The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of Navassa Island

Navassa is a small (4.64 km2), uninhabited, an oceanic island approximately 50 km off the southwest tip of Haiti (Figure 4.1) under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The island is a raised dolomite plateau ringed by vertical cliffs that descend to a sloping submarine terrace at an approximate depth of 25 m, with coral reef development primarily on small nearshore ledges and shelves. Navassa’s oceanic position in the Windward Passage exposes it to substantial physical energy, with the eastern coastline exposed to persistent swells and regular storms and hurricanes. Both geomorphology and exposure have resulted in an absence of shallow-water inshore fish nursery habitats (e.g., mangroves, sandy beaches and seagrasses) that are found on other islands in the region. The local and regional oceanography around Navassa is poorly characterized, but detailed geology is provided in Miller et al. (in press).

Status of reef resources and threats have been documented by Miller and Gerstner (2002), Miller (2003) and Miller et al. (2005) from data collected during expeditions in 2000 and 2002. These assessments reported relatively healthy coral conditions and reef fish assemblages which, though dominated by small planktivores, still compared favourably with other Caribbean locations. Substantial shing activity by transient Haitians was also reported.

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