Green Reef President returns from Indonesia

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 41            November 16, 2000

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Mito Paz (l) with another delegate in Bali

Mito Paz, President of Green Reef, the local marine conservation organization, has just returned from a three-week stay in Indonesia. During his visit, he participated in marine studies at Kimodo National Park (a World Heritage Site) and attended the International Society for Reef Studies' 9th International Coral Reef Symposium in Bali.

    The Nature Conservancy, whose motto is "Saving the Last Great Places," sponsored the international exchange. Mr. Paz was part of a Belize delegation consisting of Dr. William Heyman, Marine Projects Coordinator for The Nature Conservancy; Mrs. Melanie McField, Belize Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute; Mr. Eloy Cuevas, Belize Northern Fisherman's Cooperative, Monkey River Town; Ms. Julianne Robinson, Marine Reserve Coordinator, Belize Audubon Society and Mr. Wil Maheia of the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment.

    Mr. Paz told the San Pedro Sun that he spent the first two weeks in Indonesia in the national park. He explained The Nature Conservancy's marine and coastal program at Komodo National Park is supported by the Indonesian government, adding that this park encompasses 510 square miles and consists of more than 1000 diverse species of marine life compared to the 400 or so in Belize. Mr. Paz continued that part of the research included identifying and measuring the size of fish and mapping the areas where they were found, much like the work done here, noting Indonesia's "environment vs. development" challenges were similar as well. Part of this time, he said, was spent studying aggregation and spawning of twelve different species of grouper fish and one particular species of wrasse. While monitoring the reef, he found that hard corals abound in this part of the world, numbering 260 to our country's 60 or 70. Mr. Paz confirmed there are 70 different types of sponges alone, noting there were many more soft corals too, and how amazed he was at their numbers and spectacular colors. He made particular mention of the "fresh" anchovies, the size and color of the clams (due to the cooler temperatures in the Pacific) and the "Sea apple," an apple-shaped invertebrate that glows a bright red. The Green Reef President continued by saying they stayed on a "live-a-board" vessel for those two weeks and the diving was so great that, at times, he would find himself in the company of 15-20 Manta rays. Mr. Paz ended by saying his trip was "very worthwhile and a wonderful learning experience."

    The Belize delegation also participated on land by tracking animals, monitoring them, and talking to rangers and civilians regarding enforcement of land and marine animals. They were fortunate to witness one of the biggest creatures native to the area, the Kimodo Dragon, as well. The Nature Conservancy's Indonesian program participants are now considering an exchange trip to Belize, possibly this coming May, to study the Gladden Split grouper and other wildlife.

    Over 1000 participants from over 50 countries attended the reef symposium held October 23rd to 27th in Bali. The theme for this year's symposium was "World Coral Reefs in The New Millennium: Bridging Research and Management for Sustainable Development". Discussions focused on the current state of knowledge, resource management, socio-economic values, research and monitoring, and past and future reefs. This symposium is the premier event for the sharing of knowledge, experience, ideas and communication between scientists and experts on coral reefs from around the world.
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