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Influences on pelagic ecosystems in St Helena

Oceanographic influences on the St Helena pelagic ecosystem

St Helena is an isolated oceanic island in the South Atlantic. The island, together with two major seamounts in the 200 nm maritime zone, provides oases in an otherwise oligotrophic region. These oases attract globally important megafauna, such as whale sharks, humpback whales and migratory tunas, whilst the island itself is home to a range of breeding seabirds.

To date research has been undertaken on the whale sharks, seabirds and tunas, but little has been done to investigate the pelagic ecosystem that supports them or understand the role of the island and seamounts in enhancing productivity.

As part of the blue-belt initiative, St Helena is planning to declare a Category VI Sustainable use MPA in the entire maritime zone in early 2017.   A key-part of ensuring sustainability is to understand the pelagic ecosystem and how seasonal or long-term changes in that system will impact the abundance and distribution of the whale sharks and fish on which the economy of the island depends.

This project will address key priorities for DP Round 5, including (i) improving conservation and management of the marine environment; (ii) developing ecosystem approaches to marine management, (iii) promoting sustainable fisheries; and (iv) developing data systems on biodiversity.

The project aims to : Establish a basic understanding of the seasonal operation of pelagic ecosystem that underpins St Helena’s fisheries and tourism industries and evaluate how oceanography influences that system.

It is being led by the St. Helena Government’s Environmental and Natural Resources Directorate, and SAERI is a project partner.

More detail about the project is available here:

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http://www.darwininitiative.org.uk/project/DPLUS070/