Advisor: Dr. Peter Fields, F&M Department of Biology
The Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park is a 4.8 km2 no-take marine protected area (MPA) established by the Turks and Caicos government in 1992 to protect a portion of the fragile reef ecosystem surrounding the island of South Caicos. Although this was an important “first step” in safeguarding the islands’ most important natural resource, a severe lack of enforcement threatens to hinder the MPA’s success.
The goal of our project was to estimate the effectiveness of the Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park by comparing the abundance of herbivorous fish (namely parrotfishes, surgeonfishes, damselfishes, and triggerfishes) as well as percent benthic cover (live coral, macroalgae, and turf algae) both within and outside of the MPA.
We laid a 30m transect across the reef in one of six sites (three within the MPA and three just outside of the MPA). Swimming along the transect, we recorded the number of each species of fish observed within 1.5m of either side of the transect within 10 minutes. Percent benthic cover was determined every five meters along the transect using a 1.0m2 quadrant.
Our data show overall greater coral, turf algae, and herbivorous fish abundance within the MPA.This could suggest overall greater marine health within the MPA, potentially indicating MPA success.