Sea Discovery

Living Oceans Foundation Conducts Underwater Survey of Jamaica’s Pedro Bank

Image: Ocean Reef Survey Recently the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation conducted the most extensive underwater survey to date of Pedro Bank, Jamaica. The Foundation worked in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, the University of West Indies, The Department of Fisheries and the National Environment and Planning Agency of Jamaica to characterize the plants, animals and underwater habitat of Pedro Bank; including the area of a proposed fish sanctuary. The international team of scientists aboard the Living Oceans Foundation’s research ship, Golden Shadow, spent more than 200 combined hours underwater gathering data on fish species and populations as well as health and resilience data for corals and other invertebrates. The survey was part of the Foundation’s multi-year Global Reef Expedition.

Discovery of reefs containing large healthy star corals and elkhorn corals combined with limited observations of potentially damaging macroalgae were positive signs for the health of Pedro Bank coral reefs. However, Capt. Phil Renaud, Executive Director of the Foundation noted that, “The fish abundance, diversity and size distribution is low on Pedro Bank when compared with historical fish data. In particular, populations of parrotfish and surgeonfish were alarmingly low – alarming in the sense that these fish are the house-keepers of the coral reefs by grazing algae and preventing algae from out-competing the corals.”

During the research, scientists from The Nature Conservancy used side scan sonar to image much of the 15 squared km proposed fish sanctuary. This was the first such survey done on Pedro Bank and the data will be used to make detailed habitat maps of the proposed sanctuary. This will aid in the management of the area by identifying key locations that are important nurseries and fish habitats. Overall, the scientific work conducted on Pedro Bank will provide a baseline that will assist the Jamaican government in assessing the effectiveness of the fish sanctuary when it is fully implemented.

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