By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
MARINE scientists say most of the coral reefs around Grand Bahama and Abaco could rapidly recover to support fisheries and tourism sectors for those islands, with new research showing only 30 percent of reefs surveyed suffered severe damage.
Researchers of the Perry Institute for Marine Science, which conducts research throughout the Bahamas and other parts of the Caribbean, analysed the coral reefs and submitted a report to the government this month.
Their analysis of a Hurricane Damage Index (HDI) and Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) indicated “that the damage inflicted by Hurricane Dorian to Abaco and Grand Bahama’s coral reefs varied considerably in terms of the type of damage experienced by individual reefs and the severity of that damage. There was not a strong relationship between damage on land and in the sea, or between hurricane intensity and proximity and the damage observed on reefs.
“While some reefs were devastated, with a significant damage to corals, debris, burial in silt, bleaching and loss of fish biomass, other reefs saw little damage and may have experienced short-term benefits from Dorian through the removal of seaweeds that compete with corals.
“Because only about 25 percent to 30 percent of reefs surveyed suffered severe damage, the majority of reefs may make a rapid recovery to pre-storm conditions and continue to support fisheries, tourism, and other components of Abaco and Grand Bahama’s blue economy. Reefs that received little damage may also help to replenish many of the severely damaged reefs. Additional management interventions are likely necessary, however, to promote recovery of damaged reefs, such as coral restoration, and protective management.”
To promote recovery of the marine systems, researchers recommended creating additional marine protected areas to build resilience in marine ecosystems; removing debris from reefs and other marine areas; removing invasive Casuarina trees from coastal areas and restoring corals to key reef areas to jump-start the recovery process.