Martinique: Shipwrecks of “St Pierre” and surroundings (North UCNH site) & Shipwreck of “Nahoon” and surroundings (South UCNH site)

Credits: Eloïne ALEXANDRE

Martinique belongs to the Antilles Sea basin, being part of the Lesser Antilles Island chain in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Despite of being the smallest of the French overseas territories, Martinique has one of the highest population densities in the Antilles. Its culture reflects a distinctive blend of French and West Indian influences, while its economy is typically Caribbean, depending heavily on a few agricultural products and mainly on tourism. Most visitors come from mainland France, Canada and other European Countries, while about 16% of total businesses on the island (≈ 6,000 companies) provide tourist-related services (food& accommodation, infotainment/leisure).  Martinique has a remarkable biodiversity compared to its small area. That’s why the preservation of endemic flowers, shrubs and animals, along with the respect for sea and nature are part of a proactive and growing eco-responsible approach by all local stakeholders. A continuously increasing number of local dive centres (>20) are offering “responsible” and eco-friendly underwater actions without disturbing the ecosystem. On land, eco-tourism is becoming increasingly important, as tourism business respect biodiversity aspects. Notably, Martinique has been recognized as hotspot of Biodiversity (reserve Mondial of Biodiversity), and all of its marine area is under the control of the Parc Naturel Marin de Martinique (i.e. Associated partner in ecoRoute) for monitoring activities and resources. Recently the volcanoes and forests of Mount Pelée and the peaks of northern Martinique have been included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2023. The focus of ecoRoute is on two UCNH sites (north & south): 

      1. Shipwrecks of St Pierre and surroundings (NORTH). St Pierre is a tourism hotspot because of old town ruins linked to 1902 Mount Pelée eruption. Hotels and tourism services are part of the city life as well as a mooring area for sailing ships. 3 dive centers are located in St Pierre, while others, like Deep Turtle Plongée, also offering diving missions there. Most of the 1902’s wrecks of St Pierre are easily accessed (close to the shore) but quite deep (30-40 m), such as: Roraima a 110 m propeller cargo and passenger ship built in 1883 in Scotland (40-55 m), Biscaye a 3-masts built in 1878 in the Basque Country (30 m), Diamant a passengers’ steam ship (25 m), and Tamaya (85 m) a steal hull sailing ship – they sunk during 1902’s Mount Pelée eruption. In the surroundings, valuable are the shipwrecks of Amélie (8m depth) a paddle steamer built in England in 1863 transformed into a 3-masts sunk in 1902 because of hull damage, and Cygne (6 m) a French Corvette built in 1806 sunk in 1808 because the English blockade. The sites are biodiversity hotspots thanks to the submarine life attracted by the wrecks.

      2. Shipwreck of Nahoon and surroundings (SOUTH). Represent a unique combination of amazing natural and cultural heritage, with incomparable biodiversity of aquatic fauna and flora with optimum visibility and diving spots, coupled with impressive shipwrecks and the famous “Diamond Rock”. Coastal areas in the south demonstrate coral sand and incredible transparency of the water. Central is the village of Anses d’Arlets with its 5 world famous creeks (Grande Anse, the city, Petite Anse, Anse Dufour and Anse Noire). The village was recently voted the 2nd most beautiful village in France; notably, with sea-turtles have taken up residence all year round! The area is a diving hotspot, having a share of 85-90% of the dives in Martinique. Therefore, it is essential for ecoRoute to implement local interventions which protect the environment and biodiversity, while boosting the regional blue economy. Highlights of the site are the wreck of Nahoon (35 m depth), which was sunk voluntarily in 1993 to become an artificial reef after having been used as buoy vessel in France Madagascar and Guadeloupe and being recovered by a private in 1967 and the “Diamond Rock”, with its large fault open to all levels of divers. This majestic rock, a real postcard, is an ornithological reserve sheltering the most varied species of birds.