The landing data for the lobster stock of the Saba Bank, collected annually since 2011, indicate that, despite reduced fishing pressure, there does not seem to be an increase in the stock from 2015 and that there seems to be structural overfishing and a decrease in the stock of egg-bearing female lobsters. Therefore, additional fishery-independent research into the lobster population on the Saba Bank is urgently needed. This research will use an underwater drone to map the occurrence and distribution of lobsters on the Saba Bank. This makes it possible to indicate any particularly important habitats and, based on a mapping of the bank's various habitats, to estimate the total stock of lobsters on the bank. Subsequently, it is possible to make a fishery-independent estimate of maximum lobster catches for the bank (MSY), which can serve as a better guideline for sustainable management than is currently possible on the basis of the catch data collected during regular port sampling.
Since the severe decline of the Acropora populations in Bonaire in the 1980s, no assessment has characterized the distribution of remnant colonies. Because of their patchy distribution, a large sampling effort is necessary to adequately describe their occurrence. However, the spatial scale at which this assessment needs to be carried out makes this prohibitive with approaches such as transects using SCUBA gear and photogrammetry. This internship project aimed to optimize and apply a simple methodology trialed by relevant stakeholders on the island to obtain coarse but spatially explicit data with relatively low time-investment. Snorkelers utilizing a waterproof GPS and a slate to record coarse categorical data outlined patches of Acropora cervicornis and Acropora palmata in-situ. These were processed with an ArcGIS workflow to create shapefiles of coral patches as polygons joined to their corresponding data. The resulting polygons were used to describe the distribution of Acropora spp. along the leeward coast of Bonaire. Furthermore, these were used as ground-truthing data to test whether remote sensing imagery can be used to detect A. cervicornis remotely. 466 polygons along 14.5km of the coast were created, showing a patchy distribution of both species, more frequent occurrence of A. palmata in the northern leeward coast compared to the southern, and vice-versa for A. cervicornis. A multinomial logistic regression, maximum likelihood classification, and forest-based classification all showed a high accuracy in labelling A. cervicornis correctly in remote sensing data, but all showed frequent misclassification of other reef structures as A. cervicornis. The mapping approach presented in this internship could be applied to investigate fragmentation effects in Acropora populations and to gather in-situ ground-truthing data for other benthic habitats.
Abstract.– Intraspecific diversity is among the most important biological variables, although still poorly understood for most species. Iguana iguana is a Neotropical lizard known from Central and South America, including from numerous Caribbean islands. Despite the presence of native melanistic I. iguana populations in the Lesser Antilles, these have received surprisingly little research attention. Here we assessed population size, distribution, degree of melanism, and additional morphological and natural history characteristics for the melanistic iguanas of Saba, Caribbean Netherlands based on a one-month fieldwork visit. Using Distance sampling from a 38- transect dataset we estimate the population size at 8233 ±2205 iguanas. Iguanas mainly occurred on the southern and eastern sides of the island, between 180-390 m (max altitude 530 m), with highest densities both in residential and certain natural areas. Historically, iguanas were relatively more common at higher altitudes, probably due to more extensive forest clearing for agricultural reasons. No relationship was found between the degree of melanism and elevation, and few animals were completely melanistic. Furthermore, we found that body-ratio data collection through photographs is biased and requires physical measuring instead. Although the population size appears larger than previously surmised, the limited nesting sites and extremely low presence of juvenile and hatchling iguanas (2.4%), is similarly worrying as the situation for I. delicatissima on neighboring St. Eustatius. The island’s feral cat and large goat population are suspected to impact nest site quality, nest success, and hatchling survival. These aspects require urgent future research to guide necessary conservation management.