Saba Bank research programme 2011-2016

Since 2010, the Saba Bank falls under the jurisdiction of The Netherlands. Spanning an area of 2000km2, the Saba Bank houses the largest coral reef in the Caribbean Netherlands with a great diversity of species. The past 5 years the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs has funded research on the biodiversity, health and ecological functioning of the bank. The Saba Bank Symposium on 8 December 2016 will provide an overview of results and future directions for policy and research.

The Saba Bank

The Saba Bank houses an expansive coral reef ecosystem with a rich diversity of fish, sponges, corals and algae. As such is also an important source of commercial fish for the nearby islands. As there are no large land masses nearby, the Saba Bank can be considered as relatively pristine. Environmental threats such as climate change, sea surface temperature increase and acidification, however, also threaten the Bank’s coral reefs.

Thee Saba Bank was designated as a nature park in 2010 en registered as a protected area under the SPAW protocol (Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife). Under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Saba Bank is designated as an Ecologically Significant Marine Area (EBSA). In addition, the Saba Bank is the most important part of the Exclusieve Economische Zone (EEZ) of the Caribbean Netherlands and is the largest submerged atoll in the Caribbean Sea. Under the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Saba Bank receives protection as a Particular Sensitive Sea Area, which means that nautical traffic is regulated and that ankering of large vessels in prohibited. In 2015, furthermore, the Saba Bank became part of the Yarari shark and marine mammal reserve.

During three expeditions and numerous field-projects, many results were collected on coral reefs, data on fish, nutrients, flow data, observations of seabirds and marine mammals.


Genetic diversity and connectivity of populations on the Sababank
Becking, L.E., Bakker, D. de (2015)
Den Helder: IMARES Wageningen UR, (IMARES rapport C015/15)

Population genetic structure, abundance and health status of two dominant benthic species in the Saba Bank National Park, Caribbean Netherlands: Montastraea cavernosa and Xestospongia muta
Bakker, D.M. de, Meesters, H.W.G., Bleijswijk, J.D.L. van, Luttikhuizen, P., Breeuwer, J.A.J., Becking, L.E. (2016)
PLoS One 11 (5)

Saba Bank: Research 2011-2016. Photo book presented during the Saba Bank Symposium, Den Helder, 8 December 2016. (2nd edition).
Bos O.G., Becking L.E., Meesters, E.H. (eds) (2016)
Den Helder: Wageningen Marine Research. 95 photos, 66 pp.