PHILIPSBURG – Over 100 protestors joined the Dolphin Defenders on Maho Beach, St Maarten at the weekend to demonstrate against rumoured plans for a dolphinarium at the hotel development at Burgeaux Bay, Beacon Hill. Two days after the protest Minister of VROMI Egbert Doran denied Alegria Real Estate NV (Alegria) rights to the water surrounding the hotel development saying his decision was ‘in the best interest of the people of Sint Maarten’.
Dolphin Defenders organised the protest after the Court of First Instance’s ruling in early September that long-lease rights, lasting sixty years should be issued for an area of over 13,500 square meters. This would allow Alegria to develop a resort which could lead to construction of a sea aquarium and a breakwater or jetty.
Video by Tim van Dijk
Protest organiser and Dolphin Defenders representative Mercedes de Windt takes rumours very seriously. Over twenty years environmental organisations and animal activists on St Maarten have successfully blocked numerous entrepreneurs from building sea-life centers and dolphinariums.
Mercedes de Windt: We take rumours seriously
Tadzio Bervoets, director of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance expressed his disappointment that this issue has arisen again. He released a short video expressing his stance on the proposals and explaining the potential environmental impact of a breakwater on Maho Beach.
The St Maarten Nature Foundation advised the government negatively regarding the proposed marine developments stating that similar applications often lead to dolphinariums and sea aquariums which they ‘firmly stand against’. The organisation assessed that a breakwater could result in the erosion of Maho Beach and also found six species of endangered coral in the area which would be destroyed.
Heeding the advice of the Nature Foundation and experts at the Ministry of VROMI, Egbert Doran, Minister of VROMI officially denied Alegria’s water rights on September 6th. Doran states that the decision given by the injunction judge was temporary and that the case was wrongly filed in the civil court when it was an administrative matter. He also condemned the VROMI Secretary-General and the previous attorney representing the government, stating they were not authorised to make an agreement based on a temporary decision.
Louis Brown, the Secretary-General of VROMI has since been suspended.
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Alegria did not respond to repeated requests for comment.