Presently undertaken in the SMMA are the following monitoring activities:
- Sedimentation rates: biweekly by CANARI and the SMMA rangers;
- Water Clarity: daily Secchi disk measurements by the SMMA rangers;
- Water Salinity: daily refractometer measurements by the SMMA rangers;
- Analysis of photo quadrates by CANARI monitoring the coral growth/mortality on an semi annually basis;
- Participation in the ReefCheck programme: twice annually by the Department of Fisheries and the SMMA rangers;
- Fish-landings in Soufriere by the Department of Fisheries on a permanent basis.
In addition, two major studies were undertaken by a scientific team led by Dr. Callum Roberts from the University of York, England and a cooperate research venture under the direction of Dr. Bruce Hatcher from CFRAMP (CARICOM Fisheries Resource Assessment and Management Programme)/Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada, Dr. Wayne Hunte, McGill University, Canada and Dr. Hazel Oxenford, University of the West Indies, Barbados. Both studies are investigating the role of marine reserves in reef fishery sustainability.
Dr. Roberts has been monitoring fish stocks annually from 1994 to 1998 in reserves and fishing areas. After the third annual census of the status of coral reefs within the SMMA, overall findings showed increases in stocks of commercially important species across the board, with especially strong increases in marine reserves, suggesting that management efforts are beginning to pay off. (Roberts et al, 1997)
Additionally, Dr. Roberts team was looking at the impact of sediment pollution from the Soufriere river on both, coral and reef fish communities, as well as the recent spread of coral diseases at the Anse Chastanet and Grand Caille reefs. (Nugues 1998)
As part of the Soufriere Experiment in Reef Fisheries Sustainability (SERFS), the team of Hatcher, Hunte and Oxenford has undertaken experiments to test the mechanisms by which marine reserves export post settlement (adult) fishes to adjacent non-reserve areas (Hatcher et al 1995). In 1995 and 1996 this team collected the baseline data of fish movement in the SMMA. In this study a total of 2301 fishes from 10 families were tagged and their movements recorded using visual tagging methodologies. Mean dispersal distance was found to be only to be only 50 meters (Coreless et al 1996). These results showed that there was negligible export of potential fish biomass from reserve areas at the time. What remained to be seen was how mean displacement (movement) would change as density within the SMMA increase. The experiment led by Hunte and Oxenford has lead to the introduction of acoustic transmitters in an attempt to accurately measure the export of two commercially important fish species found in the SMMA.
In related studies by the SERFS team, the nature and pattern of reef fishing was described, and the effect of the establishment of the SMMA on reef fisher’s catches (and incomes) was quantified by comparative measurements before and after zoning (Goodridge et all 1996). Subsequently, the reproductive output of major reef species within the SMMA were measured in order to establish a baseline against which to assess the effectiveness of the marine reserves in exporting fish larvae (Mitchell et all, in prep.).
In total, the SERFS research has allowed the first estimations of the “spillover” of reef fish from the no-fishing zones to the fished areas of the SMMA (Hatcher, 1997).
In September 1999, a research project funded by the Natural Resource Management Program of the University of the West Indies (UWI), commenced in the SMMA. A preliminary comparison of the larvae supply of coral reef fishes in protected and unprotected marine areas is presently being undertaken by Mr. Henri Valles, Masters student at UWI. By utilizing specially designed light-traps to capture fish larvae, the project will attempt to assess the spatial and temporal distribution of larvae supply and to correlate it to the recruitment of certain coral reef fish species. The project will shed some light on the characteristics of larvae supply to coral reefs, a critical stage in reef fish population dynamics, and on the role that marine reserves may play at that level.
In October 1999, CANARI conducted a regional reef-monitoring workshop in Soufriere, as part of an ongoing programme sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The purpose o f the workshop was to train individuals in the ReefCheck and video methods for measuring changes in the coral community and in key populations of fish and invertebrates found in the reef habitats.
Though the monitoring programme of the SMMA has not yet been finalized, a digital video camera and an underwater housing were acquired through the FFEM project and the methods learned during the workshop are expected to be applied in the final programme, which will be linked with related marine protected areas in the region.