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Jun 29, 2011

Oceana’s Conference brings 20 scientists who researched in Belize

OCEANA has been at the forefront of a campaign against offshore oil exploration and oil drilling and the impact on the fragile ecosystem. A team of well known scientists are back in Belize to review research by local and international experts on the impact of oil spills versus the economic gains to fishing and tourism. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Environmental scientists, who completed research in Belize, have returned for a meeting of the minds regarding the biodiversity, complexity, and functional role of species in our environment. Dr. Daniel Pauly explains.

Daniel Pauly, Principal Investigator, Sea Around Us Project, University of British Columbia

Daniel Pauly

“The invited scientists that will be presenting, they’ve come from the states, England and Canada. They will be presenting the research summary of the research they have done over the years here in Belize so that people know about that research and so that the result becomes available to the Belize public, to students and so on. That’s one purpose.”

Amongst the twenty presenters is Professor Richard Aronson of Florida Institute of Technology, who has worked extensively on lagoonal reefs in Belize.

Richard Aronson

Richard Aronson, Head of Biology Dept., Florida Institute of Technology

“My talk is about the natural and human caused threats to the reef in Belize particularly the communities of coral sponges and fish that live in the reef and how oil drilling would potentially be an added threat. So the basic pitch is that we have disease outbreaks that are affecting the corals, we have coral bleaching that’s a result of human caused global warming, we have overfishing, we have nutrient loading from changing land use and all of these threats combined to endanger the precious barrier reef that’s the common inheritance of the people of Belize. Adding oil drilling to that is going to increase the risks to reef. And the main point is that it is up to the Belizean people to decide what they want to do about the reef. There is short term gain on one hand and there is long term persistence and long term profit, if you will, on the other hand.”

The conference sponsored by Oceana Belize is held under the theme Too Precious to Drill: the Marine Biodiversity of Belize. All presentations help to demonstrate Oceana’s concern about the reef and seas.

Maria Cristina Diaz

Maria Cristina Diaz, Research Associate, Museo Marino De Margarita in Venezuela

“My presentation is entitled Biodiversity of Marine Sponges from Belize beyond to the Caribbean. And what I am going to present is the huge amount of species that is in Belize with respect to the Caribbean and the importance of this diversity. This is a skeleton of the organism. The sponges filter a tremendous amount of water through their bodies. A sponge this size which probably has around one kilo in weight could filter up to twenty-four tons of water a day. And when I say filter, it means that it takes up all the bacteria particularly organic matter, oxygen and it transforms and spits out processed organic matter, nitrogen. So it is a very important organism for the functioning of the reef and the mangroves. It will be something in between a kidney and a liver. They are a huge treasure trove of natural product chemistry with very high biomedical potential. In the present, we have a few antiviral, anti-tumor, antibiotic products that are already in the market for example; acyclovir—it’s a compound, a medicine that was derived from a sponge from the Mediterranean. There is currently a German group exploiting collagen from sponges that is used instead of cow collagen for the different medical applications in which collagen is used. So there is a great potential for these species and we should not lose it. Belizeans should not lose all this treasure that they have in their three hundred and thirty kilometers of their coastline could be gone if there is a small accident or if the prospecting is not done right.”

Daniel Pauly

“Now that Belize is a t the cusp of deciding whether to allow offshore drilling or not—allow people to have an informed decision on what they risk. And what they risk is losing a part or all of this marvelous diversity that attracts so many tourists; that support the fisheries and which is also two integral part of the economy of the country.”

Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

The two-day conference continues at the Biltmore Plaza on Thursday.

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1 Response for “Oceana’s Conference brings 20 scientists who researched in Belize”

  1. Stan says:

    It,s about time this …’ker leave this country and, exile himself to somewhere else. Barrow you can’t be so arrogant that you can’t heed the advice of qualified people.Are the $ signs in your blinding you? Please do Belize and Belizeans a favor and, leave alone.

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