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Saba National Marine Park - Booming with Biodiversity

Introduction

Written By the Ocean Health Index

One of the top scoring EEZs in the 2013 Ocean Health Index is Saba. With an overall score of 90/100, the small island ranked second out of all 220 EEZs scored. Saba is an island in the Dutch Caribbean, approximately five square miles in area with just under 2000 residents. The island scored an impressive 100/100 for three Index goals: Carbon Storage, Coastal Protection, and Tourism & Recreation.

The island hosts the Saba Marine Park, a 1300-hectare zone that extends all the way around the island, which is managed by the Saba Conservation Foundation (also on Facebook). More than 150 species of fish have been recorded in the Park in addition to turtles, sharks, conch, lobster, rays, and corals and sponges atop pinnacles -seamounts that rise to within 85 feet of the surface. The healthy bounty of marine life in the park contributed to Saba’s high score for Biodiversity, 93/100.

Flamingo tongue -Saba Marine Park

© Hans Leijnse - DCNA

Saba National Marine Park - Booming with Biodiversity

Written By Johan Schaeffer, Saba Conservation Foundation

The beautiful island of Saba, which rises 877 meters (2,877 feet) above the ocean surface, is known as the ‘Unspoiled Queen’. This small volcanic island – it is only 5 square miles – is a unique piece of paradise in the Caribbean.

Fortunately, Saba's dramatic coastline naturally limits coastal development. Pressure on marine resources has always been modest even as the island population has increased. The quality of the marine environment, strong coral communities, and rich and varied fish life continue to lure divers to Saba's unspoiled waters.

School of fish on reef -Saba Marine Park

© Hans Leijnse - DCNA

Saba plunges below the sea as steeply as it rises above it and the environment varies from shallow patch reefs to deep underwater seamounts. Sheer close-to-shore walls are covered with sponges of all sizes, and the heavily encrusted deep-water seamounts attract pelagic creatures that are not normally seen by divers. The deep waters also provide plenty of space for large predators like barracudas, tarpon and a variety of sharks.

Barracuda -Saba Marine Park

© Hans Leijnse - DCNA

Sharks

Sharks have been feared and exploited for centuries, but as they inhabit the top of the food chain it is important that we understand their role in marine ecosystems. Shark sightings occur frequently in Saba, especially around The Pinnacles. Nurse sharks and Black-tip reef sharks are the most common species, but Grey reef sharks, Bull sharks, Hammerhead sharks and even the occasional Tiger shark can also be seen.

Turtle -Saba Marine Park

© Hans Leijnse - DCNA

Turtles

Sea turtle populations are declining throughout the Caribbean. Domestic and international laws have been established to protect these endangered species. In Saba, Hawksbill and Green turtles are the most common. The turtles find good feeding grounds around the island. The Saba National Marine Park minimizes impact on sea grass beds, the Green turtles' favorite food, by requesting yachts to utilize moorings or anchor in deeper waters only.

French Angel Fish -Saba Marine Park

© Hans Leijnse - DCNA

Seahorse

Seahorse sightings are considered to be an incredible find among divers. The presence of this unique sea creature is not only a great tourist attraction, but it also signals the healthiness of the ecosystem, coral reef, and supporting seabed. The two species found in Saba are the Longsnout seahorse and Lined seahorse.

Seahorse

Kay Wilson/Indigo Dive Academy, St. Vincent and the Grenadines/Marine Photobank.

Coral

Coral reefs are among the most important marine ecosystems in the world. Aside from their magnificent beauty, coral reefs provide a dwelling place for thousands of animals and plants, which have high economic value and provide food to millions of people.

In recent years, coral reefs have suffered a dramatic decline around the world. About 20% may already have been degraded beyond recovery. The Saba National Marine Park is proud and lucky to harbor a healthy and varied reef which is the home to a great diversity of species. Careful management and maintenance of the environment are crucial to safeguard this valuable marine ecosystem and the National Park is doing its very best to protect this beautiful underwater paradise.

Coral -Saba Marine Park

© Hans Leijnse - DCNA