The Living Oceans Foundation conducts coral reef research missions off the coast of Navassa Island, a small uninhabited island situated between Haiti and Jamaica. The island is a United States possession and may be a crucial refuge for endangered coral in the Caribbean. While Navassa’s waters are free from land-based human impacts such as runoff, the reefs are exploited by subsistence Haitian fishers.
Our March 2012 coral reef research expedition focused on monitoring shallow plots of Acropora corals, evaluating the status of reef fish populations, surveying reef habitats, assessing coral disease and the health of reef building corals and conducting a socioeconomic assessment of reef fisheries. Our work included a reassessment of permanent sites established by the United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in 2004 to see how the reef is recovering from several catastrophic events in the mid-2000s and to investigate ongoing threats.
Evidence of the impacts from past coral bleaching and coral disease events is widespread, but a slow recovery is underway. While reef fish populations are relatively stable, there is signs of continued heavy fishing pressure. It is estimated that 300 to 400 Haitian artisanal fishers frequent Navassa Island when they are not fishing close to the mainland of Haiti. Two of our partners, Island Conservation and the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Biodiversity work with some of these Haitian fishers to gather additional information about Navassa.