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May 6, 2022

MarAlliance: The Unsung Heroes of Marine Conservation in Belize

MarAlliance has been carrying out research on various shark species for the last fifteen years across the nation’s waters.  Currently, the organization is conducting its studies off Halfmoon Caye, located on the Southern Corner of Light House Reef Atoll. In recent years, Dr. Rachel Graham, the Director and Founder of MarAlliance and her team have witnessed a significant increase in the shark population, after recording a concerning decline a decade ago. They have taken note of the return of species like the lemon shark. And, while these are encouraging statistics, the shark population in Belize remains under threat from overfishing and pollution. One of the processes used to gather information on the shark population is known as the long line method, an exercise where the sharks are hooked, tagged, measured, and released. News Five accompanied the MarAlliance team off Half Moon Caye today on one of their research exercises.

 

Rachel Graham

Rachel Graham, Executive Director, MarAlliance

“We caught four sharks today; in fact we have such an amazing team. We have this incredible alliance with fishers and guides and Fisheries. We actually caught seven sharks in total and one big logger head to put a satellite tag on. But right with this boat four sharks, a couple of females, a couple of males. What we caught just a few minutes ago, we caught four Caribbean Reef sharks, possibly the second most common sharks in the Caribbean and U.S., but they have really been hit very hard by over fishing, in the past few years I would say ten twenty years. But, they are really coming back, and we are starting to see them comeback in a big way in Light House and Turneffe and other places, and we are very excited about that because it means a lot for Belize’s tourism and they also keep the coral reef very healthy. We also saw a lot of juveniles today on the west side. Thi9s is a really good sign. We want those adults and hoping we will be catching some adults, but juveniles, that is the next gen, the future of our sharks. We try email and WhatsApp but they don’t respond to email and WhatsApp, they are very inconsiderate, what can I say. Unfortunately, we do have to catch them with hooks. We use circular hooks because we want to mouth catch them. We also put in the lines for very short periods of time because we don’t want to stress them. Once we catch a shark we like to keep it in the water because it is a lot less stress that way. You see a lot of the times on the big channels they pull out the sharks. We don’t like to do that so much, we can keep them in the water, keep them happy and we move very quickly. Our team is incredible, they move like a well oiled team. Everyone knows what to do, measure, fin clip samples, then get it ready for conventional tag. If it is a kind of shark we really want to be able to tag with a satellite tag, which is a lot more expensive, like the Great Hammer Head which is critically endangered, and Lemon Heads which we have not seen much of but we want to know more about, then we will put on one of these satellite tags which will tell us basically where it has been in its journey as a shark.”


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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