Protecting Threatened Coastal Habitats
The seas surrounding the 700 islands, cays, and islets that form The Bahamas create a mosaic of interconnected coastal habitats. At this land-sea interface, you can find some of the most picturesque habitats in all the wider Caribbean region, including pink sand beaches, rocky shores, tidal flats, and mangrove creeks. Further out, there are also vast seagrass meadows, and patch reefs. These diverse habitats each support unique assemblages of subtropical species and play valuable ecological roles, yet their proximity to land also means that they are some of the most threatened by human activities such as coastal development.
The Bahamas catches more spiny lobster than any other country in the Caribbean region and this fishery makes up more than 80 percent of fisheries income in the Bahamas. The fishery is largely based around the use of artificial shelters called ‘condos’ or ‘casitas’. The use of these shelters is controversial: they are banned in the USA but encouraged in other countries. Our research aims to evaluate how these shelters interact with the wider marine ecosystem and what impacts they might have on lobster populations and other marine species.
The Bahamian spiny lobster fishery was recently certified as a sustainable fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council and a key part of this process is understanding how the fishery impacts the wider ecosystem. This project is helping to fill knowledge gaps that will ensure the future sustainability of the fishery.
- The Bahamas Spiny Lobster Working Group
- The Nature Conservancy
- Higgs, ND., Newton, J. & Attrill, MA. Caribbean spiny lobster fishery is underpinned by trophic subsidies from chemosynthetic primary production. Current Biology, 26:3393-3398. 2016.
- Higgs, ND. Report on the monitoring of lobster fishery impacts on endangered threatened and protected species in The Bahamas. WWF-US, 20 pp. 2016.
- Higgs, ND. Report on monitoring of lobster fishery impacts on marine habitats and ecosystems in The Bahamas. WWF-US, 16 pp. 2016.
For more information, contact Nick Higgs.
The Island School
The diversity and ecological complexity of Eleuthera’s coastline is astonishing. I feel so privileged to work in an array of habitats, including tidal mangrove creeks and seagrass flats, which are not only incredibly beautiful, but also provide many opportunities for impactful research studies. The work being done on our coastal habitats is essential to protecting populations of many juvenile organisms that are critical to the stability of these ecosystems and the Bahamian fisheries that rely on them.
Sea Turtle Research
The Bahamian archipelago is made up of a mosaic of inter-connected coastal ecosystems that include patch reefs, mangroves creeks, and shallow seas. Within these diverse habitats, green Chelonia mydas, hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata, and loggerhead Caretta caretta turtles can be found in substantial numbers. At the Cape Eleuthera Institute, we are monitoring the population status of these three turtle species in the waters of Eleuthera, The Bahamas. As it is estimated that sea populations in the Caribbean have declined by over 97 % in the past few decades, knowledge of their current population trends is essential for guiding conservation efforts. As sea turtles are also keystone species, knowledge of whether their populations are recovering or declining also helps provide a broad-scale indicator of the health of Caribbean ecosystems.
The foundation of the sea turtle research program at CEI is a long-term mark-recapture initiative. Using a combination of metal ID tags and photo ID technologies, we have been able to track these turtles since 2011. We have also used a wide-variety of other technologies, such as animal-borne cameras; drones; radio, acoustic, and satellite telemetry devices, and 3D accelerometers to investigate the ecology of these animals.
Sea turtles form an essential component in maintaining healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs. Without sea turtles, these habitats would quickly become overrun by algae. As seagrass beds and coral reefs support both local fisheries and ecotourism, sustaining these ecosystems and the turtles that live within them is essential for countless Bahamians.
- NOAA: Our Way Together
- Yale Peabody Museum
- Purdue University
- University of West Florida
- University of Florida
- West Connecticut State University
- Florida International University
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.