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May 12, 2015

Belize’s Reef Report Card Revealed

Belize, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras make up the Mesoamerican Reef and it’s been eight years since they last got their report card. Well, over those years in-depth and extensive studies were carried out as well as Healthy Reefs for Healthy People say we only got a “Fair” for the condition of the reef. But, looking closer to home, Belize performed at the bottom of the scale compared to Honduras and Mexico. Along with Guatemala, Belize got a “poor” mark. While the grade shows that some things must be addressed, there are areas that have improved since the last report card. Andrea Polanco joined a roomful of environmentalists today to find out why Belize’s reef condition is “poor”.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

When you get a “fair” mark on your report card, it is not necessarily a bad sign, but it also isn’t the best sign. Well, that’s what Healthy Reefs for Healthy People are saying about the condition of The Mesoamerican Reef.  The Reef got a “Fair” score on the overall health of its ecosystem.  But, what’s Belize’s score?  Belize still has a ‘poor’ score since eight years ago. With research conducted in ninety four sites in Belize, we have a grade of two point five out of five.

 

Jennifer Chapman

Jennifer Chapman, Coordinator, Blue Ventures

“Basically, what this means, when we look at the status it’s a combination of four different indicators; coral cover, fleshy macroalgal cover, herbivorous fish biomass and commercial fish biomass. So, when you look at the overall score of the sites, we see that around forty percent of the reef in Belize is in poor condition that means that some of these indicators are not doing very well. In Belize case, the indicators that are really suffering are the commercial fish biomass and fleshy macro-algal cover.”

 

Roberto Pott, Coordinator, Healthy Reefs

“The things that are doing well are herbivorous fish; coral growth hasn’t gotten worse which is a good sign for us because we lost a lot in the early 2000’s and then we started to see that the commercial species aren’t recovering as fast as we’d like. But the thing of most fleshy macro-algae and we believe that’s related to the management of our agricultural runoff as well as sewage treatment in Belize and that really is heavy costing. There is no way around it; we need to resolve those issues before it gets worst.”

 

Roberto Pott

While all is not well, other areas are showing improvement. But, what does it mean for Belize? Research shows that climate change, pollution, overfishing, lack of planning are all factors impacting the condition of our ecosystem.

 

Roberto Pott

“The more fleshy macro-algae you have, the less coral…it’s a threat to the corals. It could potentially overgrow corals and so you would end up losing corals. If you don’t have your parrot fish to clean off your reef and clean off your fleshy macro-algae, then you will start losing more reef. And the herbivores might not be enough. We need to solve the problem at the source which is the runoff and sanitation management.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“The results that you guys presented today is it of great concern, you’d say for all the partners involved and for Belize? Should Belize take it as something very serious?”

 

Roberto Pott

“I think there are areas of serious concerns. Fleshy macro-algae is something we cannot lose sight of and we need to take action. Planning is an important part of that. We don’t want to end up with an issue where nobody wants to sewage pond in their backyard. Let’s plan and see where we put that even before we start developing our urban areas. That is a key message for Belize.”

 

And to address some of these concerns will require a concerted effort by all partners. From education to policy change- the reef needs it.

 

Beverly Wade

Beverly Wade, Administrator, Fisheries

“I could tell you that one of the areas the fisheries department is paying keen attention to is the area where they are looking at commercial fin fish. The report card is saying that our numbers have really decreased. It is something that we have to look into. We have a number of legislation that is ready for passage. We have to now go to our policy makers and present a case why we feel that these legislation needs to come in sooner rather than later. So there are a number of areas that we want to look at. One of the recommendations was for us to look at our protected areas network to see how effective it is.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Andrea Polanco.

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