On January 29th, visitors Lindy Knowles of the Bahamas National Trust and Hayley Jo Carr of Stuart Cove’s arrived in Eleuthera from Nassau to assist in the surveying of reefs in South Eleuthera for the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA). AGRRA supports coral reef conservation and empowers those who protect these diverse ecosystems by distributing data, research and educational materials that support this mission. Using standardized assessment protocols designed by AGGRA, valuable regional surveys of coral reef health are produced and accessed in an online database. Surveys incorporate coral, benthic, and fish species. 

Candice Brittain beginning a 30 meter long fish survey (Photo by Hayley Jo Carr)

Candice Brittain beginning a 30 meter long fish survey (Photo by Hayley Jo Carr)

While AGRRA surveys around the Caribbean have been ongoing for several years, and have resulted in many publications and regional coral reef report cards, no assessment of reefs in Eleuthera had previously been conducted. CEI’s Candice Brittain (Director of Outreach and Partnerships), trained in fish surveying, and Drew Hitchner (Coral Research Technician), trained in coral surveying, joined Lindy and Hayley, both trained in benthic surveying, for a full week dedicated to updating knowledge regarding the state and health of Eleuthera reefs. The team traveled to local dive sites around the Cape, as well as randomly selected fore and crest reef areas on the eastern side of the island. While some surveying had been completed over the past few months, this one week tripled the data set for South Eleuthera reefs.

Drew Hitchner conducting measurements during a coral survey (photo by Hayley Jo Carr)

Drew Hitchner conducting measurements during a coral survey (photo by Hayley Jo Carr)

The information collected by these surveys will contribute towards filling the knowledge gap of some of the previously data deficient Eleuthera reefs, and support the understanding of the status of reefs in The Bahamas currently. The standardized AGRRA data can be used by decision makers to make informed decisions regarding marine resource management. 

Special thanks to the Bahamas National Trust, the Perry Institute for Marine Science, and Stuart’s Cove Dive Bahamas for their contribution in this effort as well as Lindy, Hayley, Candice, and Drew for their time and work in improving essential Eleuthera coral reef statistics. 

The South Eleuthera AGRRA team. (Left to right) Drew Hitchner (CEI), Hayley Jo Carr (Stuart's Cove), Candice Brittain (CEI), Lindy Knowles (Bahamas National Trust) (Photo by Hayley Jo Carr)

The South Eleuthera AGRRA team. (Left to right) Drew Hitchner (CEI), Hayley Jo Carr (Stuart's Cove), Candice Brittain (CEI), Lindy Knowles (Bahamas National Trust) (Photo by Hayley Jo Carr)