A Shimmering Hope Spot in the Caribbean
April 26, 2013
Hope Spots are scientifically-identified marine areas of critical importance to our ocean’s health. Working together, we can protect and conserve these areas as Marine Protected Areas to preserve the seeds of tomorrow’s healthy ocean. Today, let’s take a look at the dazzling Mesoamerican Reef, one of the 18 official Mission Blue Hope Spots.
The Mesoamerican Reef region lies within the Caribbean, extending from Isla Contoy on the north of the Yucatan Peninsula to the Bay Islands of Honduras. It is the second longest barrier reef and is home to over 350 species of mollusk and 500 species of fish, including the whale shark — the largest fish in the world.
The reef system is packed with protected areas and parks such as the Belize Barrier Reef, Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, Hol Chan Marine Reserve(Belize), Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve, and the Cayos Cochinos Marine Park.
The nation of Belize is home to nearly 80% of the Mesoamerican Reef, which begins within a few hundred yards of shore in some places and up to 20 miles in others. Critical to the ecosystem are plentiful mangroves and salt grasses, which break storm surge, provide mulch and effectively sequester CO2.
Mission Blue has conducted two expeditions to the Mesoamerican Reef Hope Spot. The goal of the July 2011 expedition to the Swan Islands was to explore and document the nature of marinelife in the surrounding waters and to support designation of the islands, as a marine protected area. Our 2010, 10-day trip to Belize highlighted research being conducted by scientists studying coral reefs, mangrove forest, and sea turtles.
Due to its natural beauty and flourishing wildlife, the area attracts tourists, which, in addition to runoff from inland agriculture, puts pressure on the ecosystem. Add to that changing ocean temperatures and rising acidity due to global warming, and the frailty of the area comes into focus.
Please support Mission Blue as we seek to make the Mesoamerican Reef Hope Spot a Marine Protected Area so we can preserve this amazing ecosystem for the future. Learn more about Hope Spots by clicking on the map below.