Sanctuaire Agoa

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(Guidelines and Criteria Section B/ Ecological Criteria) Nominated areas must conform to at least one of the eight ecological criteria. Describe how the nominated site satisfies one or more of the following criteria. (Attach in Annex any relevant supporting documents.)



The Caribbean islands are one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots, characterized by great ecological particularly threatened. This diversification can be explained by the geographical isolation of the islands. In total, this archipelago of tropical islands and semi-tropical volcanic features 10000 km ² of coral containing 25 genera of coral, 22000 sq km of mangroves and upto 33,000 sq km of seagrass beds. The shallow marine environment contains 663 species of molluscs, 30 species of cetaceans, over 1400 species of fish and 76 species of sharks. Many wide-ranging migratory species such as seabirds, turtles and whales, occupy a great diversity of habitats at different stages of development or the seasons.

Martinique is a volcanic island inserted into the center of the West Indies. Its marine field contains a significant natural heritage but very degraded.
Generally, in the tropical, the richets coastal environments are the mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs.
In total, on the coast of Martinique, there are 300 species of benthic and pelagic fish, 35 species of gorgonians, 45 coral species, 370 mollusks and 5 species of sea turtles and 21 marine mammal species (all species of turtles and marine mammals are classified as "threatened" on the IUCN Red list and listed in Annex II of SPAW).


The Department of Guadeloupe is an archipelago of two main islands, Basse Terre (848 km ²) and Grande-Terre (590 km ²), surrounded by several small islands, including Marie-Galante, Les Saintes and La Désirade. Like the other islands of the Lesser Antilles, it is entirely volcanic formation, the product of subduction of oceanic crust under the Atlantic Caribbean plate.
Marine ecosystems of Guadeloupe are characteristic of the island systems in the region. As in Martinique, we find coral formations (fringing reef, barrier reef in the Great cul-de-sac marine), seagrass beds in sheltered areas (6700 hectares) and mangroves covering approximately 3,000 hectares.
Among the wildlife species most remarkable, three species of turtles (hawksbill, leatherback and green turtle) nest on the beaches of Guadeloupe. Loggerhead and olive ridley turtles are found mainly in oceanic waters.
As for Martinique, the ocean waters are frequented by 24 species of cetaceans.


Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy
These two islands contain ecosystems characteristics of the Caribbean, including coral reefs, coral bioconstruits and seagrass beds. Saint Martin has three species of endangered turtles (hawksbill, leatherback and green turtle) that nest on the beaches back.

Conservation value:


Habitat loss and degradation are the main factors in the decline of global biodiversity, and a major threat for marine mammals region-wide. In the Caribbean, the main causes of destruction of these habitats are the coastal degradation for urban development, tourism, agriculture, deforestation and pollution (UNEP, 2005).

 The article 3 of the Declaration of the Agoa sanctuary mentions that appropriate measures (...) will be taken into the sanctuary to ensure a favorable conservation of marine mammals by protecting them and their habitats, of direct or indirect negative impacts, ascertain or potential, of human activities.The sanctuary thus contributes to the preservation and maintenance of marine ecosystems, ensures their long term viability and maintenance of their biological and genetic diversity, and therefore ensures favourable conditions for marine mammals throughout the area it covers. Besides, the sanctuary and its management board is equipped with regulation competencies that gives it legitimacy to take any appropriate initiative, including regulatory and./or management measures, to guarantee the conservation of marine mammal species and populations in their different life cycle stages. Consequently, the sanctuary participates in the conservation of an important number of marine mammal species that are present in, and of major importance for, the Wider Caribbean.

Critical habitats:

 The sanctuary includes 24 species of marine mammals, all included in the Annex II of the SPAW Protocol and in the Annex II of the CITES, and 8 are listed on the IUCN Red List as "Least concern" and one other as "vulnerable". By the huge area it encompasses, located along the northern part of the Lesser Antilles, the sanctuary contains important population numbers of these species, therefore an important contribution to their overall population sizes in the region.



In September 2011, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and France's Marine Protected Areas Agency signed a sister sanctuary agreement to protect endangered humpback whales that migrate annually between NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Agoa Marine Mammal Sanctuary in the French Antilles. This area includes the islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy at the Caribbean's eastern edge.
Both sanctuaries provide critical support for the North Atlantic population of humpback whales, which spend spring and summer at Stellwagen Bank and other northern feeding grounds before heading south to the warmer waters of the Caribbean Sea in late fall to mate and give birth to their young.
The entire 138,000 square-kilometer French Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Caribbean is currently defined as a critical habitat for marine mammals. In all, 21 of the 28 cetacean species, including baleen whales, dolphins and other toothed whales, that can be found in the Caribbean Sea have been documented in the French Antilles. Some of these species are year-round residents, others are seasonal visitors, and still others simply pass through the waters around these islands.
Agoa was created consistent with the objectives of the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean (the Cartagena Convention) and its Protocol on Specially Protected Areas for Wildlife (SPAW), and the United
Under the auspices of UNEP’s SPAW Protocol, the sister sanctuary agreement will help improve humpback whale recovery in the North Atlantic by providing new avenues for collaborative education, scientific and management efforts, including joint research and monitoring programs.
This effort will help improve knowledge about humpbacks in the Atlantic and the threats they face from both natural and man-made changes to their environment. NOAA anticipates the relationship will be crucial to the long-term conservation of the North Atlantic humpback whale population, as well as to the development of future cooperative agreements with other countries. Before the end of the year (2012) an agreement will be signed between the Agoa sanctuary and the future marine mammal sanctuary in the Dutch Antilles. The cooperation with the Marine Mammal Sanctuary of the Dominican Republic (SMMRD) will also be strengthened.