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Reefs of an uninhabited Caribbean island: fishes, benthic habitat, and opportunities to discern reef fishery impact
Miller, M.W.; Gerstner, C.L. (2002). Reefs of an uninhabited Caribbean island: fishes, benthic habitat, and opportunities to discern reef fishery impact. Biol. Conserv. 106(1): 37-44
In: Biological Conservation. Elsevier: Barking. ISSN 0006-3207, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 

    Artisanal fishing; Baseline studies; Benthic environment; Conservation; Coral reefs; Environmental impact; Environmental monitoring; Environmental studies; Fisheries; Islands; Reef fisheries; Resources; Trophic relationships; Diadema antillarum Philippi, 1845 [WoRMS]; Greater Antilles, Haiti [Marine Regions]; Greater Antilles, Jamaica [Marine Regions]; West Indies [Marine Regions]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Miller, M.W.
  • Gerstner, C.L.

    Navassa Island is a tiny, (5 km2) uninhabited US protectorate located between Jamaica and Haiti. It is part of the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge, under the jurisdiction of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. We conducted a quantitative assessment of Navassa's coral reef fishes and benthic habitat, in order to assist with the development of conservation plan for the island. The shallow reefs of Navassa (< 23m) have high live coral cover (range 20-26.1%), high degree of architectural complexity (rugosity index range 1.4-1.9), and moderate abundance of the keystone grazing urchin, Diadema antillarum, at all sites (mean 2.9 plus or minus 0.9 per 30 m2). Despite its remoteness, an unregulated, artisanal fishery (primarily using traps and hook and line) carried out by Haitians is the primary mode of human impact on Navassa reefs. Even so, reef fish communities exhibit high density (range 97-140 fish per 60 m2) and retain representation by large snapper, grouper and herbivores, which are mostly lacking in nearby Caribbean locations with high fishing pressure. Thus, Navassa reefs appear to be trophically intact with fish populations relatively "unexploited," presenting a conservation challenge and a research opportunity. The regulation and conservation of the fishery will be difficult, due to the international nature of the situation. However, given the apparently small impact that artisanal fisheries have yet had on its reef communities, Navassa presents a possibly unique opportunity to study the ecological functioning of a relatively trophically intact Caribbean reef, and represents a strong imperative for conservation, monitoring, and research.

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