France Designates Caribbean Nature Reserve as 41st Ramsar Site

1 May 2012: The Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) has announced that the Government of France has designated its 41st Wetland of International Importance, a Protected Biotope and Nature Reserve on the Caribbean island of Saint-Martin, shared by France and the Netherlands, and called "Zones humides et marines de Saint-Martin."  

According to Ramsar, this coastal wetland provides feeding, breeding and wintering areas for 85 bird species, many of them threatened and some endemic. It supports most of the coral reef areas surrounding the island, and is habitat to several endangered and critically endangered sea turtles, as well as over 100 species of fish. The site plays various ecological functions, including water flow regulation, oxygenation of water, stabilization and storm protection, and reduction of pollutant loads entering the sea. In addition, recreational activities are carried out on the site.

The site is threatened by poaching, water pollution from sewage, extreme weather events, and increasing water temperatures.

France's designation contributes to one of the goals contained in the Ramsar Convention's Strategic Plan for 2009-2015, which is to reach a protected area of 250 million hectares by 2015. [Ramsar Press Release]