Bob and Judy Foster-Smith are marine biologists from Newcastle-upon Tyne in the UK. They have worked for many years in academia, teaching and researching in the ecology of the marine environment. They now run a small consultancy company, Envision Mapping Ltd., which specialises in seabed survey.
The two have been regular visitors to Nevis since 2001. After the first few visits to the island they both wanted to contribute to the island using their own marine biological expertise. They worked together with the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (John Guilbert) and the Nevis Government Department of Fisheries (Brother Anslyn), and Under-the-Sea Nevis (Barbara Whitman) and it soon became clear that there was a need for a survey of the Nevis waters that had been proposed as Marine Protected Areas.
In 2005 they undertook a seabed survey of the Narrows between the island of Nevis and St Kitts. The Nevis Air and Sea Ports Authority generously provided the survey boat and skipper (Captain Parke) and accommodation was kindly provided by Oualie Beach Hotel (John Yearwood). A map of the seabed habitats was produced the following year and presented to the Nevis Government.
Mapping of the seabed has a number of benefits to the Island. For instance:
- Fisheries: maps help to identify the extent of potential conch and lobster nursery grounds, allowing for sustainable management;
- Tourism: a map can be used to promote tourism by indicating the diverse range of habitats present;
- Planning: maps help to identify areas of sensitive habitat most likely to be affected by development such as quarrying, dredging, extraction etc. (siltation caused by such activities can cause corals and sea grasses to die off);
- Air and Sea Ports Authority: seabed habitat maps will help to identify suitable anchorage and mooring sites, and up-dates bathymetric charts;
- Conservation: maps can help to identify sensitive areas of seabed, e.g. the ecologically rich sites and sites that are important to protected marine species, such as Turtles;
- Education: maps provide information for raising awareness of the marine environment.
Seabed maps will also help to promote combined sustainable management of the region by providing a basis for zoning areas appropriate to certain activities.
Bob and Judy are currently back on the island and plan to continue their survey off the south western part of the island (including the Charlestown roadstead) and also to assist the NHCS - ‘Biodiversity Committee’ in documenting the marine flora and fauna by filming some of the island’s underwater habitats.