Little Bay, Sint Maarten

Site description (2006 baseline):

Site location and context
Little Bay Pond is approximately 2.5 kilometers in diameter. It is located near the capital city of Phillipsburg but remains fairly undeveloped. Due to the low salinity (4-8 parts per thousand), this pond supports species uncommon in other parts of St. Maarten and the Lesser Antilles.

Key biodiversity
The Near Threatened Caribbean Coot nests at this site. Two nests have been recorded while a maximum of 22 individuals have been observed. Four pairs of Pied-billed Grebes have been recorded nesting at Fresh Pond. Four Common Moorhen pairs have been recorded nesting. White-cheeked Pintail and Ruddy Duck nest at this site as well. Other regionally limited species found at this site include Green-throated Carib Eulampis holosericeus, Antillean Crested Hummingbird Orthorhyncus cristatus, Pearly-eyed Thrasher Margarops fuscatus, and Lesser Antillean Bullfinch Loxigilla noctis.

Non-bird biodiversity: Not applicable.

Habitat and land use
Little Bay Pond is bordered by water grasses and red, black, and white mangrove trees. A busy road borders one side of the pond, above which is a residential development. The remainder of the pond is encircled by a hiking path which connects to the sea at the rocky shore of Little Bay. A small outlet feeds from the pond into the ocean. Surrounding areas are scrub habitat.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The pond is owned by a foreign development corporation and is up for sale. Previous development proposals have sought to dredge the pond and turn it into a marina, which would support a proposed resort. Local opposition halted these plans but no legal protections exist for the site. However, the legality of owning this pond has been questioned as all ponds are supposed to be public land. The water is high in nutrients from sewage outflow from surrounding areas, sometimes resulting in fish die-offs due to eutrophication. Trash is prevalent among the shoreline vegetation. Pollution runoff from adjacent roads is problematic. Predators such as cats, dogs, rats, and mongoose frequent the area.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Weekly or monthly population counts have been conducted every winter since 2001 by Environmental Protection In the Caribbean (EPIC). In 2004, a census was conducted during the spring and summer months as well. Nature Foundation St. Maarten planted mangrove trees at the site, which have thrived in the low salinity, high nutrient waters. EPIC and the Nature Foundation, with funding from Royal Caribbean, constructed a bird observation tower and educational signage along the hiking path. During the winter, free monthly educational mangrove/bird walks are held at the pond.

Protected areas
Little Bay Pond has no legal protection, although its aesthetic and ecological value have inspired residents to fight for its protection.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Little Bay, Sint Maarten. Downloaded from on 27/02/2024.