Imagine being under the calm and clear blue sea, surrounded by various marine species giving a burst of bright colours everywhere you look. From large eagle rays to small schools of fish, this breath-taking scene seems like one from a movie and can only truly be appreciated up close. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest reef in the world, stretching from the north end of Mexico to the south end of Guatemala. It measures 185 miles of Belize coastline and holds 7 marine reserves, 4 atolls, and over 400 cayes.
Did you know?
This barrier reef serves as a habitat for a few endangered species, namely: West Indian manatees, green, loggerhead, and hawksbill turtles, American marine crocodile and others. It’s also a home for bird colonies, such as the red-footed booby, brown booby, and common noddy colonies at various cayes.
It also serves as a protective barrier (hence the term “barrier reef”) from environmental impacts such as hurricanes, tropical storms, and large waves that could erode the shoreline.
Most importantly, the reef is of vital importance to the livelihoods of many Belizeans and to the national economy. The reef is one of the tourism industry’s largest attractions and it is responsible for 35% of the employment rate or 39,000 jobs. There are more reasons why the barrier reef is important to the Belizean economy, so in order to keep it thriving, we must all do our part as citizens and as visitors to protect it.
Here are some tips to take into consideration when visiting:
- Try your best to refrain from touching the corals- oils from your skin can disturb the corals and cause the death of an entire colony. As well, certain types of corals can cut or sting you.
- Do not swim too close or stand on the coral- they look strong but in fact, they are very fragile and can break easily.
- Don’t fish or anchor your boat near the reef- the fishing lines, nets, and hooks can cause damage to corals. As well as the anchor of your boat can cause much damage.
- Don’t throw garbage in the water, leave it on the boat.
- Do not break a piece of coral to take as a souvenir. It is a living organism and you will kill it.
- Avoid wearing sunscreen but if you do, use oxybenzone free.
- Support organizations dedicated to protecting the reef.
Written by Reyann Garcia