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Portland Bight Fish Biomass Extremely Low

Published:Wednesday | March 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM

A 2014 Coral Reef Assessment on the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA) has revealed that while coral reefs are in a fairly good condition, the fish biomass in the area is extremely low.

Dr Suzanne Palmer, visiting researcher who was speaking with The Gleaner following the presentation of the coral reef survey conducted by the University of the West Indies recently, said more needs to be done in restoring fish population to ensure a sustainable fisheries industry.

"At the regional level, except for the surgeonfish, fish biomass on the Portland Bight coral reefs is low to extremely low, in all surveyed fish groups," she said.

"The densities of parrot fish, surgeonfish and grunt on the Portland Bight reefs are substantially higher than regional averages, but densities of snapper and jack were below average, and grouper were absent," Palmer continued.

"From the survey, we are finding out there was quite a lot of fishes, but they are all fairly small. So the biomass is very low," she said.


logistics hub


In 2013, the Government of Jamaica released plans for a logistics hub/trans-shipment port in the PBPA. However, several environmental groups have come out against the development, highlighting that marine habitats and ecosystem services would be impacted.

Palmer noted that citizens need to play their part in ensuring that they are aware of proper environmental practices.

"While the reefs are in reasonable condition, there are areas where it has suffered in the past, and is just recuperating, so it is imperative that cautious measures are implemented to protect the natural resources that exist, especially since we are making comparisons nationally," she declared.

"We want to raise public awareness and knowledge about the rarely documented value of the marine ecosystem services of PBPA and encourage mitigation against any collateral damage associated with the proposed development. It's also to encourage the designation of new protected areas outside any industrial/shipping development as may occur in the protected area," a section of the assessment said.