Final report St.Eustatius Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network

Summary 

Coral reefs provide some of the most valuable ecosystem services for the islands. They are a driver of tourism, they protect against storms, and support local fisheries. To monitor this resource the regionally agreed Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) scientific methods and guidelines for the Caribbean, provide a basic framework to contribute inter-comparable data that support a regional understanding of status and trends of Caribbean coral reefs, providing a systematic snapshot of ecosystem health and insight into temporal trends in reef condition. The data contribute to our understanding of processes shaping coral reefs, and to actionable advice to policy makers, stakeholders, and communities.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs, as part of its efforts for the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), together with GCRMN and the SPAW protocol convened a regional workshop in Curacao August 6th – 8th, 2014 during which coral reef experts from the region came together and discussed how to better coordinate ongoing Caribbean coral reef monitoring and stimulate and support monitoring in areas that lack capacity for sustained monitoring efforts. There was a clear consensus on the importance of revitalizing and formalizing the regional network, with the adoption of a simple and accessible regional data set and associated methods. The group agreed on a minimum core set of data to be collected, with associated recommended protocols and methods, developing a model for simple, accessible, but also scientifically pertinent and sustainable monitoring, both from a regional and local perspective.
The local situation on St Eustatius is in desperate need of scientifically pertinent and sustainable coral reef monitoring. Historically there have been only widely scattered and non-sustainable coral reef monitoring efforts in Statia’s waters. Following the protocols established at this and subsequent GCRMN workshops will allow the Island Government of St Eustatius to establish a 2015 baseline of coral reef health indicators, record future changes in coral reef health and manage natural and anthropogenic disasters which may affect the coral reefs.
The survey location is the St. Eustatius National Marine Park (SNMP), which surrounds the island from the high water mark to a depth of 30 meters. To maximize comparability across the region, GCRMN data will be collected solely from forereef habitats at depths ranging from 8 – 15 meters. This report descibes the main findings