September 12, 2012

The Bahamas Expands its Reef Check EcoDiver Network to the Exumas

Susanna practicing substrate surveys during an in-field training session.

By Reef Check EcoDiver Trainer Krista Sherman

Training activities under the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Full Size Project (FSP) pilot demonstration 3 — “Tourism and Coral Reef Health in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park” have been selected to provide the local communities in the Exumas with increased skills to pursue or engage in sustainable tourism activities as a means of employment or revenue generation and to promote environmental stewardship. A Reef Check EcoDiver Certification workshop was held at the Staniel Cay All-Age School during the 13-18th of August, 2012 in Staniel Cay, Exuma.

Reef Check EcoDiver surveys were conducted at two locations on North Horseshoe Reef. Substrate surveys were completed by Krista Sherman and Lindy Knowles, fish by Jacob Leese and Keiran Miller and invertebrates and impacts by Juan Antonio Puyol and Susanna Girolamo. Benthic cover was dominated by nutrient indicator algae (54%), rock (31%) and hard corals (8%). On average, grunts were the most abundant indicator fish species observed followed by parrotfish and butterflyfish. Mean abundance of

Newly certified Reef Check EcoDivers (l-r: Juan Antonio Puyol, Susanna Girolamo, Jacob Leese and Keiran Miller) with Reef Check Trainer & GEF FSP Coordinator, Krista Sherman.

gorgonians were the highest of all indicator invertebrates. No anthropogenic impacts were observed within the vicinity of the 100 m transect line. Although The Bahamas is currently under a coral bleaching watch, results indicated that only 4% of the coral populations surveyed were bleached with up to 14% of individual coral colonies showing signs of bleaching. The Reef Check Exuma team has agreed to assemble twice per year to conduct surveys at North Horseshoe Reef.

The Reef Check protocol was adopted by The Bahamas to supplement ongoing coral reef monitoring efforts in the country and in an effort to involve local communities in scientific research. The Bahamas’ team of certified Reef Check EcoDivers now welcomes Juan Antonio Puyol, Keiran Miller, Susanna Girolamo and Jacob Leese. The course was led by Krista Sherman (Reef Check EcoDiver Trainer and GEF FSP Coordinator for the Bahamas National Trust) with the assistance of Reef Check EcoDiver Lindy Knowles (Science Officer, Bahamas National Trust). Funding for this workshop was provided by the Waitt Foundation with support from the Bahamas National Trust through the GEF FSP.