Assessment of Iguana iguana Saba subpopulation, Saba Green Iguana
Assessment by: van den Burg, M.P. & Debrot, A.O.
Assessment of Iguana iguana Saba subpopulation, Saba Green Iguana
The Lesser Antillean Iguana, Iguana delicatissima is the largest extant native land vertebrate of St. Eustatius and was recently lost (~1990s) from the only other Dutch Caribbean island where it was native (St. Maarten). It is an IUCN Red List Critically Endangered (CR) species that has disappeared from most islands in the Lesser Antilles. A recognized principal cause for its endangerment throughout the islands is displacement by and hybridization with invasive alien Green Iguanas, Iguana iguana (IAGI) (Knapp et al. 2014). On 22nd February 2016 an adult female IAGI was caught in Princess Estates, St. Eustatius. The possibility that the animal had been present on the island for a longer period, that it may have laid one or more nests, or the possibility that there may have been other IAGIs on the island, represented an imminent danger to the continued existence of the Lesser Antillean Iguana. We conducted a Rapid Response Extermination Campaign (RREC) with the goal of wiping out the IAGI at an early stage. Three thorough visual surveys were conducted during 2016-2017 in key risk areas in an attempt to detect and eliminate all IAGIs and their hybrids. In total 409.5 observer hours were spent during three dedicated surveys in and around areas where IAGIs or hybrids had been captured, seen or reported. Searches were conducted over a total of 40 days and covered a total of trajectory of 114.2 km. Only a single detection was realized during these directed surveys. This suggests that the RREC took place at an early stage of the invasion. Nevertheless, due to local publicity via newspapers and radio programs, several records were reported by the public. Thanks to these reports, and opportunistic encounters by park management staff, five captures of IAGIs or their hybrids were realized between February 2016 and January 2017. Since then eight additional captures have been realized, demonstrating that the RREC, even when augmented by public support and extra vigilance by park management staff, was insufficient to purge the island of the IAGI. Our study documents three distinct IAGI introductions between 2013 and 2020, one of which was likely intentional and two of which were incidental stowaways on container ships. Our results show that, even though it is a relatively large animal, due to its relatively secretive nature, camouflage, and high fecundity, eliminating the IAGI from an island will require a more intensive and sustained effort than we provided, even by means of an RREC in the early stages of the invasion. Informing stakeholders and the public in an early stage of the campaign can clearly make a critical contribution towards an RREC. Even four years after the campaign, the numbers of the IAGI and its hybrids still appear to be limited and concentrated in and around inhabited areas, their likely main point of entry being the island’s harbour. We conclude that it may not be too late to quell the invasion before the critically endangered, largest surviving island-endemic vertebrate is permanently lost from St. Eustatius. Additional IAGI extermination campaigns need to be launched as soon as possible. The harbour of St. Maarten was identified as the source on the most recent 2020 introduction. As St. Maarten serves as a major inter-island trans-shipment hub in the Lesser Antilles, and the Lesser Antilles are rich in endemic iguanas vulnerable to the IAGI, it is essential that St. Maarten ports cull all Green Iguanas in and around their grounds to prevent the spread of this major pest to the islands with which they trade.
De huidige voedselproductie op de eilanden Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba is beperkt. Zowel de overheid als de lokale bevolking hebben de afgelopen jaren initiatieven genomen om de voedselproductie te verhogen. Deze studie trekt daar lering uit en komt met concrete aanbevelingen voor zowel het beleid als de sector (land- en tuinbouw, veeteelt en visserij). Centraal staan, voor elk van de drie eilanden, vier op te stellen plannen: een integraal zoetwaterplan, een agrarisch ontwikkelplan, een visserijontwikkelplan en een agrarisch onderwijsplan. Dit onderwijsplan moet leiden tot een grotere interesse voor lokale voedselproductie bij jongeren en dient zich te richten op kennis en vaardigheden ten behoeve van zowel duurzame innovatieve intensivering van productiesystemen als professionele voedselproductie in combinatie met nevenactiviteiten met betrekking tot toerisme of zorg.
Trefwoorden: Caribisch Nederland, duurzame voedselproductie, zoetwaterplan, agrarisch ontwikkelplan, visserijontwikkelplan, agrarisch onderwijsplan.
The Spaanse Water is a relatively turbid, 3.19 km2 inland bay of virtually oceanic salinities and contains the largest seagrass, algal and mangrove areas of the Curaçao Underwater Park. During 1989 and 1990, a quantitative community assessment of the larger attached flora and fauna of the seagrass and algal meadows of the bay was conducted at 151 6 m2 stations using a quadrat sampling technique.
A total of 13 different assemblages were distinguished. Shallow assemblages were dominated by Thalassia testudinum and Halimeda opuntia. As depth increased and light levels decreased, Thalassia gave way to increased coverages of especially H. opuntia, H. incrassata, Cladophora sp. and Caulerpa verticillata. In areas with significant availability of hard substrate an assemblage characterised (though not dominated) by corals was found at depths of 0–2 m, while sponges were concentrated at depths of about 4 m. The richest assemblages were found in shallow areas with high light levels and where a mix of both hard and soft substrate occurred. Assemblages with the lowest species richness were typically associated with low light intensities, soupy muds or homogeneous sandy sediments of high grain size.
The Jan Thiel lagoon can be considered the most important wetland of Curaçao based on its combined value as a feeding habitat for terns. As is likely the case in general with the other saliñas of Curaçao, Jan Thiel lagoon appears to be of the greatest significance to flamingos during the dry season when the larger wetlands in Venezuela run dry. The lagoon is also an area that has historically provided conditions suitable for massive nesting by rare species of terns. Nesting by terns still occurs but on a much lesser scale and with fewer species. During the rainy season, and because of the presence of many dams which retain fresh water on the eastern half of the lagoon, the area is of persistent value to several waterbirds which showed a preference for feeding in less saline water. These include species such as ducks, sandpipers, and black-winged stilts.
The lagoon is approximately 80 ha and is surrounded by approximately 228 ha of additional scenic conservation area which contain rare tracts of native vegetation and which provide valuable habitat to many other native species such as konènchi, sloke, tapa kaminda, and warawara. The best vegetations are found on the eastern side of the lagoon, particularly the southern quadrant of the eastern half of the lagoon. This quadrant has quite rare vegetation, best described as a Haematoxylon-Coccoloba vegetation in which the dreifi shimaron is found to be abundant on volcanic soil. Such vegetation is also known from areas of Oostpunt, Malpais, and Seru Cocori. Other species remarkably abundant in the Haematoxylon-Coccoloba unit include the mata piska and the palu di pushi while the presence of scattered kibrahacha and mangel di sabana likely indicate species which were once much more abundant but which have somehow survived the intensive use of this area in the past. Rare plant species found in the area include the trees lumbra blanku (Croton niveus), kurahout (Peltophorum acutifolum), mata kombles (Schoepfia schreberi), "fuma machu" (Vitex cymosa). For the latter species, less than 20 trees are known to exist in the Dutch Antilles.
A major limitation to the avifaunal use of the lagoon, particularly the flamingos and tern nesting is the current high level of uncontrolled recreational disturbance. Unintentional recreational disturbance can likely be greatly reduced by a combination of properly informing visitors, by planting vegetation barriers to shelter visitors from the constant sight of the birds and by partially redirecting trails.
The planned Jan Thiel-Amandelweg road is a major threat to the ecological integrity of the conservation area. The road is protected to lie directly in the two most important freshwater areas bordering the lagoon and on top of one of the four locations which support tern breeding. The mere physical presence of the road is in itself a scourge to the vegetation as is cuts through a part of the Haematoxylon-Coccoloba vegetation and lies directly on top of three (fortunately resprouting) very rare Vitex cymosa trees. If this road is ever built it will add a large source of constant disturbance (incl. traffic noise) for much of the eastern half of the lagoon (which is the principal area used by the avifauna), and a major source of littering and contaminants from vehicles.
The abandoned landfill of Koraal Specht has not been sealed to prevent rainwater percolation and several seeps were seen to emanate from the landfill and flow into the lagoon. The landfill likely forms a serious long-term threat to the lagoon and a study is needed with regards to the potential leaching of contaminants.
Even though there are very many scattered seabird sighting records for the pelagic waters of the wider Caribbean Sea, only few studies bring these data together to generate a more comprehensive understanding of seabird use of the offshore areas of the region. The same is the case for the Dutch Caribbean EEZ which amounts to about 92 thousand km2 of the Caribbean Sea. As a consequence, information on seabird use of offshore waters has been identified as a key knowledge gap and research priority for both EEZ conservation and management purposes (Jongman et al. 2010, Meesters et al. 2010) and in support of a Bonaire-Curacao UNESCO World Heritage nomination that has been a Bonaire government ambition since 2003 (Debrot et al. 2017).
In this project we followed up on these information needs by compiling many older but as-yet unpublished seabird records around the Dutch Caribbean islands, the eastern Caribbean as well as many poorly accessible seabird records for the waters off the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela. The most important additions of previously unavailable or new records for the eastern Caribbean were as follows: 1824 records by Poppe (1974), 627 by Halewijn (1972), 443 recent records by M. de Boer and J. Saulino (2014) all principally for the waters of the Dutch Caribbean, 547 records from Casler and Lira (1979) and Casler and Pirela (2004) for the northwestern sector of Venezuela and 249 records by Naranjo (1979) and Estela et al. (2004) for the Caribbean coast of Colombia. These were subsequently merged with several smaller and larger sources of seabird sighting records to yield a current total compilation of 150,372 sighting records with either exact or approximate position determinations.
The database provides temporal and positional occurrence information for 65 nominate species and 13 larger familial or generic species groups in the Caribbean basin. As such, it provides a major new opportunity for the WUR to study and publish on various aspects of seabird distribution in the coming years. The potential topics include: 1) the community composition of the pelagic seabirds of the Caribbean in comparison with the community structure of other pelagic seabird communities, 2) how different habitat features (such as upwelling areas, proximity of nesting and/or roosting areas) are used by different species, 3) the identification of temporal trends in seabird species distribution and abundance, 4) identification of areas deserving conservation and management priority, either around seabird colonies or at the high seas.
- Fish abundance and biomass differed per artificial reef type.
- This difference is driven by the availability of small shelters.
- Artificial reef deployment can be more efficient by choosing better performing or cheaper designs.
In this study, we compared the early fish colonization of three types of artificial reefs deployed in the coastal waters of Saba and St Eustatius in the Caribbean: reef balls®, layered cakes and piles of locally obtained basaltic rock. As an indicator of performance, three fish assemblage parameters (abundance, biomass, species richness) were measured using underwater visual censuses at 11 months post-deployment and 4 months after restoration from hurricane damage. All artificial reef plots showed higher values for fish abundance, biomass and species richness than control plots covered by bare sand, which shows that artificial reefs can locally enhance the fish assemblage. However, the effect differed among artificial reef plots. Fish abundance was 3.8 times higher on the layered cake plots compared to the reef ball plots, while fish biomass was 4.6 times higher. Rock pile plots had intermediate values. Species richness did not differ significantly among different artificial reef plots. Three-dimensional modelling revealed that layered cakes had a smaller gross volume, shelter volume and total surface area than reef balls. The availability of multiple small shelters in the layered cake design appeared to be more relevant than other physical parameters, as the layered cake plots had higher fish abundance than the reef balls plots. We concluded that on Saba and St. Eustatius, layered cake plots performed better than reef ball plots after one year of colonization. Rock pile plots, made of local volcanic rock, showed an intermediate performance, and were 4–10 times cheaper to construct. If observed differences are consistent with other locations and persist during further colonization, current efforts to deploy reef balls could better be allocated to deploy artificial reef structures with a higher shelter density.
Reef ball® , Layered cake, Fish abundance, Shelter availability, Habitat restoration, Artificial reef
The objective of this study was to quantify the extent and nature of submerged debris at beaches in Curacao.
Sinds de staatkundige herstructurering van het Koninkrijk in 2010, maken de Caribische eilanden van Bonaire, Saba en St. Eustatius als speciale gemeenten formeel deel uit van Nederland. Het Ministerie van Economische Zaken (sinds eind 2017: Ministerie van Landbouw, Natuur en Voedselkwaliteit) heeft daarmee de eindverantwoordelijkheid voor de uitvoering en implementatie van een zevental internationale natuurbeschermingsverdragen voor de eilanden. Deze verantwoordelijkheden houden verplichtingen in en leiden tot verschillende beleidsvragen. Om hieraan invulling te geven wordt eens in de vijf jaar een natuurbeleidsplan opgesteld en wordt er gerapporteerd in het kader van de Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) en het Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) protocol van het Cartagena Verdrag maar er wordt niet gerapporteerd door middel van een “natuurbalans” zoals in Europees Nederland. Voor de evaluatie van het gevoerde natuurbeleid en het opstellen van nieuwe natuurbeleidsplannen is echter rapportage over de staat van de natuur essentieel. Als maat voor de “staat van de natuur” hebben we een methodiek gebruikt die zoveel mogelijk aansluit op de staat van instandhouding (SvI) conform de Habitatrichtlijn (HR).
Caribisch Nederland maakt onderdeel uit van de Caribische “biodiversity hotspot” met een zeer hoge biodiversiteit en hoge menselijke druk. De hoge biodiversiteit uit zich in het voorkomen van zeer veel endemische soorten (soorten met een zeer klein verspreidingsgebied) en de hoge menselijke druk uit zich in veel bedreigde soorten. Caribisch Nederland telt ongeveer 130 endemische soorten en 143 internationaal bedreigde soorten van beleidsrelevantie (bijlage 1).
In deze opdracht wordt door 33 deskundigen en natuurbeheerders gerapporteerd over de SvI van een selecte groep habitats en soorten of soortgroepen (bedreigde, sleutel- en indicator-soorten) waarvoor over voldoende kennis wordt beschikt. Als maat voor de SvI van de natuur hebben we een methodiek gebruikt die zo nauw mogelijk aansluit op de methodiek voor de bepaling van de SvI zoals gehanteerd in de HR. Daarnaast wordt ook een probleemanalyse gegeven van mogelijke oorzaken en aanbevelingen gedaan voor managementoplossingen. Vanwege de structurele achterstand in kennis en monitoring van het grootste deel van de Caribisch Nederlandse biodiversiteit was een kwantitatieve rapportage voor de meeste soorten en soortgroepen niet mogelijk.
Keywords: staat van instandhouding, natuur, habitats, soorten soortgroepen, Caribisch Nederland.
Based on traditional knowledge of the Saban fishermen, a spawning aggregation area (SPAG) for the Red Hind (Epinephelus guttatus) and the Queen Triggerfish (Balistes vetula) has long been known at the northeast end of the Saba Bank, locally known as the Moonfish Bank. SPAG’s are very vulnerable to overfishing because these fish aggregations are predictable in space and time. Both are species of special concern throughout the wider Caribbean, due to overfishing. In 2013 a 5-year seasonal closure was arranged that prohibited fishing the Moonfish Bank from the 1st of December to 28th of February, within which, according to local knowledge, mass spawning takes place. The closure ended in February 2018. In this report we provide a preliminary evaluation of the effect of this 5-year seasonal closure on Red Hind and Queen Triggerfish populations of the Saba Bank based on the monitoring of fishes landed in the Saba Port in those 5 years, throughout the year. For both focal species we examined annual differences in the length-frequency distributions and Landings Per Trip (LPT; number of fish landed per fishing trip) from bycatches in both shallow (~30 m) lobster traps and deep (~100 m) snapper trap fisheries, using port landing data from 2011, which is prior to implementation of the closure measure in 2013, until September 2018.
Our preliminary assessment by means of Generalized Linear Model (GLM) analysis gives no indication of any improvement in LPT or mean size caught for either of the two species examined since the seasonal closure was initiated in 2013. Results even suggest a small but significant decrease in the size of Red Hinds caught as by catch in the lobster pot fishery. This means that, based on the port sampling method used, no significant positive effect on the Red Hind and Queen Triggerfish populations of the 5-year closure can yet be demonstrated. There are many possible explanations for this result, which are presented in the discussion. In particular, there is reason to believe that the current closure area may not be large enough to properly protect the Moonfish Bank SPAG and that there likely are other SPAG’s on the Saba Bank that may also need protection. Therefore, further fisheries-independent research on these and other matters is needed on which basis it may be possible to improve protection so that positive evidence of the effectiveness of the closure may be documented in the future.
Based on fisheries-independent visual diver surveys in the shallow (~ 20m depth) coral reef zone of the Saba Bank edges in 2011, 2013 and 2015, the current population status of our focal species (in that limited habitat zone of the Bank) is as follows: Red Hinds averaged 118.7 ± 53.5 (ind. ha-1) with a mean size of about 24 cm, while Queen Triggerfish averaged 56.0 ± 37.6 (ind. ha-1) with a median size of about 29 cm (data of 2011, 2013 and 2015 combined). For both focal species, the median size landed in the fishery (Red Hind: about 31 or 33 cm depending on the type of fishery pots; Queen Triggerfish: 34 cm) was considerably larger than the mean size of the population on the reef based on surveys along the available coral reef transects. This is generally to be expected as fishing gears and fisheries typically select for larger individuals. We cautiously suggest that compared to many other areas in the Caribbean (e.g. Bonaire and Curaçao) where the Red Hind and the Queen Triggerfish once were common but now have disappeared, the populations of both these species living in the shallow coral reefs of the Saba Bank still seem relatively healthy in terms of both population density and size-structure.
Based on experiences elsewhere in the region, there is no question that protection of spawning aggregations is a basic need for sustainable management and fishery production in mass-spawning species. Therefore, our main management recommendation is that the closure should continue. However, to reliably asses the effect of seasonal closure and to further improve protection of the spawning grounds for these species, more intensive and consistent data is needed from port sampling which should also (minimally) include data on sex and maturity of the landed fish, even though such data fall outside the typical scope of routine fisheries port sampling. Most critically, directed fisheries-independent research will be needed to answer several critical questions regarding stock status and when and where spawning aggregations are actually taking place, to improve the effectiveness of seasonal closures of spawning areas of Red Hind and Queen Triggerfish on the Saba Bank.