Saint-barth’s Underwater Display

A recent inventory of this treasure trove revealed the presence of 183 species of fish, 54 varieties of coral and 60 different sponges, whose colors and shapes embellish our reefs.

It doesn’t take more than a dive to realize the extent of the preservation-worthy biodiversity of St.Bart’s, right there, under the surface. In certain areas, this teeming life is protected, as in the Marine Nature Reserve (Réserve Naturelle Marine), created in 1996, which has had a significant impact on preservation efforts. The controls performed by a team from the University of Antilles-Guyane show that fish populations flourish in the reserve compared to non-protected areas.

A recent inventory of this treasure trove revealed the presence of 183 species of fish, 54 varieties of coral and 60 different sponges, whose colors and shapes embellish our reefs.

It doesn’t take more than a dive to realize the extent

of the preservation-worthy biodiversity of St. Bart’s,

right there, under the surface. In certain areas, this

teeming life is protected, as in the Marine Nature Reserve (Réserve Naturelle Marine), created in 1996, which has had a significant impact on preservation efforts. The controls performed by a team from the University of Antilles-Guyane show that fish populations flourish in the reserve compared to non-protected areas.

Another fragile ecosystem, which plays an important

role in the development of juvenile populations, are the seagrass beds. Among other species, these seagrass beds are home to green turtles, conch and sea stars. Take a closer look on your next dive. You will make some surprising encounters and will better appreciate the necessity of protecting them. Ship anchors are a major threat to various ecosystems, for they break up, tear away and excavate, blind to the consequences. This is why in the Marine Nature Reserve there are fixed moorings, for the protection of seagrass beds and reefs. Colombier Bay and its ballet of green turtles is the living proof of the efficiency of these pre-installed moorings in protecting the ecosystems and producing tangible results.

A little further out, with a bit of luck you can observe

the impressive spectacle of humpback whales spewing fountains of water, jumping and flapping their giant fins. Female humpback whales are frequently sighted on their way back north with their young, born in Caribbean waters, their sights set on the St. Laurent estuary in Quebec! Remember: whale watching is a matter of discretion and courtesy towards these very delicate giant marine mammals: do not cut off their route, stay at about 100 meters, parallel to their route and slightly to the rear and do not stay in their vicinity for more than 30 minutes.

Whale mothers are extremely sensitive about protecting their offspring and they do not particularly like the presence of noisy, stinking boat motors coming close and circling them. When that happens, they tend to dive and flee, which is a pity, because they like to rest close to shore, in Lorient Bay, for example, giving the little ones some respite before they continue their journey. It would be a shame to spoil this marvelous opportunity to approach one of nature’s wonders for future generations.

The true wealth of the island of St. Barth’s lies in its natural attributes, its coral reefs, beaches and its extremely varied fauna and flora. While the Nature Reserve is the perfect showcase for this biodiversity, the entire island is worthy of discovery and preservation.

Source: Tropical Magazine n°19, season 2009-2010, page 55.

Photos: Réserve Naturelle, Vincent Guillot, Sophie Olivaud.

Text: Julien Le Quellec

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