RESEARCHERS from the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and the Perry Institute for Marine Science have conducted an ecological survey of Walker’s Cay National Park.
The assessment last month was part of the BNT’s effort to develop management plans for Abaco’s marine parks. Established in 2002, Walker’s Cay is one of six marine parks around Abaco. The others are the Marls National Park, East Abaco Creeks National Park, Cross Harbour National Park, South Abaco Blue Holes National Park and Fowl Cays National Park.
They are part of a network of protected nearshore and marine areas which make up the first 10 per cent of the Bahamian commitment to the Caribbean Challenge Initiative, a regional conservation agreement.
The Bahamas is one of 10 regional states that have agreed to protect at least 20 per cent of their marine environments by 2020. These marine and coastal resources include coral reefs, beaches, fisheries and mangroves. They support jobs and underpin the region’s economic prosperity.
The recent Walker’s Cay survey was led by BNT Senior Science Researcher Dr Craig Dahlgren (of the Perry Institute) and BNT Parks Director Lakeshia Anderson. Team members from the BNT included Senior Science Officer Lindy Knowles, Conservation Planner Lashanti Jupp and Science Officer Giselle Dean. Local resident Barry Albury, of Grand Cay-based Out Islander Divers and the Shark School, guided the team to some of the key reef sites in the park.
“Baseline biological data is essential for the development of effective management plans for these protected areas,” said Ms Anderson. “Our survey team compared coral reef health in the park to a regional database of reef condition indicators maintained by the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment Programme. More than 2,000 surveys have been conducted by this programme in 28 territories since 1998.”
According to Dr Dahlgren, “We found good, healthy reefs throughout the park, including the Flower Garden, Pirate’s Cathedral, Sparrow’s Cavern and Shanti’s Spot. We visited several patch reefs and reef flats and found stunning coral formations with multitudes of fish.”
The research was funded by the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, Disney’s ‘Reverse the Decline’ Project, the Atlantis Blue Project and The Nature Conservancy. Further data collection is planned for the near future.