Status of Caribbean Reefs
Since June 1998, 13 large-scale AGRRA assessments have been completed and the results are being prepared for publication. Support for the initiative has come from the The Henry Foundation, Barcardi Family Foundation, Hachette Filipacchi Foundation, National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration, Ocean Research Education Foundation, United Nations Environmental Program, United States Department of Interior, and the World Bank/Netherlands Environment Partnership Program. Below are some of the highlights from these surveys.
Many reefs of the Wider Caribbean are in relatively good condition:
| ||Intermediate-deep reefs of the Flower Gardens, Los Roques, Venezuela, and Bonaire are in very good condition with all areas having high (40-50 percent) coral cover, large coral sizes, low macroalgae ( approximately less than 20 percent), low recent mortality ( approximately less than 2 percent), and good representations of fish populations. |
| ||The majority of other areas surveyed (Cayman Islands, St. Vincent, Andros, Turks and Caiços, and Cuba) are in good condition but with some moderate disturbances (e.g., overfishing, tourism). |
| ||The Andros Island Reef System, some 150 kilometers (93.2 miles) long, contains remarkably healthy shallow reefs with extensive stands of living Acropora palmata. |
| ||Old mortality of reef building corals is low to moderate (~20-30%) in most areas. |
| ||Although much of the Caribbean experienced a major coral bleaching event in the summer and fall of 1998, the majority of areas surveyed recovered with only minor coral mortality affecting selected species.|
| ||Herbivorous fish (e.g., scarids and acanthurids) abundances appear moderate to high in most areas.|
Selected reef areas are showing signs of disturbance and decline:
| ||Moderate to severe coral mortality was observed in portions of the Bahamas and in much of South Central Belize and Honduras associated with the 1998 bleaching event. |
| ||Significant amounts of standing old dead Acropora occur in portions of Mexico, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Honduras, South Central Belize, and Venezuela. |
| ||Coral diseases are moderate to high in Belize, Honduras, and areas of the Bahamas and Cuba.|
| ||Macroalgal abundances are moderate to high ( more than 25 percent) in Belize, Honduras, Bahamas, Mexico, and Cuba. |
| ||Herbivorous fish abundances are low in San Salvador, Bahamas, Cuba, and Mexico. Low abundances and smaller sizes of commercial fishes are found in these same areas, as well as in St. Vincent. |
There are currently additional assessments underway in Mexico, US Virgin Islands, Saba, Belize, Curaçao, and Brazil. Goals for the AGGRA Program over the next two years include collaboration of team leaders to synthesize data for regional comparisons of reef condition, developing a regional database accessible to all, and expanding assessments to additional areas in the region. The target date for completing the assessment of the Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico region is the end of the year 2001. AGRRA welcomes collaboration and partnerships with individuals and organizations interested in this large-scale effort.