About Us

Established in 1999, Navassa Island National Wildlife Refuge is an uninhabited, 5 km² island in the Caribbean Sea between Haiti and Jamaica.

Prior to becoming a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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, two expeditions of USGS scientists conducted an inventory of natural resources of the island
. Findings from the expeditions uncovered more than 600 terrestrial species which contributed to the instrumental in the decision in 1999 to make Navassa a National Wildlife Refuge.

Our Mission

The refuge was established to preserve and protect the coral reef ecosystems and the marine environment, to restore and enhance native wildlife and plants, and to provide opportunities for wildlife research.

Our History

In 1857, the phosphorite on Navassa was mistaken for guano by a U.S. sea captain who laid claim to the island under the Guano Island Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1855. Between 1865 and 1898 almost a million tons of the phosphorite were strip-mined from the island and shipped to Baltimore by the Navassa Phosphate Co. The island was abandoned during the Spanish American War, but by that time it was firmly established as US territory.

The opening of the Panama Canal put Navassa in the middle of the traffic lanes between the Atlantic and Caribbean, and the Coast Guard built a lighthouse on the island in 1917. Navassa Lighthouse was the first light to guide ships to the Panama Canal. It was featured in National Geographic in 1918.  Global Positioning Systems eliminated the need for the lighthouse by 1996, and the Coast Guard turned Navassa over to U.S. Department of Interior on January 16, 1997.

Other Facilities in this Complex

Navassa Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of many refuges that make up the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Each refuge in the complex plays vital role to conserving our unique, endemic species and resources in the Caribbean.