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Status and Health of the Coral Reef Ecosystem

The purple sea fan, Gorgonia, is a dominant sea fan in the northwestern part of Navassa Island (Photo: NOAA/Larry Zettwoch)

Given the remoteness of Navassa Island and its lack of permanent habitation, development, and tourism activities, its marine habitats are mostly undisturbed by human activities. Some apply the term "pristine" to describe these habitats that are free from anthropogenic land-based pollution and recreational activities.

In general, the hard or stony corals (Scleractinia) are relatively healthy, although there has been some disease reported on brain corals in deeper sites. The most common condition affecting coral tissues is overgrowth by macroalgae. A small percentage (just over 4 percent) of coral colonies showed evidences of predation by snails, fire worms or fishes (Miller et al., 2005).

Although Navassa Island is a National Wildlife refuge, regulations are not enforced. The major threat to Navassa Island’s coral reef communities is the ongoing fishing pressure on reef fishes, queen conch, spiny lobster, and marine turtles by transient Haitian fishers. These substantial fishing activities are unmanaged and quantitative data on catch statistics and other fishing activities are lacking. Qualitative observations by scientists (Collette et al. 2003; Miller and Gerstner, 2002) suggest that large fishes had already been greatly reduced and the fishing intensity and impact would increase. Commercial fishing operations from neighbouring copuntries within the Reserve boundaries may also reduce the pelagic fish populations. Threats to the terrestrial ecology include the burning of forested areas by Haitian squatters and the introduction of invasive species such as rats, dogs, cats, and goats.

Link to metadata and data held by CoRIS

Click on the following URL to locate metadata and data in the CoRIS holdings on Navassa Island. When the query screen comes up, enter Navassa in the window, and then click on Search.