The Sport Diver's Coral Reef Conservation Conference and Workshop and Reef Check program was held last week in honor of the International Year of the Reef. Journey's End Resort hosted the special week where guests and a group of world renown scientists were involved in diving research, field trips, science conferences, festivities and a multi- media International Press Conference.
On Thursday, June 26, a special media day took place with a press conference to call an end to the week's activities. On arrival at the Journey's End Resort, invited guests gathered at the verandah in front of the restaurant where coffee and rolls were served while the dive team finished their morning expedition. Upon the dive team's arrival, guests assembled at the Barefoot Conference Room where Dr. Robert N. Ginsburg, Chairman of the International Year of the Reef and Professor of Marine Geology at Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmosphere Science, gave a slide presentation titled "Coral Reefs of the Americas," in which he explained the importance of the reef and its bio-diversity. His presentation was followed by a video and slide presentation titled "The Silent Sea" given by Dr. William Evans, Ph.D. Professor of Fisheries & Wildlife Science & Oceanography, Texas A&M University at Galveston, former US Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. He discussed technology used for underwater research. A field trip was planned to visit the Antillean Manatees of Belize, but because of the continuing rain it had to be canceled. The gathering then broke for lunch.
After lunch, a press conference and awards ceremony was held at the Barefoot Conference Room. Present at the conference were: A CBS film crew that documented the conference all week, and, taking underwater footage, The Houston Chronicle, Editor of Skin Diver's Magazine, and Dive Travel Magazine. Along with the guests and scientists were special guests, Mr. George Bruno, US Ambassador, and K. Mustafa Toure, Director of Marine Research Center at the University College of Belize. Special awards were presented to the Honorable Minister Henry Young and Honorable Minister Russell Garcia by Dr. William Evans. Dr. Thomas Ilieffe, Assistant Department Head for Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston, presented an award to Mr. Shabir Walji, managing director of Journey's End Resort, for his outward participation and service towards the week's activities. The evening ended with a special beach party and seafood banquet sponsored by Cherax Belize Ltd. Aquaculture Facility.
The Sport Divers Coral Reef Conference was the only actual conference, workshop and seminar geared for the sport diver and the non diver. Dr. Thomas Iliffe, headed the coral reef research for the Belize "Reef Check", and all of Journey's End divers had the opportunity to dive with him and assist with data collection.
Reef Check is an international project being conducted at reef sites throughout the world during June, July and August. All professors and speakers participated as volunteers in honor of the International Year of the Reef. The main focus is to evaluate the health of the world's largest natural resource and to make individuals aware of the vast expanse of this environment. The data collected, which will encompass the evaluation of coral health and fish diversity, will be submitted to the Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development Research Center, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Kowtoon, Hong Kong for analysis.