Pollution in San Pedro

Not too long ago, San Pedro was considered primarily a fishing village. Slowly word of the rich environment and wonderful people of Ambergris Caye got around, and in time the once quiet fishing village had become one of the most popular tourist destinations of the Caribbean. With this change in the population of the island, the dynamics of the island environment have also been altered. The increased population of San Pedro, as well as the increasing number of tourists, has caused the environment in and around Ambergris Caye to be increasingly impacted by pollution.

What kind of pollution affects San Pedro? Some pollution, such as oil, is introduced to the coastal area via boats or passing cruise ships. Some might remember that in 1990 many gallons of diesel fuel spilled into San Pedro Harbor. When a spill occurs, the toxic portion of the oil is either ingested or absorbed, especially by invertebrates which are often killed. The heavy portion of the oil also sinks to the sea floor, blanketing slow-moving stationary animals such as corals and sponges. Threats also face humans who may consume animals that have been contaminated by oil.

Reef Brief is a weekly column published in the San Pedro Sun
Water in San Pedro is also polluted by domestic sewage originating from toilets, washing machines, kitchens and other domestic sources. Not only does sewage pose a threat to human health, it is also harmful to local plants and animals. Due to the large number of nitrates and phosphates in sewage, the water can be over-enriched (eutrophication) which leads to the overproduction of microscopic plants and animals, which can kill coral and other plants and animals. Today, some, but not all of San Pedro residences are equipped with septic systems, thus increasing the presence of polluted water.

These are only a couple sources of pollution that affect the environment of San Pedro. Other sources include solid wastes (trash), agrochemicals, and industrial effluents. Green Reef is soon to evaluate and map the different sources of pollution in San Pedro that adversely affect our coastal ecosystem, primarily the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. We are looking for volunteers from the community, particularly students from San Pedro High School, who would be interested in participating in this research. This is a valuable opportunity to take part in scientific research and field work that will directly benefit the community. We are looking for volunteers who are physically fit, have shallow water diving experience (we are willing to train), and most importantly, are interested in this project. If you would like to volunteer, please stop by the Green Reef headquarters (next to Manelly's) or call 2833.

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