PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten (Feb. 9, 2011) - St. Maarten (www.VacationStMaarten.com) recently established its first national marine park - the Man of War Shoal Marine Park. The aquatic area, which opened in late December, is the first step St. Maarten has taken towards preserving the area known as the Proselyte Reef, the island's most important underwater habitat.
"The development of the marine park has been long in the making and we are pleased to have begun the first and most crucial phase of the process. By creating the marine park, St. Maarten is taking steps to preserve the local environment as well as enhancing sustainable tourism," said Honorable Franklin Meyers, Minister of Economic Affairs, Tourism, Transportation and Telecommunications.
The Proselyte Reef includes the island's most important marine habitat consisting of coral reefs and sea grass beds as well as a large population of aquatic mammals, including whales, dolphins, sharks, sea turtles and fish. The reef also acts as a migratory stopover and breeding site for three IUCN Red List Species, 10 CITES Appendix I species and 89 Appendix II species.
The area was selected because of the ecological, economical and cultural value which provides more than $50 million per year in economic goods and services. In addition, this designated region will help boost tourism to the island as diving in marine parks is on the rise globally and is a tourist "must do" while on vacation.
The new Man of War Shoal marine park allows St. Maarten to have an official protected area that is enforced in accordance with the Specially Protected Areas of Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol and the federal decree on Maritime Management. Named after the HMS Proselyte - a 32-gun frigate that struck Man of War Shoal on Sept. 4, 1801, artifacts such as large anchors, cannons, barrel hoops, cannon balls and pottery are still present at the site, which is considered an archaeological treasure.
St. Maarten is the smallest island in the world to be shared by two nations, Kingdom of the Netherlands and France, creating a European-influenced vibe with a Caribbean flair. As "the culinary capital of the Caribbean," St. Maarten offers an eclectic array of cuisine fusion for food lovers with more than 365 restaurants, one for each day of the year to satisfy the tastes of every palate and pocketbook.
Located at the northern end of the Lesser Antilles, the island's 37 square miles has 37 breathtaking beaches and is home to many historical and family-oriented attractions. During the day, watersport enthusiasts can take full advantage of the island's scuba diving and snorkeling facilities. The capital of Philipsburg offers duty-free shopping with a bustling city atmosphere, while 14 casinos and numerous nightclubs provide endless entertainment.
Accommodations are varied and include elegant private villas, family oriented resorts, quaint cottages and luxury spa resorts. Air service is available to Princess Juliana International Airport from numerous U.S. and Canadian cities as well as from Europe, South America and the Caribbean.
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