The Living Oceans Foundation conducts coral reef research in the San Andres Archipelago, a series of remote islands, submerged banks, atolls and coral reefs in the southwestern Caribbean Sea off the coast of Colombia. Three islands in the north end of the archipelago — Serranilla, Alice, and Nuevo — were assessed during our third research mission in 2012, chosen for their importance to the region. Parts of these banks are under joint management between Colombia and other countries, making them extremely vulnerable to human impacts due to their shared borders and resources.
Our 2012 assessment focused on habitat mapping and coral reef assessments to evaluate the current status of these aquatic ecosystems by determining the distribution and size of reefs, as well as the habitats and health of corals, fishes, and commercially important conch and lobster within these marine habitats. The research team also collected information necessary to map bottom depth and habitats, in order to provide tools that can assist in the design of marine protected areas and perhaps aid in the proposed designation of these islands as World Heritage Sites. The assessment discovered 200 species of reef fish and 38 species of stony corals, some of which were unique to the area.