This week top experts on coral reefs from over 50 countries converged on Belize for the annual meeting of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI). For the past two years Belize has shared management of the secretariat with Australia; the two countries have the largest coral reef formations in the Eastern and Western Hemispheres respectively. Co-chair of the event and administrator of the Fisheries Department, Beverly Wade, tells us more.
“Well, it’s the 28th General Meeting. The meeting really is looking at progress in various watching groups. There are good committees that deal with various thematic areas. There is another one that’s dealing with some governance issues; there’s another one that is dealing with the Lion Fish invasion. And so, there is reporting back on eight great initiatives in the region and on those working groups, and there are also three groups that are being looked at this year. A big part of the team is looking at co-management and the role of co-management in the management and conservation of the marine resources… particularly reef resources”.
Ms. Beverly Wade: “Every two years, governments co-chair the initiative and for the last two years, Belize has co-chaired along with Australia…and we have really been running this secretariat along with Australia, carrying out the intercessional business of the initiative”.
Reporter: “So, at the end of the day, what can we expect in terms of benefits for protecting our coral reef and the naissant industries that are around?”
Ms. Beverly Wade: “Well, at the end of the meeting, we are hoping that a number of resolutions will be passed, and a key one is the strengthening of ICRI as an organization, and being a member of ICRI, automatically allows us to benefit from its programs and its initiatives which deals directly with coral reef management and conservation. So, the products coming out of this meeting to have a strengthened organization and strengthened programs; we will benefit directly form it”.
Belize’s local expert, Dr. Melanie McField of Healthy Reefs Initiative, says Belize is ahead of many of its counterparts at this meeting in promoting the outlawing of illegal practices such as deliberate coral damage and attacks on key inhabitants of corals.
“Well, the good news is, the rest of the world is now discussing some management measures that we’ve actually aren’t taken in Belize. We can be proud of that. Belize got a lot of kudos this morning in the meeting for the protection of the parent fish and the severe restrictions on trap fishing that we have, and that’s one of the resolutions that’s being discussed in the meeting is to roll that out to the Caribbean and probably the world, to look at the protection of your cayes, herbivorous fish in order to protect the reef’s health”.
Reporter: “Okay, now, for the rest of this week, I am told that the focus will be Co-management of Protected Area, marine protected areas in this case. So what , in terms of benefits can we see for Belize, in terms of funding for protection on that sort of thing?”
Dr. Melanie Mcfield: “Well, I think it gives international exposure to the work that’s going on in Belize. So, that’s the main thing. It’s just having this large international coral reef meeting in Belize as a feather in your cap. So, you have a lot of the world’s experts and leaders from all the different countries that have reefs, they have come together to discuss management options.”
The event started on Monday and continues all this week, with the group going out on Thursday, to dive sites at Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Half Moon Caye Natural Monument among others.