Last year Mexico hosted the annual Healthy Reefs Initiative Partners Meeting and this year Belize got the opportunity to host it. Forty representatives from the four countries that form part of the Mesoamerican Reef, namely Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, gathered at the Biltmore Hotel where there main focus is the “eco-audit”. Director of the Healthy Reefs Initiative in Belize, Melanie McField spoke about the event’s objective while marine scientist for Healthy Reefs Lorenzo Alvarez, spoke about the collection of data and making it available to the public.
“The objectives of the meeting are to review the eco-audit for 2013; we’ll be launching this towards the end of the year where we evaluate the progress in implementing management recommendations to improve the health of the reef.”
“What are some of the sub-topics that will be a part of the audit?”
“Well the audit, I got the one from 2011; this was the first time we’ve ever did this; we’re sticking with the same seven themes we had in the last eco audit; we’re re-evaluating these indicators, we have 22 indicators. The themes are things like sustainable fisheries management, marine protected areas, sewage and sanitation, coastal zone management, research and monitoring, Private sector and global issues dealing with like global climate change. We also have five new indicators that we’ve had to develop the criteria for and we’re working on evaluating those as well.”
“How healthy is Belize’s reef?”
“Belize is pretty similar to the Mesoamerican Reef overall; we have some reefs that are in good condition but we didn’t have any that was ranked as very good in the last report card and it’s only a small percentage that is ranked as good and so, the classification with the most reefs in it is poor; which means, we need to do more and increase the pace of the work that we are doing; there is a lot of effort going on but sometimes that effort isn’t really achieving; we are not pushing that last mile to really get the impacts that we need.”
“How is the cooperation from the Government?”
“On this aspect, they are cooperating hand in hand and so, there is a nice project going on right now that has that very specific goal to increase that percentage. They are working with the Fishermen Cooperatives to figure out what would be the best areas to do this and the Fisheries Department is key in that role too.”
“We got to the reefs and dive and registered some data for corals, fish and other ecology indicators; in Belize they do the same, also in Guatemala and Honduras but one of the most important things we need to do is share this data, making this data available for other people, our partners or any other user that wants to use this data. We are working on creating this database which will be online and you will be able to enter and check the data and create graphs. We will also be having a map, an interactive map – a geo portal in which you will be able to see the sites, all the sites that we have in all the years that we have information for those sites; you will be able to see the main protected areas, where the reefs are; all this information will be released tomorrow.”
Alvarez says that while the collection of data is a continuous process, data collecting is done every year and the report is produced every two years.