community outreach and media exposure
- beach mapping and erosion measurements
- females monitoring, tagging, sea turtles research
- nests and hatchlings protection
- Zeelandia beautification project
- in–water turtle sightings
- turtle strandings observation
- Sea turtle eggs incubation
There are three main species of sea turtles nesting in the Eastern Caribbean and on St. Eustatius. These are the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), the green (Chelonia mydas – the major nesting species on Statia) and the hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). All of them are endangered or critically endangered species as classified by IUCN. There has also been one unconfirmed report of a nesting fourth species – the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) which IUCN classes as threatened.
The nesting season begins in March with the Leatherbacks, Green turtles are usually recorded from July until September, Hawksbills are observed form July to the end of nesting season – November.
There are five nesting beaches on the island of St. Eustatius, two on the Caribbean side and three on the Atlantic side. The beaches with the highest number of nests and emergences are on the Atlantic side with the main beach being Zeelandia beach, which is the only place where all three species nest regularly. As Zeelandia is the index beach for nesting turtles STENAPA conducts beach cleanups there at the beginning of the sea turtle nesting season and usually once a month during the entire season.
Because of the highly dynamic nature of Zeelandia beach as well as hurricane season in the summer and autumn, STENAPA measures beach erosion rate, cliff falls and sand movement using the stakes (1 to 70) which are placed for nest triangulation and are situated at a distance of 20 meters apart. It is very important to estimate the "danger zones" to protect turtle nests in those areas.
Because of the anthropogenic impact on sea turtles nesting beaches, St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation staff does passive beach protection using signs to inform the public that some activities like dogs digging in the sand can destroy protected nests and partially excavate them. Staff also places barriers against driving on the beach and removing sand.
A turtle monitoring program was started in 2002 with very sporadic monitoring because of a lack of personnel, but in 2003 regular night patrols were conducted following the introduction of the Internship Program as well as the Working Abroad Program, which brings groups of international volunteers from around the world, including Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Holland, Poland, Belgium, Hungary, Germany and New Zealand to assist with projects in the National and Marine Parks. Every volunteer and intern receives turtle training before assisting with beach monitoring including basic introduction to sea turtles, their biology and nesting behaviour as well as beach monitoring protocols and correct use of the data collection sheets.
Using only red light during patrol is less disturbing for sea turtles.
By 2004 the program had expanded to include morning track surveys and nightly beach patrols on several of the island's nesting beaches, with a dedicated vehicle and full –time project coordinator during the nesting season. Daily track surveys are carried out on Zeelandia and Turtle Beach throughout the nesting season. Every track is identified to species. Hourly night patrols are conducted from early evening until the early morning hours. The primary objective of the beach patrols is to encounter as many nesting turtles as possible, apply external flipper tags and internal PIT tags as appropriate, collect length and width of carapace measurements and mark the location of the nests. All nests are recorded for inclusion in the nest survival and hatchlings success study.
Green turtle hatchlings on Zeelandia Beach..
In January 2008 STENAPA started in-water surveys in order to assess the current status and distribution of foraging turtle aggregations in surrounding waters. Future monitoring is needed to observe any changes in resident Green and Hawksbill populations and active protection of the foraging grounds of these species is essential to their continued existence within the National Marine Park. We continue this project with regular surveys.
As the St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation is a non-governmental organization, STENAPA's staff cannot avoid problems and difficulties that unfortunately hamper the effective running of the Sea Turtle Conservation Program which mostly relies on donations. Lack of funds as well as lack of specialized personnel, equipment and a dedicated truck are major stumbling blocks.
If you are interested in helping us to protect our sea turtles and contribute to Statia's marine biodiversity:
Donations are welcome and very needed. Additionally active and passionate volunteers to assist the Sea Turtle Conservation Program are welcome.
The Sea Turtle Conservation Program is in need of:
- New dedicated truck (New or used and in good condition)
- Red light headlamps
- Monetary donations
- Reptile incubators
- Special camera with red colour flash
- Active volunteers