Kids swim with sharks! – The Belize Shark Project
The shark population in Belize has decreased alarmingly here in Belize due to overfishing. The BSP intends through research, education and regulation to stem this decline and therefore to sustain healthy and functional ecosystems.
Education is high on the priorities for Rachel Graham (Belize’s resident shark expert/ aquatic Jane Godall and pioneer of the BSP). Due to Rachel’s successful work in protecting the magnificent Whale Sharks off the coast of Belize and Mexico she won the 2011 Gold Award from the Whitley Fund for Nature based in the UK. These funds she channels back into education in her community by two pronged approach.
Firstly informing those currently within the industry of the importance of the sharks in their ecosystem – meetings were held in both Caye Caulker and San Pedro the beginning of this month. And then secondly and equally as importantly to educate the youth of the Belize that sharks are not to be feared but encourage them to protect them for the future of their ocean.
Yesterday was one of those special days for 20 students from Punta Gorda traveled down to Belize City for a weekend of their dreams. Their original destination was the Shark and Ray Alley in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve but due to the unexpected strong North West wind, the trip was re-routed to the slightly smaller Caye Caulker Marine Reserve Shark and Ray Village.
Their vessel was the limosine of the water – Belize Dive Services, Maera and therefore their ride out was smooth and without problems. The students and their three teachers, oblivious to the difference in reserve were still absolutely delighted at their very first experience out with the numbers of stingrays and of course the sharks. All students successfully got into the water and interacted with the marine life and conquered their fears whilst gaining confidence that these sharks were indeed nothing that they should fear.
As if icing on the cake .. the students, as a reward for their good endeavors, were brought back to Caye Caulker for lunch at 88 West. After lunch and all the chatter about their morning each student received a certificate by Rachel that titled them as a ‘Belize Shark Ambassador’!!! And then their final ride home and back to Belize City.
Previously students from Sarteneja had undertaken a similar day out to Hol Chan. If you want to enjoy their experience, here is the video for this wonderful day.
Wildlife Conservation Society's Belize Shark Project presents a short video from the Kids Meet Shark Project, illustrating the impact that one day out with sharks and rays had on the attitude of local kids. A true before/after success story!
These small but pivotal steps towards educating our youth in Belize plays a huge role in the safety of these very much endangered creatures – thank you Rachel, the BSP and BDS!!!!
Photographs by Rachel Graham and Raggamuffin Tours
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Other Belizean "Pictures of the Day":
San Pedro Daily, Tony Rath's "Images of Belize"