In early October, a team of 5 coral reef biologists from Coral Cay Conservation (CCC) in the United Kingdom came to Tobago to assess the extent, severity and nature of the bleaching event that is currently being experienced on the island (see Cover Story in Out of the Blue Issue 5). CCC is associated with the Coral Cay Conservation Trust and is dedicated to “providing resources to help protect livelihoods and alleviate poverty through the protection, restoration and sustainable use of coral reefs and tropical forests”.
The CCC group spent a total of three weeks gathering and analysing data, and designing and implementing an appropriate long-term monitoring programme in conjunction with the Buccoo Reef Trust. During the initial assessment, specific coral typese at 22 sites around Tobago were observed using the Point-Intercept Transect method. A total of 88 transects were surveyed and it was determined that 31 of these sites had greater than 85% of their coral cover bleached. An average of 66% of the hard coral cover (these corals are reef building) assessed was visibly affected by the bleaching episode.
The next phase of the survey, was to set up the monitoring programme which the Buccoo Reef Trust will continue. Ten sites that have been affected by bleaching will be monitored to determine the mortality or recovery of selected coral colonies. The data obtained from this study will give some insight into how bleaching affects corals and will hopefully influence the recommendations and policies that will be developed as part of the Integrated Watershed and Coastal Area Management (IWCAM) project.