Sababank (BO-43-117-009, BO-43-021.04-002, BO-11-019.02-008, BO-11-011.05-008)

Project: EZproject

Project Details


The Saba Bank is the largest submarine atoll in the Caribbean and one of the largest in the world with a total area of ??more than 2000 km2. The bank is located far from large land masses and is surrounded by a sea that is thousands of meters deep, so there is almost no land-based pollution. The bank contains extensive coral reefs along much its edge. The corals provide the 3 dimensional structure that all other plants and animals use, produce sand and offer protection against storms and waves. The corals are the master builders of the Bank, but there are also other important ecosystems such as sargassum fields, seaweed fields, sandy plains and calcareous algae fields on the bank.

The Saba bank still holds undiscovered secrets. In 2018, a virtually undisturbed coral reef was found in the southwest. On the Luymes Bank, the northeastern part of the bank, more than 20 sinkholes were discovered last year during an expedition with the royal NIOZ. These sinkholes are among the largest and deepest in the world. The sinkholes form a unique habitat where very rare calcareous algae towers grow on the bottom. The Bank is located entirely within the territorial waters of Saba and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Netherlands and is of great importance to the economy of Saba. Scientific research has shown that the Saba Bank is an extremely rich area in terms of biodiversity, especially fish, corals, algae and sponges (Special issue PLoS ONE 2010, vol. 5).

The importance of the Saba Bank is apparent from all kinds of regulations and decisions: In 2010, the Saba Bank was designated as a protected area by the government of the Netherlands Antilles and as such registered with the SPAW protocol (UNEP-CEP, Carthagena Convention); under the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Saba Bank is protected as a PSSA area (Particular Sensitive Sea Area) so that shipping traffic and especially the anchoring of large oil tankers can be regulated; under the Biodiversity Convention (CBD), the Saba Bank is designated as an EBSA area, a Ecologically or Biologically Significant marine Area. The bank is also a large part of the Yarari Shark and Marine Mammal Sanctuary and whales are regularly encountered.The Saba Bank is the most important part of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Caribbean Netherlands.

Since 2011, the coral reef of the Saba Bank has been regularly surveyed to determine the condition of the coral reefs and other ecosystems on the bank. The last survey was in 2018. In particular for reporting on the conservation status, it is important that further research is carried out into the state of the coral reefs and adjacent ecosystems. The bank is also of great economic importance, especially for the fishermen of Saba. Current fisheries are mainly focused on catching lobster and deepwater snappers. Both target species are mainly fished with fish traps. Research is needed to determine whether the catch is sustainable.

Effective start/end date1/01/1331/12/24


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