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Mar 14, 2017

Reef Challenge Gives New Awareness on Precious Natural Resource

Reef Week kicked off last week with a number of activities and it continued over the weekend with a ride, cleanup effort and a swim challenge. News Five tagged along with the folks from the World Wildlife Fund out to Goff’s and English Caye for the yearly reef swim challenge. It is a challenge – not a competition – that is held to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy reef. On Sunday twenty-five swimmers took to the English Channel to challenge themselves and, for some, to engage in a friendly competition to cross the finish line first. Here’s a look at how the reef swim challenge went on Sunday:

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Twenty-five swimmers, including seventeen Coast Guards braved the English Channel on Sunday for the annual Reef Swim Challenge. For some, it is the first time taking on the one point six mile swim route – from English Caye to Goff’s Caye – but for several others, like the Seamen of the Coast Guard – they return time and time again to take up the challenge. And on Sunday, in just under an hour, one of the Coast Guard’s Seamen bested his previous appearances and was the first to finish the challenge.

 

Elijio Pop, Seaman, Coast Guard

“This is my fourth reef challenge. It was a very good swim. I always prove myself and always be proud.   My aim was to reach a certain time – less than hour – and I hope I meet that.”

 

Elijio Pop

Andrea Polanco

“What was the condition of the sea like; what were the tides like – was it rough out there; more challenging than before?”

 

Elijio Pop

“Well, the tide is really not that rough; not the few past three reef swims I have done already which were very difficult like three feet above us.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“What kept you going?”

 

Elijio Pop

“Well, my aim was to reach this point – to reach Goff’s Caye and I said it is just one mile I have to complete the swim; nothing more.  We do more and more – a lot of swimming; when we deploy we do our training as well; we swim for like half an hour; half mile and we time ourselves like thirty –two minutes and so forth.”

 

Michael Daniel Kerr

Michael Daniel Kerr, Seaman Apprentice, Coast Guard

“Magnificent reef that we have and the swim was excellent. It is a part of our training and I expect to do this more often, every year; this is my second year, so.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“You did better this year than you did last year?”

 

Michael Daniel Kerr

“Yeah. I did much better this year than last year because of the tide, the tide was high last year so this year was much better.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, the sea conditions you think really helped you today?”

 

Michael Daniel Kerr

“Yeah the sea conditions really helped all of us, I believe.  I was expecting to come first but competition was there, but my training brought us to that level so I know how to endure.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, you didn’t get tired and you didn’t think about giving up?”

 

Michael Daniel Kerr

“No. No. Because the techniques I have carried me a long way.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Are you planning to come back next year and challenge Mr Pop for that first place?”

 

Michael Daniel Kerr

“Yeah. Definitely next year will be coming back.”

 

Gilroy Lewis

Gilroy Lewis, Master Chief, Coast Guard

“The Coast Guard is the guardian of the sea and we partner with N.G.O.s to carry out our mandate at sea. Part of our mission is to save lives and property at sea, and as such partnering with N.G.O.s is one of our missions.  Their performance was excellent; the first five persons that came in was actually from the Coast Guard. The Commandant ensures that the personnel is on the cutting edge as it relates to physical activity and the ability for us to meet our mandate at any given time.”

 

The reef swim challenge is not a competition – it is an activity geared towards promoting and showingthe importance of the balance between a healthy reef and healthy people. This year the World Wildlife Fund took on the challenge to organize the event that was previously under the direction of the Healthy Reefs.

 

Nadia Bood

Nadia Bood, Country Rep, WWF Belize

“One of the things is by raising awareness, we are able to further actions to respect the reef, respect the marine environment and protect the reef as well, nuh.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“We know that all the time we hear calls for certain legislation; certain policies to be put in place; now when it comes to the general population, what can we as Belizean people do to protect our marine environment?”

 

Nadia Bood

“Yeah. We can all play a role. We don’t have to be working directly in protecting the system; but there are certain things that we can do; such as do not litter when you are at sea or on a boat do not throw any garbage in the water; if you are at sea and you see something floating in the water pick it up; participate in clean up campaigns and coastal marine cleanup campaign. If you see someone doing something wrong let them know that is not the right thing to do – that they should respect the reef and do whatever they can to protect the marine ecosystem.”

 

Among the more than twenty men, there were four women who took up the challenge to highlight the importance of a healthy reef – among them were Jolie Pollard of Placencia and a fifteen year old student, who both challenged themselves with their first swim on Sunday. Pollard was the first woman to finish the challenge and the second was the youngest swimmer Leana Cocom.

 

Leana Cocom

Leana Cocom, Swimmer

“It was really rough. The current are like you are swimming there and you are not moving anywhere and then when you saw grass it was like uhhhh.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Does this give you some kind of motivation to continue swimming and say you know what I am going to do this?”

 

Leana Cocom

“Of course, it does. Next year I plan to come back again and do it maybe in less time come back in a higher rank.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, this is your first year?”

 

Leana Cocom

“Yes, first year. I do triathlon but we do swimming in the pool. We never done swimming in the sea, so this is the first time I actually experimented swimming in the sea.”

 

Giovanni Alamilla

Giovanni Alamilla, President, Belize Triathlon Association

“We had twenty five swimmers participate; seventeen from coast guard; and eight from triathlon association and different individuals who just signed up. The first swimmer from coast guard finished in fifty-nine minutes and twenty-two seconds; then the second finished one hour two minutes and twenty seconds and the third, one hundred two minutes and twenty-five seconds.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, there was a little challenge among the coast guard officers?”

 

Giovanni Alamilla

“Oh yes. They always turn this into a race among themselves, right?”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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