Projects - Fish Population Survey
Eight years of protection and active management within
the Statia National Marine Park appear to be having beneficial
effects, at least for the fish population.
The Marine Park was opened in 1997 and is comprised
of a general use area, which runs from the high water
line to the 30m (100ft) depth contour, and two “no-take”
reserves at the northern and southern ends of the Statia.
To assess the impact of the management strategies implemented
in the Marine Park, a study was conducted in 2004 to
collect data regarding the fish population; this was
a more extensive repeat of a survey performed in 1992
which gathered baseline information about the fish population
before the area was given protected status. Interviews
with local fishermen and dive operators were also performed
in 2004 to determine any changes in fishing practices
since the Marine Park was designated, and also to gauge
their opinion on the success of the Marine Park with
respect to fish catch and the condition of the marine
environment. Data was analysed and report completed
in 2006 with a project funded by the Caribbean Environmental
Programme of UNEP.
Visual fish surveys were conducted by staff and interns
at 16 dive sites within the Marine Park, in both the
general use area and the two reserves. The abundance
and diversity of fish species was recorded at each site,
and the lengths of fish were estimated to calculate
the overall density of fish present. The results from
the 2004 survey were very encouraging; the number of
fish species recorded increased dramatically since the
initial survey in 1992. On average 20 – 30 species
were seen at each site in 2004, compared to less than
ten at the same sites in 1992; the site with the greatest
number of species was Blair’s Reef, where 35 species
were recorded. The number of species currently present
at each site is, on average, 4.9 times greater than
that reported for the same site in 1992. When different
areas within the Marine Park were compared, the Southern
Reserve was found to have the highest overall diversity;
over 50 different species of fish were observed within
its boundaries in 2004.
Fish density of several fish families, namely Grouper,
Wrasse and Jack, was found to be greater within the
protected reserves than in the unprotected regions of
the Marine Park, indicating that they are benefiting
from the regulations that prohibit fishing in these
areas. These results should be reflected by a “knock-on”
effect being witnessed in neighbouring regions of the
Marine Park in the future, which will be of benefit
to the local fisheries.
The results of the fisherman surveys were quite varied.
When asked to comment on changes to the coral reef environment
and the fish populations over the past ten years, half
of the fishermen indicated that they saw no changes,
while the others replied that there were clear improvements,
citing more fish and less anchor damage. These positive
responses were recorded in spite of fishermen having
to alter their fishing practices to comply with Marine
One of the objectives of the Marine Park is to sustain
the fish populations and to create a spill-over effect
from the marine reserves into the general use areas.
The results of this survey show that this is taking
place. Regular evaluation of the management strategies
of the Marine Park will involve additional fisheries
surveys every three years; these studies will continue.