The opportunities to conduct research in Belize have been growing and if you ask about marine research, you’ll find out that those opportunities are endless. From mangroves to fin-fish, turtle and coral research, Belize has been recognized as an ideal location for these kinds of scientific work. In southern Belize, about forty-five kilometers off the coast; the Glover’s Reef Research Station carries out big research programmes and has been doing so since the mid nineteen nineties. The station aims to encourage long-term conservation and management of Belize’s barrier reef and has wider application to other coral reefs and marine protected areas in the region and rest of the world. On Wednesday, News Five took a trip out to the Glover’s reef Research Station to find out more. Andrea Polanco reports.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Glover’s Reef Research Station is known across the world for its marine research. It is the only research facility within the Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve off the coast of southern Belize and it is owned and operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society This small island, called Middle Caye, in the Glovers Reef Atoll is the base of an operation where scientists do advanced research within one of Belize’s most complex and vital coral reef systems. The work that’s done here has far reaching influence.

Jason Patlis, Executive Director, Global Marine Conservation Programme, WCS

“WCS has been in Belize for thirty something years. In fact, WCS operates the New York Aquarium in New York City and one of the oldest exhibits we have for a million visitors that come in is on Glovers Reef. So, the connections to Glovers, the atoll and the island, as well as in New York, are very strong. The resources here have remained pristine, very well protected over the time. We are very well committed to make sure that continues into the future.”

A number of marine research projects are underway at the Glover’s Reef Research Station at any given time. It is here that the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool the Managed Access programme were piloted. Local and international scientists also do in-water sea turtle monitoring, spawning aggregations monitoring, as well as fisheries catch data and a number of other biologically and economically significant studies.

Nicole Auil Gomez, Country Director, WCS Belize

“One such issue was looking at herbivorous fish and we were able to provide the data that then translated with other organizations and fisheries department into legislation for banning the fishing of herbivorous fish. So, that we are able to keep the algae off of coral reefs. What we are seeing today, however, is that the closing off of fishing on these herbivorous fish was not the only factor that causes overgrowth of algae corals. And if we are going to be looking at in the future is the impact of nutrients on the reef system.”

The Wildlife Conservation Society is based in more than twenty-five countries – but the Glover’s Reef Research station is its only research station in the world. Since the nineties, scientists and WCS fellows have been coming here to do important work.  And the impact of the work has been recognized across the world. But today the WCS continues to tackle issues like over-fishing and climate change  that are destroying coral reefs – across the world, including Belize.

Dr. John Robinson, Chief Conservation Officer, WCS

“Belize is a wonderful example of a barrier reef. Barrier reefs are incredibly important around the world. They provide fish resources for people, they are very important in terms of their biodiversity – they have a number of fish species and conservationists really know and respect coral reef systems. Belize has done a really outstanding job of holding on to its coral reefs and protecting it. But on a global basis, many reefs are overfished and all the reefs in the world are dealing with the broad issue of climate change. So, a lot of what we do is that we work to maintain the integrity of the reef. We work to support fishers so that fishers can look at it as their resource and when they look at it as their resource they will look after it in an important, sustainable way.”

Channel 5