Friday, 20 September 2013

Conservation of the Belize Barrier Reef: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

 
Let’s face it! Our world is awesome! Belize is proud to be the home of the largest Barrier Reef in the Western Hemisphere, a haven for awesome and diverse marine life. The Belize Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Marine Site, and if you have ever had the good fortune to dive or snorkel in this area, you will understand why Charles Darwin declared it to be, “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies”. Charles Darwin, the originator of the theory of evolution studied “life” and its “origin” and found it in Belize’s Barrier Reef.


The Belize Barrier Reef is the longest in both the Northern and Western Hemisphere, linking the country’s coastline for almost 140 miles, an extensive wall made up of beautiful, live, coral organisms. The reef is the home of 70 hard coral species, 36 soft coral species, 500 species of fish, the West Indian manatee, green turtle, hawksbill turtle, loggerhead turtle, American crocodile, and hundreds of invertebrate species. The Belize Barrier Reef System includes 9 marine reserves:

·      Bacalar Chico
·      Caye Caulker
·      Gladden Spit & Silk Cayes
·      Glover’s Reef
·      Hol Chan
·      Port Honduras
·      Sapodilla Cayes
·      South Water Caye
·      Turneffe Atoll
Belize is also home to 3 of the 4 atolls in the northern hemisphere:
·      Glover’s Reef Atoll
·      Lighthouse Reef Atoll
·      Turneffe Islands Atoll,

Many government, international, regional, national, and local organizations work together to protect the reef, few of these include:
·      Forest Department
·      Fisheries Department
·      Southern Environmental Association
·      Coral Reef Alliance
·      Wildlife Conservative Society,
·      Natural Conservancy
·      Ecomar
·      Green Reef
·      Oceana
·      APAMO
·      PACT
·      Belize Audubon Society
·      Placencia Mooring Masters

The reef is Belize’s livelihood and without it Belize as we know it would not exist, therefore conservation of the reef is primal. The hard work of many of these organizations have resulted in the implementation of many conservation laws including:
·      Coral Reef Conservation Act (CRCA)
·      Fishing Regulation in the protected area        
o   Protecting parrotfish, grazers, Nassau grouper (an endangered species)
·      Banning spearfishing within marine reserves
·      No- take Zones in protected areas:
o   South Water Caye, Sapodilla Cayes marine reserves, and Pelican Cayes

The goals for protection of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserves include working with local fishermen to manage the use of the reserve, raising public awareness of the value of the ocean, and to maintain fishing regulations. Conservation of the Belize Barrier Reef not only allows for the growth and development of a diverse eco-system, but also for maintaining the aesthetic beauty for all divers to experience such an amazing wonder.

Many local organizations that call Placencia home are active in reef conservation.


Splash Dive Center facilitates many community projects such as Splash Kids Club, The Placencia Mooring Masters lion fish culling. Through Splash Kids Club, local children are given the opportunity to become professional divers, and are thought about the importance of reef conservation. The Placencia Mooring Masters is a community organization that protect Belize's Reef through the installation of anchor mooring buoys, to prevent permanent damage to the reef caused by dropped anchors and their dragging chains. Splash has paid for mooring buoys at Silk Cayes and Laughing Bird National Park and has provided dive equipment to assist with the installations.  Together we all can protect the Belize Barrier Reef.

Contact Patty at patricia@splashbelize.com to find out how you can help us protect the Belize Barrier Reef!

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