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Dec 4, 2012

Report Card out on Mesoamerican Reef Health

The 2012 Mesoamerican Reef Report Card was released by Healthy Reef Initiative. The findings of a study conducted along the coast of Belize and neighboring countries that comprise Mesoamerica show that the health of the eco-region is not in good shape and that fish stock and coral are at risk. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Over the past two years marine biologists have been closely monitoring the health of the Mesoamerican Reef in order to determine its overall state.  While some areas of improvement have been recorded, the general prognosis is that the eco-region which spans the coast of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, remains in poor condition.  In 2010, Healthy Reefs Initiative designated a hundred and ninety-three sites for the study of coral cover, fleshy algae cover, herbivorous fish abundance, as well as commercially important fish.  Those results were officially released today during the launch of the Mesoamerican Reef Report Card 2012.


Melanie McField

Dr. Melanie McField, Director, Healthy Reefs Initiative

“The window of opportunity for protecting these reefs or correcting the things that are wrong is closing.  Every year that more reefs fall into critical condition it’s really hard to get them out of critical condition.  You can get them out of poor back into fair but once they get too bad, you know, there’s a declining return on any effort that you start putting into these reefs once they are too far gone.  So we still have some fair reefs, we still have a few good reefs and now is the time to really focus the attention on those management actions.”


Those actions include the protection of herbivorous fish in Belize.  Since 2010 the population of these fish have grown by thirty-three percent.  Other areas that require some measure of improvement include better management of agricultural waste, coastal development, as well as the treatment of used water.


Dr. Melanie McField

“On average if you had to give the whole Mesoamerican Reef a grade it comes out poor.  So it’s a little less poor than it was last time, that’s the little part of the little bit of good news and, you know, when you think about it in context of what’s happening globally with coral reefs, the fact that we’re not here giving really bad news is, in itself, a bit of good news because we’re holding on by the skin of our teeth but we’re holding on a little better than many places in the world.”


In Honduras, seventy percent of the sites decreased in health, while in Mexico most of the sites improved.  Information from Guatemala, however, is rather hard to come by, underscoring the need for increasing efforts to monitor the respective sites over a long-term period.  The fisheries industry, says McField, is being affected.


Dr. Melanie McField

“We need fish on the reef; we need fish on fishermen’s boats and in our plates, but where is the balance. One of the things that Belize has adopted that is important is the idea of fisheries refuges—the fully protected areas where you let the fish grow large. They then produce exponentially more baby fish. So that’s what we need is fish factories all up and down the reef. We have a few little ones like Hol Chan, Half-moon Caye; we have these small fully protected areas that are trying to recede the entire reef, but we don’t have enough of it. We need to have twenty percent of the reef assigned in full protection and now we have like three percent or four percent.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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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3 Responses for “Report Card out on Mesoamerican Reef Health”

  1. Blue says:

    The fish refuges are a great idea though without enforcement, it’s futile.
    I’ve personally witnessed many of these refuges fished unlawfully without enforcement.
    Tour boats witness this every day and say/do nothing.
    Without cooperation from the witnesses, without communications from the witnesses to authorities, how is ‘anything’ going to change? Give the tour operators financial incentives to report the crimes, while protecting their identities, allowing them to film/take snap shots of the perpetrators via camera and you have solved the problem.
    This is a simple solution though without ‘action’ or with indifference, the problem will never be solved to/for the benefit of the people/tourists/conservation of the reef.

  2. Storm says:

    A year or so ago I saw on television that the African nation of Liberia had a similar problem with illegal fishing, and no Coast Guard at all to enforce it. So they asked other fishermen to help enforce, and if they caught someone breaking the law, the government would sell that boat and split the money with the citizens who caught it. I think they are still doing that. That would give a good incentive for people to help enforce the law, and a big disincentive for people to break it, knowing they will lose their boat.

  3. Truth says:


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