FORCE conducts survey on reef status in Ambergris Caye

Monday, August 6th, 2012

The Future of Reefs in a Changing Environment (FORCE), a research project was on Ambergris Caye for the past weeks conducting research on the status of the reef. The group held a community meeting on Wednesday July 25th at 7PM at the Lion’s Den to inform the general public on the surveys being held on the island.

The team of six:  Dr. Johanna Forster, Dr. Rachel Turner, David Gill, Angelie Peterson, Cecilia Guerrero, and Lindolfo Chicas were on hand for the presentation and questions. Speaking of the project Dr. Forster stated; “It is an initiative that is looking at finding ways of managing Caribbean reefs. We are working in different countries in the Caribbean, speaking with people who use reefs for their livelihoods such as tourism and fishing. Our aim is finding out the changes they’ve seen with the reefs to see how the management of the reef is going and whether they think things are good, things are okay or things need to be changed. We are also looking at what the conditions are for improvement. We are really interested in finding out more about the livelihood dependency on the reef and reef management.

The team was in San Pedro for about three weeks interviewing individuals that work in the tourism industry and use the reef for their livelihood, including the various environmental organizations. Prior to visiting Belize, the group worked in Honduras, St Kitts and Nevis and Barbados. In Belize, they worked in three communities; Hopkins, Placencia and San Pedro.

At the meeting, the group invited participation of the attendees to create somewhat of a timeline demonstrating the positive and negative impacts on the community and the reef that have come about over the past six decades, starting in the 1950’s as it pertains to the fishing and tourism industry.

Speaking of their experience on the island and their thoughts on the surveys and our reef, Johanna stated, “The research is showing us that reefs are really very important for the people in Belize. Obviously in San Pedro, tourism is the biggest part of the economy. It is also showing us that there is a really high level of awareness about how the reefs are in terms of their state and the health status and the impacts on the reefs. And people have a lot of opinions about how they think the reefs are being looked after.” According to Johanna the general consensus from the residents on the island is that the reef is reasonably healthy and still in relatively good condition. However they do feel that there certainly have been changes and that in the past the reef has been much healthier.

The team will look at their surveys and results and compare various reef management systems across the Caribbean, seeing which ones work and why and share their findings with all the participating countries in the hope to better manage the reefs. While on the island, the group had a chance to visit the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and had a blast, “We have had a chance to visit the reef and we thought it was great.  We went snorkeling and we personally really enjoyed ourselves. The reef looked very healthy compared to other places we’ve snorkeled and dived in the Caribbean” ended Johanna.

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