Seabirds, marine mammals and human activities on the Saba Bank
During the HNLMS 'TYDEMAN' bathymetric expedition on the Saba Bank, April - May 1996, two observers spent 7 weeks on board and to collect data on the distribution of
seabirds, marine mammals, and human activities (fishing, shipping). The results show that the Saba Bank has a bird fauna that is relatively rich as compared with the surrounding seas, whilst the birds seem to be concentrated along the edges of the Bank. Observed cetaceans included three dolphin and one whale species. The bird and cetacean observations were made during a transitional season in which groups of animals are migrating into the area whilst others are migrating out.
Human activities included fishing (the distribution of fish pots was determined, and the activities of a few fishermen observed) and shipping. Especially the observation of large
tankers anchoring close to the edge of the Bank in areas where coral reefs occur, was identified as a threat.
The report presents the primary results of an opportunistic project which has yielded many rough but valuable data about the Saba Bank in April-May. These data are available
for future management of the Saba Bank. The preliminary elaboration of the data in this report confirm the importance of especially the edges of the the Saba Bank for birds and
suggest the Bank being a feeding area for populations that breed on the neighbouring islands. Together with the observations of different species of cetaceans, the results
confirm the idea that the Saba Bank has considerable importance or the marine biodiversity in the region of the leeward Antilles. The position of the Saba Bank, partly
within the territorial waters of the Netherlands Antilles but completely within the limits of a hypothetical Exclusive Economic Zone, offers a great promise that protection (and sustainable use) of these natural values can be legally effected.