As an island ecosystem, Eleuthera is both ecologically important and has economic value, with fisheries providing an important natural resource for local communities that have limited access to alternative livelihoods.
This program takes a multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach towards fisheries and conservation on coral reefs. Research branches out to important issues of food security, sustainable livelihoods, conservation, and marine management that are internationally important and locally relevant.
Current research areas include:
- Coral Restoration: The Caribbean-wide decline of Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) and Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) necessitates effective management solutions that increase the population size of this species and teach future generations about its importance to coral reef ecosystems. CEI established a coral propagation project in 2014 and is collaborating with partner nationally to further the knowledge of these corals and increase their abundance and survivorship.
- Parrotfish: Understanding the ecology and social perceptions of commercially important fisheries for the development of long-term education and enforcement strategies to support sustainable fisheries in the Bahamas. Our objective is to serve as a community liaison and provide logistical support to ISER Caribe team to construct a historical understanding of the fisheries, especially focusing on parrotfish and conch, and create and implement an innovative educational and social marketing campaign to promote sustainable fisheries use and management.
- Lionfish: Past studies include long-term studies of the invasive Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans) to assess how its increasing presence in the local area is affecting the populations of ecologically and economically valuable fish species, how removing lionfish from invaded reefs promotes recovery of native Bahamian reef fish populations, behavioral studies of lionfish predation, interactions between lionfish and lobster. In addition to research, we promote education in local communities on basic lionfish biology and the harvesting and consumption of lionfish.
In the past, we have also studied:
- Queen Conch: An important food source, as well as the source of livelihood for many local fishermen, queen conch populations are being depleted to dangerously low levels, and little is known of the current status of the stocks: Assessing queen conch nursery and breeding grounds, how has local conch harvest changed and what is the age structure of the conch harvest through midden surveys, “graveyard” study to determine if conch alter their behavior when exposed to “knocked” shells.
Collaboration & Support
CEI is working with a number of partner: The Bahamas National Trust as part of their “Conchservation" campaign, with the main goal of promoting a sustainable queen conch fishery; The Shedd Aquarium as part of a nationwide survey of conch populations; Institute for Socio-Ecological Research Caribe and One Eleuthera in conducting fishermen interviews and assessing sustainable livelihoods in South Eleuthera’ University of Miami with our coral restoration activities; Perry Institute for Marine Science.