National Geographic filming Belize Barrier Reef

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 43            November 7, 2002

Features: Search Issues | Read Back Issues | Subscriptions | Merchandise Ordering Information

As of last Sunday, a crew from National Geographic Society, responsible for one of the world's leading magazines, has been filming Belize's Barrier Reef System. Nineteen divers and scientists are shooting videos of this exceptional coral reef in celebration of natural World Heritage Sites (WHS) worldwide. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention. Granted World Heritage status in 1996, based on its global significance as a natural site of "outstanding universal value," the Belize Barrier Reef System is the only "natural" site of eleven historical, cultural or architectural global WHS events designed to demonstrate and celebrate this year's convention theme, "World Heritage in the Digital Age."

National Geographic expedition members, underwater explorers and marine conservation representatives convene in San Pedro

    In keeping with the theme, throughout their exploration of Belize National Geographic and the expedition team will utilize new media technologies including 360-degree panoramic photography and Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking to document, model, and communicate the beauty, significance, and threats to this fragile ecosystem. It is believed that digital technology will ultimately assist with the overall management of World Heritage Sites. Featured over the ten-day period will be local fishermen and rangers facing conservation issues on Ambergris Caye, marine biologists tackling management issues at the Blue Hole (made famous by Jacques Cousteau), and scientists monitoring endangered species at a remote field station on Glover's Reef. Live updates, via the Internet, are available on the World Heritage web site through digital satellite uplink technology provided by the University of California at Berkeley (UC-Berkeley) Center for Design. As a result of this visit, at virtually the same time this week, hundreds of WHS Congress participants from cities around the world and millions of people around the globe will be able to witness the beauty of Belize's Barrier Reef System (and other sites) by way of what has been deemed a "Virtual Congress". 

    The idea to feature Belize came from "conversations around a campfire," according to Patricia Thomson who, together with Expedition Leader Ian Kean from EarthWild International, a Canadian-based conservation and exploration foundation, and UNESCO's Scientific Commissioner Alonzo Addison collectively agreed to feature Belize's sites as the only "natural" WHS of the convention.

    Forming the expedition are several key underwater experts and representatives from the aforementioned organizations. Leading the exploration group is National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and former Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Dr. Sylvia Earle. She is part of the research team along with two Belizean scientists, Janet Gibson of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Julianne Robinson representing the Belize Audubon Society. Also joining the expedition is National Geographic Contributing Photographer-in-Residence David Doubilet, whose imagery has inspired people around the world to explore and conserve our underwater heritage. National Geographic's Lauri Hafvenstein is the Executive Producer for this event.

    During their stay on Ambergris Caye, the expedition team was hosted by Xanadu Resort. Following their exploration of Hol Chan on Monday, the group departed for Lighthouse Reef, the Blue Hole and Half Moon Caye. The team will spend their final days in Belize focusing on Glover's Reef and the Laughing Bird Caye site.

    Last Saturday, the hodgepodge of national and international scientists, explorers, artists, conservationists, digital media experts as well as newspaper personnel from The San Pedro Sun and the Reporter converged at the Coral Sand Convention Center to launch Belize's participation in the "Virtual Congress."

    Master of Ceremonies for the occasion was Leandra Cho Ricketts, Director of Coastal Zone Management Institute and Authority, who introduced those gathered. The luncheon was attended by members of Belize Audubon Society (BAS), the World Conservation Society (WCS), Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT), The Belize World Heritage Site Sub-Committee, Green Reef Environmental Institute, Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve and National Park, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) and the Belize Fisherman's Cooperative Association (BFCA).

    Mayor Alberto Nuñez welcomed the delegation to San Pedro and invited them to share in the hospitality that the island is so well known for. He asked that they "whet their appetite" with this visit and wanting more, they would be sure to "revisit with family and friends."

    Several key speakers then briefly addressed the gathering including Chairperson for the Belize World Heritage Site Sub-Committee Maria Vega, and Expedition Leader Ian Kean on the combined efforts of the organizations involved in this event. Mr. Philip Balderamos of the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme then presented the work being accomplished through the Community Management of Protected Areas Conservation (COMPACT) Project in Belize's coastal communities. He explained that COMPACT is funding projects that can significantly increase the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation and simultaneously sustain the livelihood of stakeholders in these communities. BCFA spokesperson Mustafa Toure then gave a brief presentation on the work being done by the Turneffe Coastal Advisory Committee and its goal to also achieve marine reserve and national park status. Mr. Toure explained these objectives are somewhat based on information and examples (both good and bad) set by Hol Chan and the island of Ambergris Caye.

    Following lunch, Dr. Earle spoke to the attendees, stating how much the scientific world has learned and discovered in just the past 30 years, especially from the different perspectives one can now observe from the air (satellite imagery). "What is frightening is how much we have lost during this time as well; we are at a critical point in history," she lamented. Dr. Earle then stressed the future of our marine and all natural environments lies in education. "Put aside all the policies and laws; caring about and protecting our world should be something learned from our beginnings, like ABCs and 123s. We must eliminate the indifference and if we're careful, and we do it right, everybody wins!" she ended.

    Janet Gibson of WCS then thanked the team for choosing Belize and for the wonderful "promotion and exposure" for our World Heritage Site. She continued thanking everyone for attending, CZMAI for organizing, and the Ministry of Education for providing the luncheon. She made mention of another fact: Since Belize has finally entered the digital age, now Belizean school students can view and appreciate their precious natural resource as well as share it with children from around the world. She encouraged schools from around the country to search the websites provided by these wonderful organizations.

    The Belize Barrier Reef System covers a total of 92,610 hectares and contains seven World Heritage Sites which are: Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve, Blue Hole National Monument, Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Glover's Reef Marine Reserve, Laughing Bird Caye National Park and the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve.
Search go!
| | Island Info | Community | History | Visitor Center |
Belize News | | Messages |

Copyright © San Pedro Sun. Design by Casado Internet Group

San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize News