Trip to South West Rock and Pedro Cay

Trip to South West Rock – southernmost point of Jamaica’s maritime jurisdiction and on to Pedro Cays


As representative for the Marine Geology Unit, University of the West Indies, Dr Suzanne Palmer recently joined members of the National Council of Ocean and Coastal Zone Management (NCOCZM) on a trip to South West Rock the southernmost point of Jamaica’s maritime jurisdiction, to collect a rock sample. The trip was organized by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coastguard,

Part of the National Council of Ocean and Coastal Zone Management’s (NCOCZM) work is to publicize the importance of Jamaica’s archipelagic status to the general public.  The Jamaican archipelago encompasses mainland Jamaica, the cays and rocks within Jamaican waters which essentially extends Jamaica’s exclusive economic zone and access to living and non-living resources.

Two interviews were presented on TVJ’s Smile Jamaica highlighting the work of the Council, the importance of South West Rock and Jamaica’s archipelagic status:

Visit to South West Rock

Together with the Honourable Arnaldo Brown, Chair of the Council (Minister of State, Minstry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade) and other members of the Council we traveled with the JDF Coastguard to South West Rock. Having boarded the JDF Coastguard vessel ‘Surrey’ from the JDF Port Royal base, we set off overnight into the Caribbean Sea to South West Rock – a total distance of 115 miles. Upon arrival just before sunrise, we then transferred to a Rigid-hulled inflatable boat in order to get closer to the rock.

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JDF Coastguard 'Surrey'

The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) had a team which was charged  to install a new light on the existing mast. Unfortunately, landing on the rock was impossible for installing the light because of the choppy seas. The conditions also meant that attempts to recover samples of the rock were also not possible. The mast remains, however, a flag that had been installed previously, has long been lost to the open sea.

South West Rock

Nevertheless, we do have a sample of the rock provided by the Port Authority of Jamaica that was recovered during the trip on which the original mast was installed. This sample is now being prepared for the Marine Geology Unit ( so that its mineralogy and provenance can be determined.

From South West Rock we went to Pedro Cays. Pedro Bank is one of the largest offshore banks in the Caribbean Basin and comprises a range of marine habitats including sand, coral reefs, deep reefs, sea grass beds, and three coral cays (the Pedro Cays). Pedro Bank plays an important commercial, biological and historical role since the area forms one of Jamaica’s main fishing grounds and is a primary harvesting area for the export of Queen Conch from the Caribbean region. It is not only considered a regionally important nesting habitat for sea birds but it also provides nesting grounds for endangered turtle species. The Pedro Cays have gained extensive media coverage over recent years due to intensive fishing, high human densities and their potential impact on the ecosystem. The drafting of the Cays Management Policy is currently underway (

Pedro Cays

We were escorted around Pedro Cays by a member of the JDF who is currently stationed there. We visited the JDF Coastguard quarters, the modern Nature Conservancy base (, and the fishing grounds and living areas of the fishers.

Following our stop-off at Pedro Cays, we headed back to Port Royal which was a rather calmer experience than our outward journey!

I would like to thank the JDF Coastguard Commander and crew for their excellent service throughout the trip and enabling myself and other members of the National Council of Ocean and Coastal Zone Management (NCOCZM) to visit South West Rock in recognition of Jamaica’s archipelagic status.

Field trip to Manatee Bay – check out video!

Field trip to collect water and surface sediment samples from the lagoon during tropical dry season


We recently revisited Manatee Bay, Hellshire Hills, Jamaica as part of an extension on our ongoing work Manatee Bay is one of Jamaica’s most isolated beaches and as you can see from the photos is a stunning place – however the sand flies are persistent and you have to watch out for the stingrays as the shallow bays are a major spawning ground for the Southern Stingray!

Check out this video of us approaching Manatee Bay to see why it is only accessible by boat!

Manatee Bay - carbonate beach

Manatee Bay – globally recognized biodiversity hotspot

The uniqueness and importance of Manatee Bay was illustrated by Professor Byron Wilson from Life Sciences, University of the West Indies (Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology & Head, Jamaican Iguana Recovery Group) where he has described the area as ‘containing the least disturbed and most valuable coastal habitat remaining on the island’. He stated that ‘together with a suite of endemic birds, invertebrates, and plants, and the most intact dry forest on the island, Hellshire is a treasure trove of Jamaica’s natural heritage, and is clearly the most important remaining natural coastal habitat left on the island.’ See link for full report

Byron Wilson and his committed team continue their excellent work out in the Manatee Bay area including work on the Jamaican Iguanas, crocodiles and control of invasive species.–but-still-under-threat_12365020. The whole team have been invaluable in assisting us with our work at Manatee Bay.

Hellshire Hills in the background Manatee Bay lagoon edge

Our Research

Our ongoing project is working on sediment cores that we recovered from the lagoon behind Manatee Bay and Coquar Bay The most recent component of the project is focusing on the ostracods. We are using ostracods to reconstruct changes in the environment over the last 1000 years.

As part of this work we are taking regular modern water samples and surface sediment samples from the lagoon. This field trip was during the latter stages of the tropical dry season. Note the drying out of the pond – watch out for future photos during the wet season!

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Mike Burn at Manatee Bay   Suzanne - sampling