Jamaica in preparation for oil drilling has conducted a marine life survey with its closest southern neighbour, Colombia.
The survey findings will help to prevent damage to marine life when drilling and possible oil production begins within two years.
"The survey has provided a comprehensive view of the existing ecosystem in the Joint Regime Area which will inform what mitigation measures should be taken whenever development activity is undertaken," said Dr Gavin Gunter, senior geologist at Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) .
"By knowing what exists and by understanding the various factors operating in the environment, we can pursue development in a manner that preserves the ecosystem," Gunter told Sunday Business.
The findings of survey were compiled and presented in April 2012 from exploration research done in 2011.
Oil is already mined around much of Colombia's coast, which is actually closer to Jamaica than the island is to Miami, Florida.
Canada-based Sagres Energy plans to drill for oil offshore Jamaica within two years following its subsidiary Rainville Energy Corporation mapping an area believed to contain the equivalent of three billion barrels of oil.
Oil at that level would rank Jamaica as holding the 30th-largest oil reserves - above Yemen, the United Kingdom and some African nations, according to data from the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Canada rank as the top three nations with oil reserves.
Sagres must drill by November 2014 as a condition of its licence with the PCJ.
The Jamaica/Colombia Environ-mental Baseline Survey was the first formal joint exercise between the two countries in the Joint Regime Area, which was established under the Maritime Delimitation Treaty signed in 1993.
The survey was funded by Colombia's hydrocarbons agency - the Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos (ANH).
The Joint Regime Area extends south of Jamaica's Pedro Cays to the maritime space of Colombia, covers an area that includes the Alice Shoal (Bajo Alicia) and borders the Colombian territories of Serranilla Bank (Banco Serranilla) and New Bank (Bajo Nuevo).
"The areas have been found to have complex biological communities with an abundance of fish, sponge, macroalgae, coral and octocoral groups and might also contain important mineral resources," said PCJ in a statement issued last week.
The baseline survey details geomorphology and structural attributes of the areas; composition, location and extension of ecosystems and ecological units; composition and distribution of the main reef communities; threatened marine species; and signs of reef deterioration.
The participating researchers included scientists from Colom-bia's Environmental Studies Institute, (INVEMAR), the Omacha Foundation, an expert in marine mammals, and, a geologist assigned by the PCJ.