Marine biodiversity assessment in St. Kitts and Nevis

Coral reef, St. Kitts and Nevis. Image: Björn Stude

A brief report on the findings so far of a marine biodiversity survey being carried out in St. Kitts and Nevis:

The Department of Environment (DoE) and the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Conserving Biodiversity Project is conducting a marine biodiversity/ecological assessment within the St. Kitts and Nevis Marine Management Area (SKN MMA) at the conservation zones in Keys, Sandy Point and the Narrows. Underwater video surveys were completed during the period, 13th -24th June 2018 and dive surveys will be conducted from 1st -18th August 2018.

Surveys were undertaken with support from the St. Kitts and Nevis Coast Guard, and assistance from Department of Marine Resources, Department of Fisheries and Department of Environment staff. Video footage showed extensive seagrass beds in the Narrows area along with soft coral gardens.

At Sandy Point sting rays were observed on the sandy areas of seabed, with seagrass beds found in shallow and deeper water. ‘Paradise’ reef had abundant corals, and several barracuda and a turtle were seen on the reef whilst the camera was being operated by a member of staff from Department of Marine Resources.

The Keys area survey was challenging, with the rough seas experienced on the Atlantic Coast limiting opportunities for survey, but a relatively calm day gave the opportunity for Department of Environment staff and Envision Mapping to survey the habitats which differ from the other areas.

Stands of old elkhorn coral are found furthest offshore with patches of coral reef, soft corals and marine algal gardens towards the coastline.

This was the first phase of the Marine Ecosystem Assessment project surveys and the second phase is due to begin in August when diving surveys will be undertaken in the Narrows and Sandy Point areas with some further video surveys carried out if weather permits.

The St. Kitts and Nevis coast guard provided invaluable assistance during this first phase of the surveys and Envision Mapping, United Nations Development Programme, Department of Environment, Department of Fisheries and Department of Marine Resources would like to express their gratitude to the boat crews and officers who helped during the survey.

Source. St. Kitts and Nevis Department of Environment media release.


[Image: Björn Stude]


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