Friday, April 22, 2011

Belize Expedition: Earth to Explorers....

Belize Expedition, 2011

Hello Explorers,

Happy Earth Day! Spring is in full-swing here in Boston, which means that it's time for me to think about the tropics. Some Aquarium colleagues (Pete and Walter) and collaborators (Jay) and I will be headed down South to my favorite island: Carrie Bow Cay, home to the Smithsonian Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystem Program.

Carrie Bow Caye, Belize

Right around this time last year, we were on-island when a no-take zone was being implemented in the Southwater Caye Marine Reserve, which was a momentous occasion. With the deployment of no-take marker bouys (pictured below), neither artisinal nor commercial fishing can take place within the reserve. Just in time, too - while fish populations throughout the Caribbean are suffering major declines, marine protected areas have the opportunity to provide a buffer from fishing pressure... but only if they are well-marked and enforced.

No-take zone buoy marking the perimeter of the Southwater Caye Marine Reserve.

Fishing fleet in Belize City, harbored due to rough weather, demonstrates the massive effort per boat
(4-6 dugout canoes per sailboat, each fishing all day every day on the reefs).

In Belize, there is a massive "artisinal" fishing effort based on a smaller sailboat loaded with dugout canoes. But the fishing pressure is still intense, and to see if the marine reserve is working, we need to measure fish abundance, diversity, and biomass inside and outside of the reserve over time. We started this monitoring effort last year, and this year we will be expanding and honing our design to ensure that we will have an effective monitoring program that will be compatible with other efforts in the region. By implementing such no-take marine reserves, the Belize Government is working hard to help reefs stay healthy and keep stocks of groupers, snappers, jacks, and herbivores from further decline.

Jacks, snappers, groupers, and herbivores are all protected in the Southwater Caye Marine Reserve; an MPA newly designated as "no-take".

What a fitting day to think both locally AND globally... we'll be posting updates from the field in just a few days, so stay tuned. Why not make it an Earth Day resolution to stay informed on global marine research and conservation?!

Happy Earth Day,


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