Saving the Saba Bank with Open Access Publishing

The Saba Bank is a major coral reef in the Caribbean which sports a high level of biodiversity but also attracts oil tankers, and is thus an important natural area under threat. The tankers anchor here to avoid paying fees in various ports, but the anchors themselves drag along the reef and cause havoc.

There is now an effort to have the Saba Bank designated as an internationally recognized sensitive area, but one thing standing it the way of this effort is a lack of scientific knowledge of the region.

Open Access Publishing to the rescue!

picture of anchor on reef

Anchor chain damaging a giant barrel sponge, Xestospongia muta. Large anchor chains of oil tankers and shipping vessels can rapidly damage coral reef habitats. Note the presence of divers for scale. Still frame courtesy of Robin Waite, Yap Films Inc.

PLoS ONE Launches the Biodiversity of Saba Bank Collection

Researchers from Conservation International and its partners have completed a collection of rapid assessment biodiversity surveys of the Saba Bank. The Biodiversity of Saba Bank collection, which publishes in PLoS ONE on May 21st, represents the first ever peer-reviewed open access cross-taxonomy collection of Conservation International's Marine Rapid Assessment Program (RAP).


The rapid assessment biodiversity research included in the PLoS ONE Biodiversity of Saba Bank collection provides critical information on the highly diverse benthic communities and reef fish that inhabit the Saba Bank. The results of Conservation International's innovative Marine Rapid Assessment Program (Marine RAP) included several species potentially new to science that were collected from one of the largest coral reefs in the Caribbean.

The collection includes six research articles written by collaborators from Conservation International's Science and Knowledge Division, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Department of Environment & Nature of the Netherlands Antilles, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, and University of Alabama among others.

The release of the PLOS ONE Biodiversity of Saba Bank collection comes on the eve of The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) on May 22, proclaimed by the United Nations to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

source: PLOS press release.

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Hello. I'm coming late to this conversation but want to let folks this is definitely a legitimate problem. I have been there, took part in this study, and I've seen the damage and the oil tankers. The anchor damage issue is addressed in the PLoS One collection because this motivated the study, but hopefully the issue doesn't come across as hype.

Saba Marine Park staff tell me they are monitoring the situation and tankers are 'regularly dropping anchor on the Bank'. So its an ongoing problem, and yes, its NOT the only problem, but it IS one that better management can help with.

Yes the tankers anchor on the bank waiting to go to Statia, and yes some super tankers anchor on the bank as well. There is footage on youtube if you seach Saba Bank tanker anchorage of some of the damage done to the bank. Also some smaller cargo ships anchor on the bank just waiting till they know where they are going next. The one photo was a clip taken from the youtube video.