Assessing Reefs to Select Marine Protected Areas
The Bahamas has been a regional leader in the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), such as parks and marine fishery reserves for conservation and fishery management. At present, The Bahamas has approximately 10% of its nearshore waters protected in some form of MPA, and has committed to expanding there protected area system to include 20% of nearshore habitats by 2020.
The Perry Institute and its partners have been active in providing guidance for the designation of these areas by conducting Rapid Ecological Assessments (REAs) of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and other habitats at candidate sites. These REAs provide valuable information on what habitats are present at candidate MPA sites, as well as the condition of these habitats and the status of fish and key invertebrate populations in the area. Since 2011, we have assessed over 300 reef sites in The Bahamas – with most contributing to the selection of new MPA sites or development of management plans for previously designated sites.
Building on our past work, we will be conducting REAs in several locations in 2017, such as:
- Walker’s Cay
- Eleuthera Island
- North Berry Islands
- Exuma Cays
In late 2017 or early 2018 we are also planning REAs for Cat Island and Long Island, Bahamas.
Additional Conservation Impacts
Results from REAs also help guide reef and mangrove restoration efforts and stock assessments for key species. They also contribute to monitoring of coral populations in areas where impacts from increased sea temperatures or hurricanes have occurred. Results of surveys can be found in coral reef report cards that are published periodically and other media to be released later this year – Check back in June!
- Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment
- Bahamas National Trust
- The Nature Conservancy
- Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation
- Cape Eleuthera Institute
- Atlantis Blue Project
- Allstar Liveaboards