Friday, June 21, 2024

Visiting students help with beach clean-up in northern Ambergris Caye

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Another beach clean-up occurred at Robles Point along the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve on the northeastern coast of Ambergris Caye. Large amounts of rubbish were removed from this area, some nine miles north of San Pedro Town. It is a favorite nesting area for sea turtles, so organizers continue to ask those visiting the northern beaches not to litter, which can seriously interfere with nesting.
Spearheading the activity was well-known islander Guillermo ‘Mito’ Paz, who, along with another environmental advocate, Elito Arceo, made the initiative. A group of students from the University of New England in Maine, USA, joined them. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which manages a monitoring turtle nesting program, also joined them. The collective effort saw the filling of numerous large bags with rubbish from the beach.
The amount of trash found on this part of the island disappointed Paz and Arceo, who noted that the improper disposal of garbage remains one of the main issues on the island. They said that on countless occasions, they participated in similar clean-ups on these northern beaches without any luck solving the issue. Most items collected from the area are made from plastic, a hazardous product for the sensitive island marine environment.
The source of this issue is that these beaches far up north have always been popular with islanders, particularly on weekends. The area is isolated from the hustle and bustle of San Pedro Town and provides visitors with total tranquillity and natural beauty. The problem, however, is that after a day of enjoying these remote beaches, people do not pick up their rubbish. Instead, they leave it there, becoming a hazard and an eyesore. As such, anyone driving up the coast to these isolated beaches to enjoy a family day is asked to leave the area free of garbage. If they see a turtle nest during their trip up north, do not disturb it. It is illegal and can lead to a fine and imprisonment if found disturbing the site or the turtles.
According to Arceo, Robles Point is among the few remaining turtles nesting on Ambergris Caye. The nesting season usually begins in May and goes through November. According to Hol Chan Marine Reserve records, the main nesters are Loggerhead and Green turtles. Hawksbill turtles make rare visits. These turtles are endangered species and protected in Belize. In the past, turtle nesting was reported close to San Pedro Town; however, development has pushed turtles to nest farther north, where there is less contact with people. The fear is that the trash pollution may push turtles away, and they could stop coming to these shores to lay their eggs. Hol Chan has indicated that garbage may also interfere with successfully hatching the nests. Thus, keeping the area clean is the best way to conserve the beauty of this distant piece of paradise that continues to be a haven for sea turtles.
Paz and Arceo thanked the University of New England students for their time to help in this good cause to benefit the island’s fragile environment. They also acknowledged the assistance from the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the San Pedro Town Council in providing a vehicle to transport the rubbish from this northern part of the island.

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