An aquamarine ocean, stretching from the shallowest of waters to the deepest of abyss may be a lonely place; at times nothing but stretches of white sand and swaying sea grass is found upon the seafloor. Following a yellowtail snapper though, one may find themselves floating over a bustling patch reef. What is a patch reef you may ask? Located in shallow waters, these isolated coral reef outcrops, with an array of brightly colored fish and slow moving invertebrates; provide an essential transitional habitat for juvenile fish still unequipped for the strains of the open ocean. South Eleuthera’s state of fishing is in distress. Nassau grouper, lobster and conch - the ‘Holy Trinity’, along with an array of other ecologically important species are experiencing increased fishing pressure. With the economically depressed state of south Eleuthera, people are dependent on marine resources more than ever.
In order to help rejuvenate depleted species within the sea, Marine Protected Areas, better known as MPAs, are a viable option. Within a MPA, restrictions vary from no-take zones where fishing is prohibited to bans specific to recreation or fishing techniques. MPAs not only benefit the protected areas, but spillovers of larvae and adult organisms bolster neighboring reefs as well. From 2004 to now, The Island School Patch Reef Program has been on the front line of marine research. As a squad, the Fall 2011 Patch Reef class has been fighting currents, tides and the elements to gain as much insight into the ecological significance of the patch reefs. With an ever growing knowledge of fish species, the squad is prepared to assess species abundance and richness. Additionally, we determine rugosity, depth, length and width of the reef, as well as isolating a certain quadrat through the use of an underwater GoPro Hero 5000XL (a camera). Each class brings a new adventure, and with mask, fins and snorkel, we progress ever further down the road of conservation in south Eleuthera.