Reef Week 2008 celebrated

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 18, No. 17            April 24, 2008

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Overall winner of the trivia competition, Mirsa Sanchez, receives her cash prize from Mariela Archer of Hol Chan.

(Left)Javier Williams of New Horizon took second place, (center) Mirza Sanchez, and (right), Walter Tut of Isla Bonita took 3rd place.

April 22nd has been recognized as Earth Day and in honor of this, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve is hosting a series of intriguing and captivating environmental activities over what they observe as “Reef Week 2008” from April 21st to 27th. This year was no different, observed under the theme “Our reef is beauty. To protect it is our duty”, hundreds of school children and the general public participated in activities to protect their local aquatic environments and raise awareness of the need for marine conservation.

    The activities got underway on Monday with a Children’s show at the Reef Radio, where they were guests. On Tuesday, an annual inter-school trivia competition was held at the San Pedro Lions Den. This year’s event saw a total of eleven elementary students from various schools in San Pedro and Caye Caulker locked in tough battle testing their knowledge of Hol Chan Marine Reserve and its associated eco-systems. The competition saw hundreds of school children gathered at the Den in support of their fellow school mates who participated.

    The trivia contest was comprised of four tough rounds and ultimately in the end, a tie break round ensued with the three participants who had equal scores. This tie breaker round consisted of situation questions and required the students to think a little bit more before answering. Ultimately, Mirsa Sanchez of New Horizon School was crowned queen of the trivia competition as she overpowered Javier Williams a fellow school mate at New Horizon for second place. Third in place was Walter Tut of Isla Bonita Elementary. Mirsa Sanchez took a handsome prize of $600 in cash, a roundtrip to Belize City courtesy of Tropic Air and a Snorkeler kit.

    Other participants in the competition included Dylan Arceo, Patricia Acosta, Mercedes Requeña, Gaspar Villamil, Clarita Kib, and Monica Ack. The contest would have not been made possible without the help of its business supporters including Castillo’s Hardware, Suya Tours, Belize Bank, Caribeña Enterprises, Captain Sharks, Hol Chan, and Tropic Air.

    A touch tank was positioned at the Hol Chan Visitor Center on Wednesday and school children and the general public had the opportunity to observe the unique sea creatures such as sea urchins, star fishes, and several types of fish and more. This morning, school kids gathered at the Lions Den once more for the skit competition that was held. Here, the kids designed and performed the skits that were based on conservation of marine resources. Outcome of the winner will be announced on next week’s issue. The reef week activities continued on Friday and this time it will be the teachers’ opportunity and they will get treated with a trip to Bacalar Chico. The week will culminate with the lagoon Reef eco-challenge kayak race on Saturday and Sunday.

    Reef Week 2008 was an opportunity to get the community more involved in the protection of our natural resources, to educate everyone on its need and to focus on a common cause: protecting the planet’s oceans, coral reefs, and aquatic ecosystems. According to Mariela Archer, Environmental Education Officer at Hol Chan, “our marine resources play very important roles, for example, the mangroves provide nursery areas for juvenile reef fishes, habitat for crocodiles and different species of birds, it also protects us from natural disasters like strong hurricane winds, they also filter out sediments washed out from land to sea, while sea grasses are home again for juvenile reef fishes also the commercial ones, they also filter out sediments from the water so that they do not end up on top of the reef. So you see our marine resources are very valuable to us, hence the reason to learn about it, protect it and celebrate it.” Kudos to the Standard Six students from the Caye Caulker Roman Catholic School who won the slogan competition and came up with a slogan so fitting to this year’s activity, “Our reef is beauty, to protect it is our duty.”

    Earth Day was officially observed for the first time in April 22nd, 1970. On that historic day, 20 million Americans gathered on the streets and in parks and auditoriums to demand a healthy and sustainable environment. That landmark event led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. It also marked the beginning of the environmental movement as we know it today. Earth Day is now celebrated by hundreds of millions of people in nearly every country including Belize and it is a driving force for environmental awareness around the globe.
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