Volume 72

Generating high-resolution seabed habitat maps around the coast of Saint Lucia to support future development

Mitchell, P; A. Joseph; L. Benson; R. Arosio; S. Bolam; J. Hawes; H. Close; K. Alliji
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Date: November, 2019

Pages: 361

Event: Proceedings of the Seventy-Two Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Punta Cana

Country: Dominican Republic


As a small island with an extensive marine jurisdiction, the marine ecosystems and the species they support are integral to the economy of St Lucia. To support St Lucia’s development ambitions and enhance coordination and management of marine resources, a detailed marine spatial plan is required for the island. This requires a thorough understanding of the ecological characteristics around St Lucia which can be achieved through baseline surveys and the development of seabed habitat maps. As part of the Commonwealth Marine Economies (CME) programme and in collaboration with the St Lucia Department of Fisheries, two seabed imagery surveys were undertaken around the west coast of St Lucia to determine the presence and extent of benthic habitats and their associated species. Over 200 drop camera video tows were conducted to survey the benthic habitats to a maximum depth of 80 m. The acquired data were analysed for percentage coverage and grouped into community assemblages based on the observed taxa. Assisted by bathymetry and backscatter data derived from a separate CME project led by the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO), geomorphological and benthic habitat maps were generated for four key sections of the coastline. These four focal areas, identified through consultation with local stakeholders, were targeted based on their potential conservation importance, volume of vessel traffic and importance for tourism and fishing industries. The resulting habitat maps will be used to support the delineation of Marine Protected Areas, reduce stakeholder conflict and for supporting evidence-based decision-making for subsequent marine development projects.

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