The Los Roques and Las Aves oceanic coral reef archipelagos of Venezuela lie in a biogeographically unique and biologically diverse area of the Caribbean and possess extensive coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and shallow macroalgae meadows. The geographic location of these archipelagos safeguards them from most Western Atlantic hurricane damage as well as the most severe Caribbean coral bleaching episodes. While the Aves islands remain uninhabited and are an area of low accessibility, Los Roques has been a managed national park since 1972. We here present an updated synthesis of recent research for these archipelagos as an aid to scientists and conservationists interested in these island groups for which no recent ecological reviews are available.
Los Roques has been much better documented than Las Aves and is the largest coral reef marine protected area of Venezuela. It has about 1,500 inhabitants living principally from tourism and fisheries. Studies show that Los Roques possesses fish populations that suffer comparatively less fishing pressure and may serve as a rare benchmark for pristine fish communities elsewhere in the Caribbean. It has also successfully maintained its importance to seabird colonies for the last five decades, notwithstanding serious marine park funding and staffing shortages. A new baseline biological inventory for Las Aves is particulary critical considering the fragmentary information available for this archipelago. The relatively intact and resilient oceanic coral reef systems of Los Roques and Las Aves are of regionally significant conservation value and deserve much more conservation and biodiversity attention than so far accorded.