The Bahamas: A Large Archipelago Under Pressure

Image: The SVII camera system in action underwater


An Island Archipelago

The Catlin Seaview Survey team is currently surveying in the Bahamas, an island archipelago consisting of approximately 700 islands, stretching 1,225km (760miles) from north to south. 95% of the Bahamas geographical area is sea, so the marine environment plays a central role in the Bahamas’s natural and cultural heritage.

The team is planning to survey 13 sites in the 16 days they are in the Bahamas, including the Andros Barrier Reef, which is one of the longest reef systems in the Western Atlantic. To cover such large distances, the team is spending a lot of time on the survey boat MV Spree, including many overnight voyages or “steams” to each new location.


Shallow Seas Create Risk

The islands of the Bahamas are mainly scattered over two submerged (10m or less) plateaus, called Little Bahama Bank and The Great Bahama Bank. The Bahamas gets its name from the Spanish word “Baja mar”, which means “shallow sea”. Due to the islands low relief, they are extremely vulnerable to sea level rise. This risk from sea level rise and the local dependency on the sea for food, tourism and livelihoods, has put the Bahamas in the top countries vulnerable to climate change.


Sustainable Management is Vital

Thankfully there are organizations, such as the Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Foundation and the Cape Eleuthera Institute and their Island School, which dedicate time to educating the public on coral reefs and the effects of climate change, sustainable fish for the future (Nassau Grouper, Epinephelus striatus) and citizen science programs, such as the ‘My Science, My Conch’ program for monitoring the queen conch, Strombus gigas.  Furthermore, Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is a prime example of the effect adequate coral reef management can have on coral recovery.