Saba Bank National Park

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Chapter 3. SITE DESCRIPTION

h - Information and knowledge

Information and knowledge available


A first review of the existing knowledge and a quick field survey of the Bank was completed in 1996. While confirming that little was known about Saba Bank, this study concluded that it was an area of great interest, both geologically and biologically. The review reports that, although different views exist, the most recent conclusion in 1977 by Van der Land is that Saba Bank is an actively growing, though submerged atoll, and as such it is the largest in the Caribbean and the third largest in the world. The Review also concludes that it is a regionally unique ecosystem, relatively pristine and remote from human influences, with high biological diversity and productivity, potentially an important source of fish and invertebrate larvae to the islands of Saba, Sint Maarten, the islands of the Greater Antilles and the Virgin islands. At the same time Meesters notes that there is a threat of overfishing and damage from anchoring by large tankers.

A first in-depth fisheries catch assessment was concluded in 2000 that provided solid data about the state of the fisheries. This study concluded that no new fishing permits should be issued until a long term fishery

With the help of Conservation International, a Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) of Saba Bank was organized in 2006. It was this survey of Saba Bank’s biodiversity that more than anything demonstrated the richness of its biodiversity. Not only were many species of fishes, corals and sponges found that had not been reported before, but Saba Bank was found to have a uniquely diverse marine macro-algal flora; including many new species of marine macro-algae never described before. Reports of the findings of this RAP expedition were published a special volume dedicated to Saba Bank of the electronic journal Public Library of Science, PLoS One. The volume includes characterizations of Saba Bank’s extraordinary macro-algae communities, as well as assessments of the sponges, hard corals, and fishes.

In 2007 a high-resolution bathymetric GIS map of Saba Bank was produced. This map formed the basis for further study of Saba Bank, including a detailed characterization of some of the bottom habitats and associated fish assemblages of the Bank, also presented here in the special PLoS One Saba Bank volume. At the same time a second fisheries assessment was undertaken to follow up on the 2000 study. Another expedition was organized, this time to assess the crustacean and gorgonian fauna of Saba Bank. The gorgonian survey, also in the PLoS One volume, discovered two undescribed octocoral species and was able to distinguish two different shallow water gorgonian habitats.

In 2012 a long term fishery monitoring program started as well as visual surveys of marine mammals and sea birds in the area.

Because the Saba Bank is such a huge area, the available knowledge is far from complete. Future work will include further mapping and characterization of bottom habitats on the Bank, study of the health of the coral reefs, and acoustic surveys of marine mammals.

List of the main publications


Title Author Year Editor / review

Briefly indicate in the chart if any regular monitoring is performed and for what groups/species

Species / group monitored
(give the scientific name)
Frequency of monitoring
(annual / biannual / etc...)
Comments
(In particular, you can describe here the monitoring methods that are used)
Panulirus argus continuously monitoring of fishery landings
red snapper (Lutjanus spp.) continuously monitoring of fishery landings
coral reefs annual yearly monitoring of health, coral and algae cover using adapted AGRRA and Reef Check protocols
marine mammals annual visual and acoustic monitoring of marine mammals