Joulter Cays

Year of compilation: 2012

Site description
The Joulter Cays (25o 16.00 North 78o 7.00 West) lie on the margins of the Grand Bahama Bank north of Andros Island. It is a large intertidal to shallow subtidal area of stabilized sand flats that covers approximately 160 km2 (16,000 ha). The sand flats are penetrated partly by tidal channels with grass beds. The flats area fringed on the windward eastern and northeastern boarders by mobile sands creating roosting habitats for shorebirds. On the seaward side there is a ridge of vegetated islands up to 6 m above mean sea level. The primary vegetation on the Joulter Cays is Red and Black Mangrove. Other vegetated islands are scattered among the sand flats. The sand bars are primarily made up of Ooid or Oolite sand. This unique spherical grained sand resembling Fish-roe is developed through a chemical process adding concentric layers around a central nucleus. The sands have a large surface area that promotes bacterial growth and are mainly used in the aquarium industry.

Key biodiversity

Non-bird biodiversity: Bonefish, Lemon Shark, Green Sea Turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Sawfish

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Sea level rise , sSand mining (area thought to be under concession) and invasive plants.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Piping Plover Iinternational Census 2011 - National Audubon Society, and Environment Canada. Follow up survey in 2012 by National Audubon Society. 2011 - Primary focus of this 1 day survey effort was Piping Plover as part of the International Plover Census. 5 people one day with low tides. 2012 - Shorebird Survey of the Joulter Cays - 4 day expedition counting all shorebirds, Waterbirds and other notable species. Good Tides.

Protected areas
Not currently protected. The Joulter Cays are named under the 1968 Wild Bird Act as a Wild Bird reserve. The Act stipulates that it is illegal to harm, kill or capture or attempt to harm, kill or capture ANY wild birds in these areas at any time. While the legislation does not protect the habitats directly it does provide the platform for future protections.

Habitat and land use
Andros is called the “Bonefish Capital of the World” and the Joulter Cays is one of the prime bonefishing destinations in the Bahamas.. The area also supports other sport fish such as barracuda, permit, jacks, snapper, and sharks. The primary use of the area is by recreational anglers who are accompanied by local guides. This provides a significant economic benefit to communities on Andros and The Bahamas. The area is also used for geological field research focused on the unique Ooilte sand geological features. A small settlement was attempted once - 2 houses but failed primarily due to the lack of fresh water and unpredictable weather events.

Compilers: Matt Jeffery, Walker Golder - National Audubon Society

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Joulter Cays. Downloaded from on 09/08/2022.