GIS Mapping of Buccoo Reef Marine Park

A collaborative project between the Buccoo Reef Trust, the Tobago House of Assembly’s Department of Marine Resources and Fisheries (DMRF) and ABPmer, UK, is underway to produce a detailed computer-based GIS map (Geographic Information System) of Buccoo Reef Marine Park. The project is being led by Dr Steve Freeman of ABPmer ( and is using high-resolution satellite images from the IKONOS satellite, which is capable of producing images of the earth surface down to a remarkable 1 metre resolution (1 pixel on the photo is 1 metre square on the ground). The satellite sensors can penetrate into clear ocean water down to a depth of about 20 metres, providing detailed and accurate information on the extent and conditions of coral reefs. A ground-truthing survey was undertaken in July and August 2002 to verify the classification of features from the satellite image.

The project will provide the Department of Marine Resources and Fisheries with detailed information about Buccoo Reef Marine Park in a GIS database, which will facilitate the management of Tobago’s largest reef and only marine park. The project will allow data from previous studies to be overlaid on the GIS in order to reveal changes in the reefs condition over time. Data relating to ocean currents, water quality and reef health will be integrated to help plan where sewage treatment plants are most needed and where outfalls should be located to cause the least damage to the environment.