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1 . Venezuela     Venezuela
Venezuela is a large country with a long, north-facing coastline delimiting the southeastern edge of the Caribbean Sea. In the east this coastline is dominated by the vast delta of the Orinoco River, which carries considerable quantities of freshwater into the Western Atlantic, just south of the island of Trinidad. Further west, the coastline generally has higher relief, and there are numerous smaller rivers. Coral reef development is thus highly limited by freshwater and sediment runoff, and nearshore coral reefs are scarce. Small reef systems exist at Morrocoy and coral communities in Mochima. Between these two locations there are a few other small reef developments, for example in San Esteban, Turiamo Bay and Ciénaga de Ocumare Bay. The reefs in the Parque Nacional Morrocoy occur along the seaward margins of small cays at the mouth of the Golfete de Guare (Borracho and Cayo Sombrero) and to the south of Punta Tucacas. This is a generally low energy area with moderate to low wave activity, and hurricanes are very rare. Mangroves, mainly Rhizophora mangle, grow on the leeward side of these islands, which are separated from the mainland by extensive seagrass beds. The reef platforms are approximately 50 meters wide and typically slope down to a depth of 12 meters. Until recently, they were dominated by Montastrea cavernosa, M. annularis and several species of soft coral (Pseudopterogorgia spp., Plexaura spp. and Eunicea spp.). Further reefs are located on the continental coastline around the Mochima National Park, although diversity is lower here, with only about 25 scleractinian coral species recorded.

Venezuela also holds jurisdiction over a number of offshore islands, most lying in oceanic water at some distance from the continental shelf. These include Las Aves, Los Roques, Isla la Orchilla and La Blanquilla, which lie in a chain parallel to the coast. These reefs have a high species diversity, including some 270 species of coral reef fish. Los Roques is an archipelago of 40 small islands, including one rocky island and 39 coral cays in an atoll-like formation. The continental shelf is narrow to the south but nearly 1 kilometer wide to the north. Coral cover remains high at this site, averaging 27 percent in 1999/2000, but reaching 60 percent in some localities. A total of 51 hermatypic coral species have been recorded. The whole archipelago was declared a Venezuelan national park in 1972 and is one of the largest marine national parks in the Caribbean.

Water moves through these offshore islands in a westerly direction, the current being a branch of the Caribbean Current. This probably protects the offshore reefs from most of the terrestrial runoff from the mainland. The principal threat is intensive fishing, particularly on the fringing reefs of Los Roques. Reefbased tourism is not intensively developed. The military control many of the smaller islands and the exclusion of fishermen and tourists may be the most effective protection for reefs in the country.

More remote from these is the Isla de Aves, a small and extremely remote islet in the Caribbean Sea, over 200 kilometers west of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles, and about 550 kilometers north of mainland Venezuela. There is very little information describing the marine communities around this island.
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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