Published On: Thu, Mar 15th, 2018

Research scientists discover healthy coral reef near Saba

Research vessel Pelagia

THE BOTTOM – Scientist of Wageningen Marine Research and the Royal Dutch Institute for Sea Research have discovered a previously unknown coral reef off the coast of Saba, the Volkskrant reported on Thursday.

The reef with a length of several kilometers is in an extremely good condition, says coral expert Erik Meesters. “This gives us some hope that there might be more areas where coral reefs are doing well.”

The reef is located in a far corner of the Saba Bank, a large submarine platform several kilometers southwest of Saba. The scientists think that the reef’s good condition is due to its isolated location, far from the polluted waters around the islands. The reef is located at the edge of the Caribbean Sea, close to the Atlantic Ocean that provides the supply of clean water.

Meester says that he has seldom seen such a healthy coral reef. “Large ledges with soft and hard corals show a beauty that make me think of the reefs of fifty years ago when the bleaching of corals – a result of the warming up of the seawater – did not yet exist.”

According to a rough estimate, the reef is ten kilometers long and one kilometer in width. The researchers found the corals at depths between 20 and 70 meters. “The Saba Bank is arguably the most beautiful nature reserve the Netherlands has. We have to handle it with extreme caution,” Meester says. Other parts of the Saba bank – an area of around 2,200 square kilometers – have not yet been researched.

Biologists researched the Saba Bank during the past couple of weeks with the research vessel Pelagia – the flagship among the three vessels in the fleet of the Royal Dutch Institute for Sea Research.

The Pelagia was built in 1990 and overhauled in 2010. It measures 66 meters in length and is suited for research on coastal oceans and open seas – with the exception of the polar regions.

The Pelagia has two dry labs and a wet lab and may host up to nine laboratory containers. The ship offers berths for up to twelve passengers. Her eleven member crew is highly skilled in the handling of equipment and moorings, the institute reports on its web site.

On most locations the coral appeared to be in bad condition. The Saba Bank obtained in 2010 a protected status and became the larges protected natural reserve of the Netherlands.

Photo caption: The research vessel Pelagia. Photo www.nioz.nl.