Health of the Mesoamerican Reef is failing

A recent eco-audit commissioned by Healthy Reefs Initiative shows that the health of the Mesoamerican reef is failing and that at least seventy percent was in poor condition in the 2008 and 2010 report cards. The audit found that while there is progress, the condition of the reef is declining at a faster speed. The comprehensive evaluation was undertaken by over forty organizations, a hundred individuals and is backed by over three hundred supporting documents. News Five Delahnie Bain reports that the results were launched in Belize City, Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa and Cancun.

Delahnie Bain, Reporting

The health of the Mesoamerican Reef, shared by Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico is consistently deteriorating. While it is known that humans are the biggest threat, a first of its kind multinational eco-audit was recently conducted to determine what the countries are doing to protect the reef. The results of that audit were released today.

Melanie McField

Melanie McField, Director, Healthy Reefs Initiative

“The purpose of the eco-audit is really to answer the simple question: are we doing all that we can to help the reef? This analysis is looking at the collective effort; it’s government, NGO and private sector so together measuring—based on those recommendations that we made in 2008 and the others in 2010—how are we doing? We’re going to measure quantitatively, are we progressing? Are we getting these things done that we know we need to do in order to protect the reef?”

The audit looks at the region as a whole and at the individual countries, scoring their efforts on a scale of one to five; five being the best score.

Lauretta Burke

Lauretta Burke, Senior Associate of the People and Ecosystems Program at the World Resources Institute presented the regional report.

Lauretta Burke, Sr. Associate, People and Ecosystems Prog., WRI

“The region scored fair—actually a low fair, two point seven, in terms of its efforts to reduce threats along the Mesoamerican reef. So this really isn’t adequate to stem the tide of the decline. The high point is success in research education and awareness, scoring a good. And this has to do with monitoring of the reef, sharing information and also economic valuation of reefs. Both marine protected areas and eco-system based fisheries management scored solid fairs. Coastal zone management and global issues scored fairly low in the fair category and global issues includes signing international treaties, but also mapping which reefs are likely be resilient to warming seas. The two themes which scored the lowest on a regional basis were sanitation and sewage treatment and sustainability in the private sector.”

Looking at the audit by country, Belize has reason to celebrate, with the highest overall score of three point three, having bested five of the seven evaluated themes. The country coordinator for the Healthy Reef Initiative, Roberto Pott, discusses the areas of success.

Roberto Pott, Country Coordinator, Healthy Reefs Initiative

“Research and Education; we have very strong monitoring programs, we have very good awareness programs, WCS and Fisheries are trailblazers in mixing social and ecological research and applying that research along with TIDE and the other co-managers out at Glovers Reef, manage access it’s a new thing. The region is looking at us to see if we will succeed; let them try it out and if it doesn’t succeed then we won’t d it. I think that’s what they’re doing and we tend to be leading the region and so we got a very high score for this. Looking at Marine Protected areas, this is one of the areas that Belize has taken a lot of steps in trying to achieve what we think are some of the best goals for managing our marine resources. And so we have our protected areas and the big issues were, you see we’re low in having fully protected zones. When it comes to demonstrating our commitment globally, it seems that we’re above all because we scored very high with a five. We’ve signed on to the nine conventions that were part of this criteria and we’ve incorporated most of these into law. So we’re looking good but there’s another need for starting to follow up on that with compliance.”

But there are two areas where the country is lagging behind, including sustainability in the private sector.

Roberto Pott

Roberto Pott

“It seems like they’re not pulling their weight. They are enjoying the benefits of this bounty that we have in Belize, they market it as part of their brand but it seems that they’re not working to preserve that brand and protect that brand. We’re hoping that more hotels and recreational providers—we’re talking about the dive operators and tour guides that go out to the reef—could sign on to these eco-certification programs and support your MPA’s. I think we had MPA that said yes I’ve had very good support and that was Hol Chan up north. And we want government to provide incentives for joining into eco-certification schemes.”

B.T.B.’s Director of Quality Assurance, Laura Esquivel Frampton, came to the defense of the private sector saying they are practicing sustainability, but the auditing process for certification is simply too expensive. But Frampton says the B.T.B. has a solution.

Laura Esquivel Frampton

Laura Esquivel Frampton, Director of Quality Assurance, B.T.B.

“We’ve mentioned before that we’re working on a quality seal, which will be presented to the industry in April at the Industry Presentation. But along with this, the B.T.B. will also be launching a sustainability seal, which will be—in the first year we will be auditing accommodations, all accommodations as well as tour operators. One of the key things about this program for the industry is that it will be offered completely free to the industry, the industry will not have to pay to be audited and that—we will see an immediate boost in numbers of people.”

The other theme that Belize scored poorly in is Coastal Zone Management. But the Jewel topped the other three countries with a score of four point o for ecosystems based management and three point five in sanitation and sewage. Delahnie Bain for News Five.

In the results by sector, the NGOs scored the highest because of their continued work with marine protected areas. The NGOs were followed by government while the private sector scored lowest. The eco-audits are expected to be conducted every two years.

Channel 5