St. Martin’s Island, located in the middle of the chain of Caribbean Islands, is home to two countries and a disturbing number of illegal structures. Officially, no one is allowed to build any structure or carry out any activity that may harm the delicate flora and fauna of this uniquely diverse island’s ecology. Unfortunately the island’s government and approximately 5,000 residents have turned a blind eye to the enforcement of this decree that was intended to protect this ecologically critical area. Over two dozen businesses currently serve the community, however their number as well as the number of tourists that visit the island every year continues to increase dramatically. Of those privately owned businesses, most of them are operating in structures or facilities that do not meet the guidelines of the Department of Environment.
This infringement of humanity on the local ecology has had the predictable effect. In the past 8 years the number of sea turtles has continued to decline and raw sewage continues to make its way into the surrounding crystal blue waters. Without attention, these problems will only continue to increase.
When the Island was declared an ecologically critical area almost a decade ago there was an effort made to create a marine park and other attractions which would encourage visitors as well as create sustainable practices for the island. Unfortunately mismanagement and lack of governmental funding caused these attempts to flounder. Increased eco-tourism, if not maintained in a sustainable way, will only continue to deplete the fragile ecology of St. Martin’s.