CCMI shares data from 25th annual coral monitoring of Little Cayman’s reefs

June 3, 2024

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) released the Healthy Reef Report Card to share key takeaways from the 25th year of annual surveys of Little Cayman’s reefs. These surveys were conducted in mid-July 2023.

NOTE: Shortly after completing the 2023 surveys, the world’s reefs experienced the fourth global coral bleaching event. These data and associated report card do not reflect the impact of this bleaching event on Little Cayman’s reefs. CCMI monitored the bleaching event and impacts closely. The results will be released in the 2023 Coral Bleaching Report Card.

Here are the main findings from the July 2023 AGRRA surveys:

  • 2023 surveys show that coral cover in Little Cayman was the highest since CCMI’s surveys began in 1999. This coral cover increased from the lowest record in CCMI’s data, which was in 2015, as a result of the 2014-2016 coral bleaching event.
  • 40% of surveyed sites were recorded as in very good condition in 2023, meaning that percent coral cover was over 31%. This is a marked improvement, compared to only 12% of reefs in very good condition in 2018 and 16% in 1999.
  • The data continue to show changes in dominant coral species groups, where species in the families Agariciidae and Poritidae, which are typically smaller, continue to increase in frequency. Larger boulder corals, such as Oribicella spp. and Siderastraea spp., continue to decrease. Overall coral size has continued decreasing over time, likely due to this shift from large boulder shaped species to smaller species, a trend seen throughout the Caribbean.
  • Fish communities maintain a positive trend, showing a continued increase in fish density and biomass over the past 5-6 years.
  • Herbivore density increased exponentially in the past eight years, in particular, parrotfish have shown a significant increase between 1999 and 2023. Densities of carnivorous fish are not increasing as dramatically as herbivores, but they are increasing in size.

Read the 2024 Reef Report Card on our Healthy Reefs page.