Belize’s Great Barrier Reef Gets a Boost
An eight-day Mesoamerican reef protection workshop held in Belize City this week (late April – early May) is helping to ensure the health and sustainability of Belize’s magnificent Great Barrier Reef.
With its scores of cayes, the incredible Blue Hole of Jacques Cousteau fame, some of the planet’s largest atolls and one of its rare whale shark annual migration areas, Belize’s Great Barrier Reef, also known as the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR), is truly one of the natural wonders of the world.
It’s also a very fragile eco system that took millions of years to evolve, but in just a few generations is already reeling from the effects of human intrusion, especially with things like pollution, agricultural runoff, overfishing, coral damage from ships and their anchors, and that rising star of ecological damage, global warming.
But the good news is that concerned people the world over have taken up the challenge to preserve this stunning example of Mother Nature’s handiwork, and last week we saw some of them meet in Belize City to participate in an eight-day workshop.
The workshop was held by the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program, “an initiative focused on providing emerging conservation leaders with the necessary skills to implement innovative projects that will contribute to the health and ecological sustainability of the Mesoamerican Reef”, according to its organisers, with the objective to encourage:
“…communities to work together, across borders, to protect the reef and utilise the region’s natural resources in a sustainable manner. The program works with young leaders from Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras to assist them to actualise projects that encourage the sustainable use and conservation of the region.”
Program director Maria Eugenia Arreola explained that the week’s focus was on developing skills and projects aimed at protecting the reef.
“What we do is, every year we open up a call for applications and we invite entrepreneurs and young conservationists who are initiating their career or are in the middle of their career to join the program with a proposal, an idea of a project that they can implement in protection of the coral reefs,” she explained.
From what we understand, it’s a busy week with some serious training going on in areas such as public speaking, dealing with the media, fundraising, negotiation, conflict resolution and other skills needed to make a difference.
This is welcome news for Chaa Creek’s Belize Natural History Centre, which for several decades has assisted with and sponsored research in a variety of projects that help us better understand and protect Belize’s incredibly diverse and spectacular natural world. The NHC’s naturalists know the challenge of creating public awareness about the need for environmental protection, and workshops such as the MAR Leadership Program go a long way in helping to achieve that.
As Ms Arreola put it, “Our vision is to have a healthy reef and prosperous communities… we want to launch high impact projects that will be led by conservationists that have the skills, that have the tools, the knowledge… to succeed in their projects.
“At the end, what we want is the sustainable use of our natural resources. We are very lucky to have this important ecosystem and we want to provide different solutions and projects that will help us to use of our resources in a sustainable way,” she added.
We couldn’t agree more, and we’d like to thank the MAR Leadership Program organisers for their efforts in helping to protect one of the world’s most stunning natural treasures.