On February 1, 2012 a group of marine scientists from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources (BMR) performed the first of what is hoped to be a series of Reef Check survey dives on Mike’s Reef off southwestern New Providence, Bahamas. The survey group members were Frederick Arnett and Jared Dillet of DMR, Ancilleno Davis of TNC, and Lakeshia Anderson, Lindy Knowles and Krista Sherman of BNT. With the exception of Mr. Knowles, the group had been previously trained in Reef Check methodologies and was participating in a Training of Trainers workshop with Reef Check Dominican Republic’s Dr. Ruben Torres.
Mike’s Reef is located 3.2 km off the southwestern coast of New Providence. The reef was chosen because it is a popular, well used site for recreational divers and receives daily visitors almost year-round. The site is also used for recreational and small scale commercial fishing. Mike’s Reef is located within the proposed Western New Providence Managed Marine Area and is an ideal site for comparison to other, less used reefs (e.g. marine reserves) within The Bahamas. Two surveys were completed using the Reef Check methodology.
Fish surveys showed that commercially important species (groupers, snappers and grunts) were in lower abundances when compared to non-target fish species (parrotfish and butterflyfish). These results are consistent with the current protection level of this area, which is non-existent.
Gorgonians were the most abundant Reef Check indicator invertebrate observed at Mike’s Reef along the transects. This may be due to high water flow-through in the area and the location of the transects on Mike’s Reef. Lobster abundance could be low due to subsistence or recreational fishing pressure. The low Diadema abundance observed during this study is typical of the region following the 1980s epidemic from which only shallow areas are beginning to recover. The other Reef Check indicator species are currently not of economic importance.
Even though 76% of the surveyed portion of Mike’s Reef consisted of non-living components, the low macroalgal coverage (due to grazing pressure by high parrotfish densities) could mean that there is suitable area for coral recruitment. However, live hard coral cover was 10% suggesting that there may be other factors preventing coral recruitment to the area not related to substrate type.
Impacts related to coral bleaching and disease were low (<5%). Anthropogenic impacts were also low (<1 on the 0-3 perceived impact scale) despite the fact that the area is heavily used by recreational divers. This may be indicative of local dive tour operator management (e.g. active trash removal and mooring buoys) of the area.
This was the first complete Reef Check survey to be conducted within the proposed boundaries of the South West Marine Managed Area in New Providence, Bahamas. The data presented in this report provide baseline information on the status of coral reef health in the area surveyed on Mike’s Reef. Additional surveys are required to document changes in the area and obtain a more detailed understanding of coral reef health. CPR Certification Training
In addition to completing the surveys, a coral reef monitoring plan was drafted, indicating the minimum number of Reef Check surveys to be conducted throughout The Bahamas after Reef Check teams have been established in each location. Reef Check is intended to supplement ongoing coral reef monitoring in The Bahamas and it is recommended that detailed coral reef monitoring using a modified version of Reef Check or the AGRRA protocol be conducted in key areas every 3-5 years.