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1 . Jamaica     Jamaica
Jamaica is the third largest island in the Greater Antilles and is located in the center of the Caribbean Sea. Cuba, 150 kilometers north, moderates the effects of the northeast trade winds on the fringing reefs of the north coast, which grow on a narrow shelf. Patchy reef formations on the south coast, punctuated by rivers and sediment slopes, grow on a wider shelf extending up to 20 kilometers offshore. Reefs and corals also grow on nine offshore banks, notably at the Pedro Cays, 70 kilometers south, and the Morant Cays, 50 kilometers to the southeast. Coral cover on the mainland fringing reefs is low, although this was not always the case. Cretaceous basement rocks are covered by Tertiary limestone, and on the north coast by Pleistocene reef deposits. Past changes in sea level have created terraces above and below present sea level to form raised or drowned cliffs. There are two wet seasons, in October and May, and two dry seasons. The water temperature on the north coast ranges from 26 to 30°C. The weather, particularly on the north coast, is dominated by the northeast trade winds, occasionally interrupted by cold fronts from North America in winter. Two of the most severe hurricanes on record, Allen and Gilbert, hit Jamaica in the 1980s, with significant impacts on the coral reefs.

Jamaica has a long history of exploiting its marine resources. Since early colonial days there was a substantial import of fish to feed the growing population, including turtle meat from the Cayman Islands, and dried fish from North America. Fishing the immediate offshore waters was also undertaken, but the maximum yield of some 11 000 tons of fish per year in the 1960s was clearly unsustainable and fish stocks have now collapsed. Overfishing is particularly bad on the north coast, where the narrow coastal shelf concentrates fishing into a smaller area, while making the shallow reef communities more accessible. Many of the fish now caught have not yet attained reproductive maturity, and it has been suggested that reef fish stocks in Jamaica may be being supplemented by fish larvae from other parts of the Caribbean. The offshore banks are also heavily fished, and there is a large conch fishery on Pedro Bank.

Jamaican reefs are further stressed by human impacts resulting from terrestrial activities, including sedimentation caused by soil erosion, but more particularly from nutrient pollution. Coastal development has been rapid in many parts of Jamaica, encouraged by massive tourism developments. In many areas sewage receives little or no treatment.

Jamaica’s reefs have been well studied by scientists for several decades, notably through the work undertaken from the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory. Efforts to reverse some of the many problems facing the country are beginning in some areas, and a number of marine protected areas have been declared. Active management, with full community involvement, is being pursued in a number of these, notably Montego Bay, Negril and the recently declared Portland Bight Protected Area.
Source: Spalding, M.D., C. Ravilious and E.P. Green , 2001 , World Atlas of Coral Reefs . Prepared at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. University of California Press,Berkeley,USA.421p. (See Document)

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