|Bahamian Babies on The West Side of Andros|
With warm waters and ideal natural habitats, Andros is known as prime breeding grounds for a variety of marine species.
So Nature Conservancy scientists, partners, and volunteers were delighted to uncover a previously unknown haven for baby sea turtles and sharks on the west side of Andros. The group discovered foraging grounds for juvenile green and loggerhead sea turtles as well as a rarely documented nursery for bull sharks.
It is our hope that the discovery of this Bahamian nursery could influence The Bahamas Government to establish more marine protected areas around The Bahamas.
"To find large populations of so many rare and threatened species reinforces our belief that the west side of Andros is one of the most ecologically intact and pristine areas remaining in the western tropical Atlantic,” says Philip Kramer, the Conservancy's Caribbean Marine Program Director and leader of the expedition.
The survey team also verified what fishing guides have been saying for years: Andros Island has one of the largest populations of bonefish found anywhere on earth, as well as tarpon and vast numbers of snapper.
An Oasis Discovered
Marine biologists encountered a vast network of tidal creeks and freshwater flows from the Andros aquifer. This network supports a mix of habitats such as mangroves and mud flats and creates ideal breeding conditions for green and loggerhead sea turtles. The island harbors what they believe to be some of the highest densities of these juvenile species in the Caribbean.
In addition, the team uncovered bull shark nurseries and large numbers of adult nurse and lemon sharks that use the area for mating and possibly as a nursery during different times of the year.
“Today we saw approximately 25 sea turtles, including two Hawksbill and two Loggerhead turtles," recorded volunteer Montara Roberts, a junior at the College of The Bahamas. "There were other animals found in this turtle haven, including nurse sharks, lemon sharks, bonefish, puffer fish, spotted eagle rays, sponge and coral”.
Other species documented during the survey include:
A highly threatened species believed to be extinct throughout much of its historic range, it was observed on several occasions, indicating that west Andros may be one of the fish’s last refuges.
The national bird of the Bahamas once nested in great quantities on Andros, but was thought to be extinct on the island since the early 1950’s after hogs were introduced and destroyed the flamingos' habitat. A small flock ranging between 100 and 300 flamingos appears to be reestablishing itself on the island.
The survey results provide a science-based set of recommendations that will assist Bahamian officials with management and policy decisions. ANCAT is working along with The Nature Conservancy and The Bahamas National Trust to encourage the Bahamian Government to increase their protection of these areas and set into place a park management system.
The Conservancy is also working with the Bahamas National Trust — the public agency responsible for administering the Bahamas National Parks — to protect 20 percent of the country’s marine and coastal resources.
The survey and interviews with local hunters, crabbers, sport fishing guides, commercial fishermen and spongers — who depend on local marine resources — will generate recommendations to establish new and expanded marine protected areas across West Andros and the Bahamian archipelago.
Grants received in 2015 from :
Eco Ed Foundation, Tucker Foundation, Caribsave, Paradise Children’s Fund, Moore Bahamas Foundation, Lyford Cay Foundation, Scotia Bank, Commonwealth Bank, Cable Bahamas Cares Foundation and Idea Wild.