Saba Bank research expedition 2011 – Progress Report
The Saba Bank is a large submerged carbonate platform of approximately 2,200 km2 in the Caribbean Sea which lies partially within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Netherlands and partially within the territorial waters of Saba and St. Eustatius. It was declared a protected area by the Dutch Government on 15 December 2010 and has been registered as such in the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) protocol of the Cartagena Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean. Applications for a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) at IMO and Ecological or Biological Significant Area (EBSA) at CBD are pending.
As part of the Saba Bank research program 2011-2016, commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ), an expedition to the Saba Bank was conducted from 22 to 29 October 2011. The Saba Bank research program aims to obtain information on the biodiversity, key ecological processes and carrying capacity for commercial fisheries to facilitate sustainable management of the area. The primary objectives of the 2011 research expedition were to collect data on benthic and reef fish communities; sponges and nutritional sources of the sponge community; seabirds and marine mammals; water quality, water velocity and other physical parameters. A multidisciplinary team conducted video and visual surveys on benthos, fish and sponges during 10 SCUBA dives at 20-30m depth, while sea birds and marine mammals were surveyed by means of on-board visual surveys and acoustic data loggers. Water velocity and water quality were also measured on-board using an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) and Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) device.
During the expedition 8 sponge species were collected and 37 scleractinian coral species and 85 fish species were identified.Fish biomass varied per site between 1.3 kg to 4.4 kg.
Part of the measurements on water velocity, water quality and benthic cover are still in the process of being analysed. Data collected will also be used as baseline for future monitoring and analyses of biodiversity and key ecological processes within the framework of the 2011-2016 research program.