Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
The Pedro Bank is located approximately 50 miles or 80 kilometers south-southwest of the island of Jamaica, and is one of the biggest offshore banks in the Caribbean Basin. The bank is composed of a variety of marine habitats such as sand, coral reefs, deep reefs, sea grass beds, and three coral cays known as the Pedro Cays. Because of its size and distance from mainland Jamaica and its relatively intact biological systems, it is one of the country's last remaining healthy marine ecosystems.
Both regionally and nationally the Pedro Bank is an important commercial, biological and historical area. It represents Jamaica's main commercial and artisanal fishing grounds and serves as the primary harvesting area for the largest export of Queen Conch from the Caribbean region. Jamaican conch exports have in the past generated more foreign revenue than the country's world-famous Blue Mountain coffee.
The Pedro Cays are regionally important seabird nesting and roosting areas (masked boobies, roseate terns and others) and also provide several endangered turtle species such as hawksbills and loggerheads with nesting grounds. The bank may also be a potential refuge and source of larvae for several regionally-threatened Acropora coral species (now being considered for US Endangered Species Act protection). With an estimated 99 percent of mainland Jamaica's reefs in danger, the coral reefs on Pedro Bank are vital to long-term reef conservation in the country. In July 2004 the bank was declared an underwater cultural heritage site by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust as it is a veritable treasure trove of sixteenth to sixteenth century shipwrecks and artifacts.
Intensive fishing and high human densities on the Pedro Cays are endangering the survival of the bank as a viable and functioning ecosystem. Wide-ranging, innovative and rigorous conservation and management measures are needed to ensure that it remains a sustainable and important commercial, biological and historical area.
What the Conservancy Is Doing
The Pedro Bank Management Project aims to reduce coral reef degradation by providing solutions to two main threats not currently addressed on the bank-direct over-fishing of resources and degradation of coral reefs and coral cays due to unsustainable development. The aim is to work closely together with multiple stakeholders such as fishermen and fish vendors and those agencies responsible for regulating and protecting reef resources (Fisheries Division and the National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA), to control and minimize these threats. The two main project objectives are:
- To fill critical data gaps: there is a scarcity of information about Pedro Bank ecology which this project will address in order to generate effective conservation strategies; and
- To assist regulatory bodies with the management of the area. The Jamaica Fisheries Division has specifically requested assistance with an evaluation of current biological and human conditions on the cays and surrounding areas and a plan to begin developing effective and practical management and zoning strategies for the Pedro Bank, beginning with the cays.
By focusing directly on fishing activities and developing monitoring indicators and thresholds for sustainability, the project will provide much-needed information to begin effectively regulating use of the Pedro Cays and adjacent waters.
The project is now in the planning and development phase. In April 2005, a comprehensive team of approximately 15 people (biologists, sociologists, conservation and resource managers) will be conducting field research that will inform the development of the Pedro Bank management plan.
Working Through Partnerships
The project will contribute significantly to overcoming the problems affecting the management of the Pedro Bank's reef systems. Strong partnerships with the main regulatory and enforcement agencies responsible for the area - the Fisheries Division, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the Jamaican Defense Force are already established. The Conservancy and the University of the West Indies (UWI) are providing academic, technical and applied conservation management. expertise to the project. Importantly, the intention is to ensure that, from start to finish the fishermen from the Pedro Cays community are actively involved in the research and planning phases of the project and play a key role in establishing management regulations. This will be an indispensable ingredient in the project's success.