August 5, 2010

Boats Needed to Support First Scientific Survey of Coral Reefs Of Haiti

The coral reefs of Haiti are the second highest biodiversity ecosystem in the country. Yet there has never been a comprehensive survey of Haiti’s coral reefs using a standard method. Fringing reefs are found along most of the 1800 km long coastline, however, the status of most of these reefs is unknown. The coral reefs of Haiti have been largely ignored by scientists, aid groups, NGOs and the government. Small-scale surveys carried out by Reef Check staff in 1984, 2004 and most recently in May 2010 as well as by others indicate that most reefs have been overfished and many damaged by sedimentation resulting from large-scale terrestrial erosion caused by unrestrained forest cutting and poorly planned agriculture. On top of this, some reefs may have been damaged during the January 2010 earthquake that destroyed hundreds of thousands of buildings and killed 250,000 people.
To be successful, natural resource management and humanitarian/socioeconomic work in Haiti should include the marine environment and especially coral reefs. If properly managed, coral reefs and associated ecosystems could provide Haiti with significant biodiversity value as well as solutions to pressing socioeconomic issues. The first step is to survey them to determine what their biodiversity, conservation and socioeconomic value is. Over the longer term, there is a need to build capacity within the community, NGOs and government to be able to better integrate marine issues and coral reefs into national planning. There is almost zero capacity now. Education and conservation will follow this survey hand in hand with ecotourism and other livelihood projects.
In October 2010, Reef Check will launch the first complete survey of Haiti’s coral reefs. To do this the 1800 km coast will be divided into seven sections as follows:
  1. North coast (Cape Haitien)
  2. Tortuga Island
  3. South Coast of Cape Haitien peninsula
  4. Arcadine Coast
  5. Gonave Island and Arcadine Islands
  6. Port au Prince to Moron (north coast of south arm of Haiti)
  7. Moron to the DR Border
During Year 1, we will survey approximately 300 km of coral reefs using a combination of manta tow, timed swim and standard Reef Check methods (Hodgson, et al., 2006).
Reef Check is seeking donations of boat and crew time to support 1 to 2 week expeditions to each of these areas during the next three years. Ideally, boats would be 15 m to 50 m in length with facilities to support 4 to 6 marine biologists, a skiff, and on board compressor.
Interested parties should contact: Dr. Gregor Hodgson