Volunteer Programmes in Belize
More than 40 per cent of Belize's waters are protected – but the implementation of laws is complicated and expensive. With the help of conservation groups the government initiated the use of unmanned drones to enforce fishing regulations along the coast earlier this year but a lot of organisations rely on the constant flow of enthusiastic volunteers. Here are six ways to get involved
COMBAT the LIONFISH Invasion
The invasion of the Indo-Pacific lionfish is a devastating problem throughout the waters of South America, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and the south of the US. Lionfish numbers in the area have exploded in recent years and pose a threat to native marine life and a balanced ecosystem. Blue Ventures offers seven, nine and 17-day long lionfish expeditions in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve is on Ambergris Caye during which volunteers can get involved in monitoring and educational community programmes. The organisation hopes to reduce numbers of lionfish in the area by commercialising the consumption of lionfish. In cooperation with local fishermen, restaurant, seafood distributors fishing cooperatives, Blue Ventures has successfully created a market for the fish.
For more information on the volunteer programme see http://www.blueventures.org/belize/7-or-9-day-lionfish-projects.html
With the help of Earthwatch, shark expert Assistant Dr Demian Chapman of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Stony Brook University has launched a volunteer programme aiming to research and protect Belize's sharks. Next year's volunteers will be either based at South Water Caye or Glover’s Reef and have the chance to participate in a catch - tag - release programme, helping the Belizian government to monitor shark populations and illegal shark fishing activities. Other duties include processing fin samples and collecting video data.
For more information visit http://eu.earthwatch.org/expeditions/shark-conservation-in-belize#lead-scientists
Earlier this year, sea turtle conservationists in Belize celebrated 21 years of protection hawksbill turtles and 12 years of protection all sea turtle species. Like-minded people can get involved with Ecomar Belize and help to patrol beaches, monitor nests and create awareness of the threats sea turtles face. The organisation focusses on two habitats: Robinson Point and Gallow's Point Reef. Volunteers will be based where help is needed more urgently.
Go to http://www.ecomarbelize.org/volunteers.html for more information on how to get involved
Frontier works alongside the Belizian government, collecting data from research projects and mapping expeditions on the state of the reef that help draft and implement conservation programmes in the area. Volunteers undertake diving and snorkelling surveys, exploring and monitoring the health of corals and fish stocks. Volunteers will be based in the beach camp at the research station on Caye Caulker and programmes can last from anywhere between one week and several months.
For more information go to http://www.frontiergap.com/projects/547/Belize-Marine-Conservation-%26-Diving
Belize is home to the Antillean manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee. With an estimated population of only 800 to 1,000 individuals, the species is at the brink if extinction. The Manatee Rehabilitation Centre, situated about two miles south east of Sarteneja on the shore of Corozal Bay, cares for and rehabilitates rescued animals that have been injured in boat collisions. Orphaned calves are raised at the centre before being reintroduced into the wild once old enough. Volunteer placements run for a minimum of one month but can be extended to three months or more.
Check http://www.wildtracksbelize.org/rehab/manatee/background/ for more information on volunteer opportunities
The Oceanic Society Field Station at Blackbird Caye, Turneffe Atoll gives volunteers the opportunity to work alongside a team of marine mammal researchers studying the behaviour of bottlenose dolphins. The one-week placement is short but offers a hands-on experience. Volunteers help identify individuals of the pod and record their behaviour - both above and below the surface.
Please visit http://www.oceanicsociety.org/trip/research/belize-dolphin-project for information on how to get involved
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