The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS) stretches from the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula down to the Bay Islands of Honduras; this reef structure is the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere, the second largest coral reef in the world.
On March 10th, 2007, representatives from Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve and National Park, as well as volunteers rode up to Bacalar for a half day beach cleanup in honor of MBRS Day. Leaving San Pedro at 8:00 a.m., the group arrived at the Northern tip of Ambergris Caye armed with gloves, garbage bags, sunscreen and water ready to take up the task at hand.
Walking to the site, the cleanup crew was surprised to see that garbage extended as far as the eye could see. The group concentrated on Robles Point as their area of cleanup. Alicia Eck, Bacalar Chico Manager commented that that particular site needed to be cleaned up because the turtle nesting season was about to commence. “We don’t want our turtles to get stuck in garbage when attempting to crawl up the beach and lay their eggs,” she stated, “we want to just prepare the beach a little bit for them because they have a hard time getting in, climbing all the way up. Sometimes they go into the bushes and they dig and they lay their eggs. To facilitate them coming up, to make it easier for them, we try to do a cleanup every year. […] last year on this beach alone we had nineteen [nests]. It was split between the green turtles and the loggerheads and between the two beaches, the Rocky Point Beach and the Robles Point Beach, we had a total of thirty nests. Eleven were found on the other one, on the other beach. We also had, which is rare, but we’re seeing it more every year is two Hawksbill nests.”
And, with the turtles in mind, the group cleaned up as much as they could. But, although the group worked tirelessly their efforts were not enough. “Garbage was still piled up as far as the eye could see. Just garbage everywhere. We picked up slightly over 40 garbage bags full of trash and the beach still has a long ways to go to get clean,” commented Kainie Manuel, volunteer. Marine Protected Areas Coordinator Isaias Majil commented, “It is a never ending job. If we were to get the entire beach cleaned up in less than four months it would be full again. It is an ongoing process and the more help we have the better it is. That way we can get a bigger area of the beach cleaned up.”
But where is all that garbage coming from? Alicia stated, “It is not even our garbage. Garbage comes in from Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, even the cruise ships, just everywhere. What people need to understand is the way the water current works. What someone throws away, let’s say in Cuba, does not always end up in Cuban soil. It makes its way down. And, the same goes for us. The garbage that we might throw out at sea may not always end up on Belizean soil.”
Cleanup campaigns are organized twice a year and the general public is invited to be proactive and help. “There are many ways that people can help. You can volunteer your time and help us clean up. Businesses can send their workers or even help us financially; getting here is far and fuel is expensive. For this particular campaign, Sueño del Mar assisted by providing the volunteers with lunch plus a soda, chips and a banana. That helps immensely.”
A few SPSun staffers joined volunteers taking a proactive approach. Highly commended are students of the San Pedro High School who joined the campaign and were wonderful helpers. Kudos also go out to Petey and Kathy who assisted in picking up as much as they could.
Interestingly, a lot of the garbage consisted of plastic bottle caps, medicine bottles and shoes. Everyone is reminded to kindly put garbage in its proper place and help keep the environment clean.