CREDIT: SQUEEZE / PIXABAY CREDIT: PHILIP HAMILTON /
CORAL REEF IMAGE BANK
CREDIT: PHILIP HAMILTON/
CORAL REEF IMAGE BANK

Update January - September 2020

2020 has brought many challenges all over the world. The pandemic has changed the way we do things, the way the world works and the way we look at the future.

MAR Fund has continued to operate at its best capacity, with all our staff and partners in the four countries working from home. Thanks to our responsive Board, staff, partners and especially our donors, who have been flexible enough to allow us to change the way some projects operate, we have been able to address the needs of our grantees in these difficult times.

We reached out to our grantees in March to get a better sense of how they might have been or foresaw being impacted by the pandemic and how MAR Fund might be of better assistance. Most of them continued with some level of their programmatic activities and some of them requested time extensions and budget modifications to cover salaries and/or to support the local communities they work with. These requests were approved, and we continue to stay in touch to assist as possible.

This pandemic has brought up the need to strengthen the resilience of communities and coastal and marine protected areas. To start planning how to be prepared for future emergencies, MAR Fund launched a mailbox (https://marfund.org/es/buzon-ideas-resiliencia/) on its website to ask partners, strategic allies, and the general public, to participate in brainstorming ideas that could suggest measures that can be considered to strengthen resilience for future events. Valuable ideas were shared through the mailbox and were used to create the document Resilience in the MAR after Covid-19, and it compiles all of the suggestions shared along with other solutions or measures that other organizations are doing in the region and the world. This document was attached to the 13th Request for Proposal of the Small Grants Program, to provide examples or ideas to potential grantees, as the focus this year was on supporting actions to strengthen the resilience of NGOs, protected areas and coastal communities.

Despite the pandemic, several achievements have been accomplished and our grantees continue to work towards the conservation of our MAR.

Saving our sanctuaries:
A legacy of caring

Conservation of Marine Resources in
Central America Project

After five and a half years of activities in the field, Phase II of the project has come to a successful end.

The five protected areas accomplished very good and interesting results, taking advantage of the benefits of the project. They all improved their infrastructure and equipment, strengthened their control and surveillance, research and monitoring and environmental education programs.

All areas also strengthened their relationships with the buffer communities through the development of participatory activities on monitoring and management of resources.

The project was extended until June 30, and KfW approved using the balance from activities that were not implemented during the contingency to purchase equipment to strengthen the operative programs at the protected areas. Some of the equipment purchased in the different areas include equipment to measure physical parameters in the water, batteries for boats or solar power, office and dive equipment.

MAR Fund would like to thank the invaluable support of the German Cooperation through the KfW for the trust placed in the MAR Fund, its member funds and the participating protected areas.

CREDIT: THE OCEAN AGENCY /
XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY

Fishing for the future:
Sustainable Fisheries for a Thriving Reef

MAR Fish project

The MAR Fish project is the largest coordinated network of fish spawning aggregation (FSA) monitoring sites in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) region. The overall objective is to promote the recovery of fisheries by strengthening the protection of the FSAs as critical areas in the life cycle of the species, through a better knowledge and understanding of the aggregations in the region.

Some achievements so far this year include the characterization of the reef and fish spawning aggregations in Cayman Crown, the declaration of this important site as no-take zone and as an expansion of the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve in Belize, and as a no-take zone for 10 years in Guatemala.

Studies/documents were generated, such as a standardize methodology for monitoring FSAs – Fish Spawning Aggregation Monitoring in the MAR Fish Network; a Status Report on Fish Spawning Aggregations in the Mesoamerican Reef; and a Policy Brief on Fish Spawning Aggregations. Despite the pandemic, four exploration visits were done to four FSAs.

Cayman Crown

Responsible: Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, HRI.

Two field expeditions to Cayman Crown were held in 2019 (May 24-27 and October 18-21). The results were:

  • Two monitoring sites were selected where monitoring of reef health was conducted using AGRRA methodology (Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment).
  • Two photomosaics were made to evaluate species composition and cover, and equipment to monitor bio physical conditions was installed (water temperature and pH).

Responsible: Toledo Institute for Development and Environment, TIDE.

  • Two exploration visits to the Cayman Crown area were carried out during the full moon periods of February and June, 2020.

 

School of jacks at Cayman Crown, Belize. Photo: TIDE

TIDE in Belize, and FUNDAECO in Guatemala, have been working to protect the Cayman Crown reef.

In Belize:

TIDE collaborated with the protection actions of the Belize Government for Cayman Crown:

  • On April 2, 2019, an expansion of fisheries replenishment (no-take) zones was declared, including Cayman Crown.
  • On July 31, 2020, the Statutory Instrument that expands the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve to include the Cayman Crown area was signed.

In Guatemala:

  • On May 21, 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food declared a special 10year fish replenishment zone (temporal and spatial no-take zone) for Cayman Crown, through the Ministerial Agreement No. 85-2020. Fundaeco and HRI worked together to accomplish the declaration.
  • The webinar “Advances in marine conservation for Guatemala, protecting the Cayman Crown Reef” was organized in collaboration with HRI, to inform about the ecological and biological importance of the site and advances in its conservation process.
Sentinel Site Observation

The regional workshop was held in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Nov. 21-22, 2019, organized by COBI. The activity was funded by Summit Foundation and FFEM.

Equipment is being purchased for the monitoring sentinel sites in the region, including: GoPro cameras with housing, laser lights and acoustic sensors.

Three of the nine sentinel sites defined in the project were monitored and one validation visit was conducted by the partners in charge. The rest of the sites were not monitored due to the pandemic and travel restrictions within the countries. The sentinel sites that were monitored are the following:

  • Gladden Spit, Belize, by Southern Environmental Association (SEA).
    • Five monitoring visits were conducted from December 2019 to June 2020, with the exception of February and April due to bad weather and the pandemic restrictions.

School of snappers at Gladden Spit, Belize. Photo: SEA

Community researchers conducting FSA monitoring in Gladden Spit, Belize. Photo: SEA

  • Emily Site, Belize, by Belize Fisheries Department (BDF).
    • Two monitoring visits during the full moon periods of February and March 2020 were carried out.
  • Punta Allen, Mexico, by COBI.
    • An acoustic sensor was installed in December 2019, and COBI has started analyzing the recordings.
  • Power Point (Lawson Rock-Sandy Bay), Honduras, by The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL).
    • Two validation visits were conducted prior to COVID-19 lockdowns

Black Grouper spawning at Power Point, Honduras. Photo: Patric Lengacher CORAL

Social acceptability and support for protecting spawning aggregations
  • The general objective of the policy brief is to increase the level of understanding on the importance of FSAs and the need for effective action to protect them. It will be distributed to Fisheries and Protected Areas authorities in the four MAR countries.
  • This activity was funded by The Summit Foundation.
  • The final report is available in the following link:
    • https://marfund.org/MARFishDocuments/PolicyBriefFSA.pdf
  • The diagnostic was carried out in December 2019 with the support of Marisla Foundation, by Biologist Carlos Perez.
  • The objective was to understand the use of Cayman Crown’s resources in the three countries that share the Gulf of Honduras (Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras), based on information provided by local fishers and sport fishing guides.

A webinar on “Community participation in protection of fish spawning aggregations” was organized by Roatan Marine Park (RMP) on September 24, 2020, as part of a project funded by the MAR Fund Small Grants Program. Guest speakers were COBI and the Javier Rojo Gómez fishery community of Punta Allen, Quintana Roo.

CREDIT: PHILIP HAMILTON /
CORAL REEF IMAGE BANK

Climate change

Mesoamerican Reef Rescue Initiative – RRI

The RRI was created to increase the resilience and ability to recover of the MAR and the environmental and cultural services it provides through capacity building, regulations, economic incentives and financial sustainability required for the effective and timely restoration of the coral reefs.

Under this initiative, reef restoration is addressed through two approaches: Continuous restoration and emergency response.

MAR Fund continues working in collaboration with Willis Towers Watson (WTW), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the CCAD and other partners in the region to design and implement a parametric insurance model for reefs in at least seven sites of the MAR region to contribute to rapid post-event reef restoration and recovery. MAR Fund is also working together with TNC to develop and implement Emergency Response capacities in the four MAR countries, so far this year, Belize has finished their Post Storm Coral Response Plan and Honduras has a taskforce dedicated to formalized the post-storm emergency response capacities in Honduras.

A Technical restoration guide was completed in support to the Reef Restoration Network. And the document Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) in the Mesoamerican Reef Region. Recommendations for Addressing SCTLD was finalized and distributed.

In 2020, as an integral part of the RRI program, MAR Fund continues working in collaboration with Willis Towers Watson (WTW), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the CCAD and other partners in the region to design and implement a parametric insurance model for reefs in at least seven sites of the MAR region to contribute to rapid post-event reef restoration and recovery.

As part of the upscaling of the insurance model for reefs, the RRI’s coordinator, Claudia Ruiz, participated in the Understanding Risk Forum (UR), held in San José, Costa Rica from February 12-14. This forum sought to build strategic alliances between experts, organizations, academic institutions and other key actors, to move from understanding risk to action on disaster resilience.

The Inter-American Developing Bank (IDB) is funding the study: “Economic Assessment of Reef Ecosystems in the MAR Region and the Goods and Services they provide”. This study is being developed by the consulting firm Metroeconomica, who are working with the World Resources Institute and The Ocean Foundation. It will provide governments and the private sector with clear information on the value of the reefs, in order to guide decision-making on risk reduction and reef conservation and financial mechanisms, such as parametric insurance. The study started with a consultation process, four workshops will be held online with key actors in the MAR region.

MAR Fund is working together with TNC to develop and implement Emergency Response capacities in the four MAR countries. The base for this activity is the Early Warning and Emergency Response Post Storm Protocol that was developed by TNC for Quintana Roo, Mexico, and adopted by MAR Fund to be replicated in the other MAR countries.

Main advances include:

Belize: The Fisheries Department of Belize finalized the document Post Storm Coral Response Plan. This document was approved as a frame of reference to formalize the implementation of post-storm response capacity and emergency capabilities for reefs in Belize.

Honduras: A Tripartite Collaboration Agreement to formalize the country’s commitment to build post-storm response capacities was signed between MAR Fund, the National Institute for Forest Conservation and Development, Protected Areas and Wildlife (ICF), and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MiAmbiente).

As a follow up six virtual meetings were held to formalize the post-storm emergency response capacities in Honduras. As a result, a Task Force and Response Coordinating Committees for Bay Islands National Marine Park (BINMP), Cayos Cochinos Marine Monument and Tela Bay Marine Wildlife Refuge were formed. The brigades training will be held in 2021.

The Network’s Executive Committee had three online meetings to design its governance model. In January, the Network’s Executive Committee had its first conference to follow up on the agreements reached at the October 2019 Biennial. As a result, the statutes were finalized and the 2019-2020 Strategic Plan was published on the website.

In March, due to COVID-19, the ordinary meeting of the Network’s Executive Committee was held via conference call, with the aim of discussing the Strategic Plan and the Regional Restoration Plan of the MAR-RRN. The Committee agreed to develop an updated version of the Strategic Plan of the Network for a five-year period, and a Biennial Operational Plan, a Financial Sustainability Plan, and a protocol for the exchange of information. This will be achieved thanks to the project with MAR2R.

In support to the MAR-RRN, MAR Fund has completed a Technical Restoration Guide, in addition to five interactive videos to facilitate training in reef restoration practices. The five videos include recommendations from experts from the MAR-RRN. The videos have been distributed through the MAR Fund´s website and through the MAR-RRN web page www.coralmar.org.

Additionally, the RRN was approved as a “Regional Group” of the Coral Restoration Consortium (CRC). The CRC is a high-level community of practice that comprises scientists, managers, coral restoration practitioners, and educators dedicated to enabling coral reef ecosystems to adapt and survive.

The document Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) in the Mesoamerican Reef Region. Recommendations for Addressing SCTLD was finalized and distributed. This document is the product of the joint session held in Belize, in October 2019; “Mesoamerican Reef Health and Management: Responding to Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease,” organized by the Belize MAR Fund and RRI.

Document: “Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in the Mesoamerican Reef Region (SCTLD). Recommendations for Addressing SCTLD”

MAR Fund, with the support of MAR2R, is carrying out the Regional Demonstration Project in attention to the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease –SCTLD-. The project includes: 1) A Regional Dialogue Group (RDG) for capacity building on the SCTLD in the four countries of the MAR; 2) Standardization of SCTLD monitoring in the region and training of key actors in data collection based on AGRRA interface; 3) Action Plan documents for the attention of SCTLD in the four MAR countries; and 4) An Emergency Declaration Agreement of the Council of Ministers of the MAR on the regional importance of SCTLD.

In August, 2020, the RDG was formed as a technical governance of the SCTLD Regional Project. The objective of the group is to build capacity on SCTLD in coordination with experts, scientific and academic communities, and local communities of the MAR and its articulation with government institutions responsible for the biodiversity of coastal and marine resources in the MAR. The group is integrated by representatives from government agencies, local communities, MAR2R, the RRN, and MAR Fund.

Also, in September, the RRN Coordinator and the President of the Network Committee participated in a conference call with the Caribbean Cooperation Team to present the RRN and the objectives regarding the SCTLD, in an effort to obtain recommendations and allies to confront this disease.

In 2018, two Small Grants were formalized from the 11th Joint Request for Proposals. In 2020, the projects completed their activities and presented the following final results:

1. Coral restoration in the reef habitat of Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
By Centro Ukana I Akumal, AC. (Centro ecológico Akumal – CEA)

Final results:

  • This coral restoration project included different innovative techniques, such as micro-fragmentation, and maintenance of colonies in in situ and ex situ nurseries (from an External Cultivation System located at the Regional Center for Aquaculture and Fisheries Research (CRIAP) of the National Fisheries Institute (INAPESCA) facilities in Puerto Morelos, using both branched (3 species of Acroporid) and massive corals (5 species).
  • 5 new lines of coral nurseries were established, with a capacity for 400 stabilized colonies.
  • 6,370 coral fragments were planted in the reef, distributed in 5 sites through 15 outplanting campaigns.
  • 59 maintenance campaigns and 53 monitoring campaigns took place in the nurseries and in the reef. Two more campaigns took place to rescue the nurseries that were affected by a tropical storm.
  • An average survival rate of 80% of the planted corals was obtained as a result of the intense maintenance work.
  • Two workshops were held focused on the socialization of the project among CEA partners and external collaborators, one of them including technical training to participate in coral planting with the collaboration of CRIAP-INAPESCA.
  • At least 10 printed notes have been issued in newspapers and 3 articles on national television and radio were presented to expand the socialization of the actions carried out during this year of the project.

Coral outplant in the reef habitat of Akumal
Credits: Centro Ukana I Akumal, AC

2.  Roatan Marine Park (RMP) Coral Restoration Project.
By Roatan Marine Park (RMP)

Final results:

  • The team successfully installed 20 coral nursery trees, with the assistance of six leading Dive Shops (Roatan Divers, EcoDivers, Sun Divers, Coconut Tree Divers, West Bay Divers and West End Divers) in the West End and West Bay area of Roatan. The trees in the nursery are growing a total of 1,080 corals.
  • A total of 67 corals/fragments were out planted on the reef (17 of Acropora palmata, and 50 of cervicornis).
  • In partnership with the dive community, 18 genotypes, nine of Elkhorn ( palmata), eight of Staghorn (A. cervicornis) and one of Fused Staghorn (A. prolifera) were collected and installed in the nursery at the Seaquest Deep dive site near West Bay.
  • The “Roatan Marine Park (RMP) Coral Restoration Manual for Participating Dive Shops” was prepared. The manual explains how Roatan dive shops will partake in the program along with information on the project background and the certification course.
  • The RMP Coral Restoration Certification Course, mandatory for all divers participating in the coral restoration program, was developed with a total of 17 students (15 females and 2 males) that successfully completed it.
  • 27 divers were trained in coral out planting.

Team from Roatan Divers outplants Elkhorn
Credits: Roatan Marine Park (RMP)

In December 2019, the Grants and Evaluation Committee held the meeting to discuss, evaluate and recommend the proposals received for the 12th RfP for MAR Fund projects. In 2020, two Small Grants have been formalized:

1. Driving a national response strategy to address Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in Honduras.
By Roatan Marine Park (RMP)

The project aims to prevent the spread of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) on the reefs in Honduras and increase stakeholder’s awareness on coral diseases. They are working collaboratively with partners and local stakeholders to detect if the disease is present in Honduras and together develop a National Action Plan for response and treatment. The project also seeks to increase restoration efforts as a way to mitigate the effects of SCTLD if it reaches Honduras. This project began in March 2020.

 To date, despite the emergency of COVID-19, it has made the following progress:

  • In July, 2020, two Coral ID workshops to identify species susceptible to Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) took place. These were addressed to experienced divers and were hosted via Zoom both in Spanish and English.
  • In September, 2020 two informational webinars on SCTLD addressed to general public took place via zoom in English and Spanish with a total of 19 and 30 viewers, respectively.
  • The workshop “Building a National Strategy for SCTLD” was held with the participation of 20 representatives from government institutions and different organizations working with coral reefs from the Bay Islands, Tela Bay, Cayos Cochinos and Trujillo. This was the first workshop for the draft of the National Action Plan.
  • 8 sites were selected for monitoring SCTLD in Roatan, based on the AGRRA’s website section on “Coral Cover of Species Susceptible to SCTLD” map.
  • In July 2020 a rover diver monitoring took place with partners (BICA and Zolitur) in these sites. No symptoms of SCTLD were found. However, during the month of September, the presence of SCTLD was reported by divers.
  • Through five campaigns, 170 fragments were out planted. Currently the outplanting site in Chief’s Quarter has a total of 230 fragments. Four monitoring dives have been conducted at this site since July 2020.

Michelle from Zolitur during Cordelia Monitoring
Credits: Roatan Marine Park (RMP)

2.  Rescue of emblematic species of coral at risk of local extinction due to the White Syndrome.
By Amigos de Isla Contoy (AIC)

The disease known as White Syndrome is plaguing coral communities of the Mexican Caribbean. To cope with this contingency, and aligning with the White Syndrome Action Plan (PASB) in the Mexican Caribbean, the project aims to rescue living tissue material and gametes from corals to avoid their local extinction and allow their future restoration in favorable conditions. The project began in March 2020.

To date, despite the emergency of COVID-19, it has made the following progress:

  • Two aquariums and one mesocosm were installed in the Regional Center for Fisheries Research of the National Institute of Fisheries (CRIAP-INAPESCA), and two aquariums (one closed system and one semi-closed) were installed in the Xcaret Group Aquarium, for the protection of recued coral colonies.
  • 17 colonies of five coral species (Dendrogyra cylindricus –DCYL-, Pseudodiploria strigosa –PSTR-, Pseudodiploria clivosa -PCLI-, Diploria labyrhinthiformis –DLAB- and Meandrina meandrites –MMEA-) susceptible to SCTLD, have been rescued.
  • Genetic material from four species (DLAB, PSTR, Orbicella faveolata –OFAV- and annularis –OANN-) was cryopreserved.
  • The colonies rescued from DLAB, have spawned under laboratory conditions in the CRIAP-INAPESCA facilities, a first in Mexico. Recruits from these colonies are growing in the facilities of the CRIAP, Coralium, and in the Xcaret Group Aquarium.

Spawning of Diploria labyrhinthiformis at INAPESCA
Credits: Amigos de Isla Contoy (AIC)

  • The IDB is funding the Reef Economic Assessment Study and the services it provides in the MAR. For this, the IDB contracted the consulting firm Metroeconomica, which is working with the World Resources Institute (WRI-MX) and The Ocean Foundation. The study started with a consultation process, the first consultation workshop will be online with the participation of key actors in the MAR region.
  • At the Understanding Risk Forum (UR) Claudia Ruiz and Claudia Herrera director of the Coordination Center for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America (CEPREDENAC, in Spanish), held strategic meetings with representatives of other institutions. MAR Fund and CEPREDENAC decided the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
  • A tripartite agreement was signed between MAR Fund, The National Institute for Forest Conservation and Development, Protected Areas and Wildlife (ICF), and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MiAmbiente), in Honduras. This Collaboration Agreement formalizes the country´s commitment to build post-storm response capacities.

On May 25th, the Technical Supervisory Committee conducted its Eighth ordinary meeting. Due to COVID-19 the meeting was held online. The participants of meeting included:

  1. Mexico: María del Carmen García Rivas of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP).
  2. Guatemala: Luisa Fernández of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN).
  3. Honduras: Scarlett Pineda of the Biodiversity Direction (DiBio) and Ricardo Rabotin of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MiAmbiente).
  4. Belize: Adriel Castañeda of Belize Fisheries Department.
  5. Claudio González Lorenzana, Technical Director of MAR Fund
  6. María José González, MAR Fund´s Executive Director.
  7. Claudia Ruiz, RRI Coordinator
  8. Magda Lares, RRI Administrative Assistant.

At the meeting, the status and progress of the Annual Work Plan (AWP) 2020 was presented to the TSC and viable strategies to advance the implementation of the approved AWP were proposed. The TSC is pleased with the advances of the initiative and will reconvene again in November, 2020.

CREDIT: PHILIP HAMILTON /
CORAL REEF IMAGE BANK

Belize Marine Fund

The BMF currently has a portfolio of 14 active grants awarded between the periods of May 2017 – October 2020. These grants were awarded through the two programmatic windows for advancing the BMF’s programmatic investments 1) the Targeted Grants Program and 2) the Small Grants Program.

The projects supported by these programs have been guided by those priority areas of focus established in the BMF’s Strategic Plan and in consultation with the BMF Steering Committee. Some of these established priority areas include: efforts related to the expansion, management, monitoring, enforcement and surveillance of no-takes; efforts related to the national roll-out of managed access, and improved management effectiveness of MPAs; enhanced climate change resilience; protection and restoration of fragile and degraded marine ecosystems; and promotion of sustainable income-generation for local communities.

Small grants are for a maximum of USD 30k and Targeted grants are awarded at a maximum of USD 45k. Below we provide a summary of project progress to date.

Targeted Grant Awards

General Objective: Supporting scientific data collection at Cayman Crown, improving the knowledge-base of the ecological baseline of the site, while establishing the legal and technical frameworks for management; and raising awareness of its existence and the importance of management presence.

  • TIDE completed repairs to an existing 28ft vessel that will be used to conduct marine resources monitoring at Cayman Crown, and finalized the purchase of a 100 HP Yamaha outboard engine for the vessel.

A school of Jack at Cayman Crown site Photo: TIDE

  • TIDE met with representatives of the Belize Coast Guard (BCG) and a local Punta Gorda Contractor at the SCMR on August 31st, 2020, to discuss use and refurbishment of the existing Coast Guard building (no longer in use) located on Hunting Caye, for use to house the research team conducting spawning aggregation dives at the Crown site.
  • TIDE conducted exploratory dives, at the Cayman Crown site, recording spawning activities in those areas suspected to be aggregation sites. A total of 19 dives were conducted during the months of February and June 2020.
  • TIDE worked closely with the Belize Fisheries Department (BFiD), Wildlife Conservation Society, the Belize Coast Guard, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to advocate for the protection of the Cayman Crown site.
  • On July 31st, 2020 the Minister of Fisheries Hon. Omar Figueroa, signed the Statutory Instrument for the expansion of the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve, to protect Cayman Crown.

General Objective: Understanding the resilience potential of targeted Marine Protected Areas in Belize, through a “snapshot” resilience assessment.

  • WWF hosted a 3-day virtual workshop on July 30th, August 5th and 6th sharing the modeling approaches, methodology, and draft results for its integrated assessments of climate change impacts, risks, and ecosystem services. Along with a portfolio of draft strategies for ecosystem-based adaptation.

WWF Resilience Analysis Study Area

  • Five (5) follow-up virtual meetings were also conducted during the week of August 27th, 2020 with workshop participants and additional stakeholder in Belize, to review findings and provide feedback on their efforts.
  • The information presented during the workshop and meetings were well received and, feedback obtained have been integrated into a final ecosystem service model run.
  • Based on the analysis of coastal hazard and habitat role, there can be a better understanding of where conservation or restoration investment could be made to reduce risk.

General Objective: Creating and implementing a branding and marketing strategy, inclusive of a communication plan, to sensitize the Belize and international community on the importance of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (BBRRS).

  • WWF successfully advertised, both nationally and internationally, the consultancy for the development of the WHS branding and marketing strategy, and communication plan—yielding the submission of proposals from 20 marketing agencies.

WWF Advertisement of WHS Branding and Marketing Consultancy

  • Proposals were reviewed, shortlisted and the winning candidate the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) was selected by a panel consisting of members from the Belize World Heritage Advisory Committee (BWHAC), PACT, MARFUND’s BMF and WWF.
  • Currently the consultancy contract is being finalized for signing with CREST and it is expected that execution towards deliverables will commence in November 2020.

General Objective: Enhancing TASA’s capacity to provide effective management of the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (TAMR).

  • TASA successfully advertise and is currently in the process of contracting the consultancy for updating the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve’s (TAMR) Management Plan.
  • The organization is also working on an initiative for the implementation of a new revenue generation mechanism and business plan that will assist in strengthen the its financial sustainability.
  • Lobster trap tagging was conducted with 4 Turneffe lobster camp fishers; tagging and measuring over 2,000 lobster traps at Turneffe, during this reporting period.

Lobster tagging and inventory at Turneffe by TASA Staff

  • TASA maintains collaboration key MPA co-management partners to develop communication approaches and presentations highlighting the work of the Belize MPA Network.
  • On September 18th, 2020 TASA and five of its partners delivered its first presentation on Love FM speaking on their efforts, the effectives of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges it has presented, given that a significant portion of their revenues are tied to tourism.

General Objective: Providing a national response in Belize to the debilitating stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD).

  • In September 2020, working collaboratively with key project partners, HRI was able to confirm the presence of SCTLD at Lighthouse Reef Atoll. Monitoring was also conducted at Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve with staff of the University of Belize’s Environmental Research Institute (UB-ERI), however no presence SCTLD was detected. In both cases the data collected was updated to the AGRRA database, which can be tracked at https://www.agrra.org/coral-disease-outbreak/
  • Treatment for SCTLD is currently being conducted within the Bacalar Chico, Caye Caulker and Hol Chan Marine Reserves, using antibiotic and CoreRx acquired by Fragments of Hope (FoH).

SCTLD rescue table and treatment of infected coral

  • Within all reserves, CoreRx has shown to be effective in slowing the spread of lesions caused by SCTLD. With preliminary results from Bacalar Chico showing that of 15 colonies treated, 13 saw a cessation in lesion spread.
  • Additionally, FoH has constructed two rescue tables (Hol Chan and Bacalar Chico Marine Reserves) that house coral fragments from vulnerable sites. These tables will serve as a ‘bank’ of colonies to outplant when conditions are more favourable.

General Objective: Increasing the genetic biodiversity of replenished acroporids and overall coral diversity, by replenishing with non-acroporid stony coral species at four to seven sites in two marine protected areas near Placencia—documenting results with existing and novel methods.

  • Fragments of Hope has secured satellite imagery for 230 km2 of shallow reefs near Placencia. The organization also commenced analysis/annotation of satellite images for 2019 and 2020 drone mapping.

Targeted shallow reefs near Placencia

  • According to FoH, five natural stands near Placencia (Dale’s Reef, Loggerhead Patch, Cramp, Crawl, and Lazy Caye) had over 3,000m2 of Acropora cervicornis combined in 2019. At Laughing Bird Caye National Park alone, over 2,200m2 within one hectare of shallow fringing reef was replenished with acroporids (>21% of hectare).
  • In 2020 this work FoH repeated the collection of coral mosaic at LBCNP—data that is currently being quantified.

General Objective: Ensuring the successful establishment and payout of a gillnet buyback fund to previously identified licensed gillnet fishers; contributing to the government of Belize’s commitment for a gillnet ban by 2022.

  • In August 2020, Oceana and the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries secured an agreement with the Belizean government to ban the use of gillnets in Belizean waters by 2022 at the latest.
  • To minimize the negative impact this may have on licensed gillnet fishers, Oceana is working to raise funds to support Belizean fishers who obtained a license to use gillnets in 2018.
  • Oceana feels that this approach helps to demonstrate a tangible commitment to support marine-based livelihoods, while ensuring the long-term integrity of shared resources.

Small Grant Awards

General Objective: Addressing the need for improved management effectiveness, as identified and prioritized through site and systems level management planning for the Southern Belize Reef Complex.

  • Throughout the life of this grant SEA continuously works toward improved management effectiveness of Laughing Bird Caye National Park (LBCNP) and Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve (GSSCMR), through the installation of a total of 20 demarcation buoys at these sites. The organization also conducted outreach to key stakeholders such as tour guides and fishers, as well as regular joint patrols with the Belize Coast Guard, the Tourism Police and the Belize Fisheries Department. This amounted to a total of 339 patrols across three protected areas, which includes a portion of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve (SWCMR), along with the SEA managed LBCNP and GSSCMR.
  • SEA has also documented three cases of fisheries infractions (related to the confiscation of “undersize” and/or “out of season” product), made 19 arrests for trans-boundary infractions involving Hondurans fishers, conducted four successful search and rescue operations, and participated in three vessel grounding inspections.

Protected Areas Maps for GSSCMR and LBCNP

  • Additionally, the organization produced a total of 500 maps outlining and highlighting the demarcation buoys at LBCNP and GSSCMR, for dissemination to resource users and stakeholders, conducted boat-to-boat education and outreach with fishers, and printed and installed signs depicting rules and regulations.

Building on BAS’ existing environmental education and community outreach program activities specifically the youth focused Reef Protector Program (RPP).

The following activities were implemented as part of BAS Reef Protectors Program:

  • On February 29th, BAS science team hosted a one-day workshop on the topic “Introduction to Marine Research and Monitoring”, with 16 participants. The workshop included a presentation from MarAlliance on marine mega-fauna monitoring at Lighthouse Reef Atoll.
  • The 3rd and final education field trip of the Reef Protectors occurred in March (7th to 9th, 2020) at Laughing Bird Caye National Park (LBCNP) and Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • The open water dive certification training at Halfmoon Caye Natural Monument was completed. Six students obtained the certification (5 male and 1 female).
  • In June 2020, BAS hosted a virtual meeting on climate change and its impact on the marine environment, followed by a review session on marine biodiversity research and monitoring. The 16 participants were awarded certificates of completion of the program.
  • The two most outstanding students of the program were selected for a two-week internship, from September 23 to October 7, 2020. They participated in a pre-conch season survey boat-to-boat outreach, among other rangers’ activities.
  • Unable to conduct the single use plastics campaign in schools owing to school closure for COVID-19, BAS provided information packages for distance learning to the principals of their three targeted schools (Copper Bank RC School, Chunox Seven Day Adventist School and Chunox RC School).

General Objective: Inspiring and motivating the next generation of conservation leaders in Belize through youth engagement.

  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, EPI´s offices remain closed. The organization is currently reevaluating the best way forward.
  • The project is currently experiencing delays in implementation. EPI has requested consideration for a no-cost grant extension to June 2021.

General Objective: Detecting the recovery of depleted populations of marine megafauna at the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, using long-term standardized monitoring methods.

  • Existing data from MarAlliance monitoring of marine megafauna at Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (TAMR) is being analyzed, to develop two peer reviewed papers.
  • Two summary posters and a 2-3 minute video on MarAlliance’s work at Turneffe are being developed.

General Objective: Protecting Belize’s Antillean manatee population by gathering scientific data, educating the public and implementing conservation activities.

  • In March 2020, S2S visited three schools (St. Johns Primary School, Bernice Yorke Pre-School, St. Catherine’s Academy) in Belize City, as well as the Peninsula International Academy in Placencia, to share information on the importance of manatees, a keystone species of Belize’s reefs and marine ecosystems, reaching more than 1,000 students.
  • Since July 2020, S2S has resumed monthly gillnet patrols of the Placencia Lagoon and bi-weekly law enforcement patrols of the Belize River with a total of 11 patrols. During these patrols, no nets and minimum to no boat traffic were observed in the respective locations.
  • Manatee stranding incidents decreased 66% during the period of March-June, 2020, compared to the same time period last year.

Comparison of Total Manatee Stranding January – June 2020 vs. 2019

  • S2S conducted a second round of manatee capture and tagging (3), and continues to track and document the travel patterns of these animals for better understanding their behavior.

General Objective: Developing and piloting protocols for a successful approach to lionfish control in Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (TAMR) that can be replicated across Belize’s MPAs system.

  •  Six members of TASA’s staff were trained on the Theory of Change for lionfish control and lionfish invasion ecology.

TASA Team Participating in Virtual Training

  • The national lionfish database was developed using the Marine Ecological Research Management Aid (MERMAID) platform.
  • Two virtual Lionfish Working Group (LWG) meetings took place (July and August 2020).
  • A White Paper is being developed to address barriers to lionfish control within fish replenishment zones across Belize’s MPA system.
  • Blue Venture’s dive policy, risk assessment, and health and safety protocols were modified taking into consideration the COVID-19 pandemic.

General Objective: Maintaining connectivity across Belize’s fish spawning aggregation sites by supporting monitoring and surveillance at one multi-species fish spawning aggregation site.

  • 57 surveillance patrols within the FSA at GSSCMR were conducted by SEA’s enforcement team with the Belize Coast Guard.
  • A total of 13 observations or encounters (five sailboat and eight skiffs) were made with commercial fishers (33 from Managed Access Area 3) during the surveillance. No arrests followed.
  • A meeting to discuss the management of the FSA is being planned together with the Fisheries Department and other key partners—including special license fishers. This meeting was initially planned for August 2020 but rescheduled to December 2020 owing to COVID-19.

General Objective: To help secure the fish stocks of the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) region through the protection and management of fish replenishment zones located along the MAR.

  • Most project activities have been delayed owning to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A rapid assessment was conducted to identify relevant training needs of the science staff to effectively perform their duties at the Cayman Crown Site in terms of diving courses.
  • The dive training for staff started in September and will last until December 2020. On October, 16, and October 30, 2020 the Rescue Diver course and the Advanced Open Water course were completed, with 2 participants certified respectively. The Open Water course is ongoing, while the Dive Master course is scheduled for mid-November.

General Objective: Artificially spawning adult Holothuria mexicana sea cucumbers and rearing the resulting larvae & juvenile ex-situ for release these into the wild using low-cost techniques that can easily be replicated.

  • Most project activities have been delayed owning to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The necessary equipment that will allow UB-ERI’s researchers to collect and artificially spawn wild adult sea cucumbers is being purchased.
  • A second step of this project will be rearing the resulting larvae and releasing the juveniles in the wild.

CREDIT: PHILIP HAMILTON /
CORAL REEF IMAGE BANK

MAR Fund Small Grants Program
Request For Proposals

11th Joint Request for Proposals (2018)

Supporting and Strengthening the Management of Coastal and Marine Protected Areas in the Mesoamerican Reef

The eleventh request for proposals is currently under development. Some projects have already ended activities while others are finalizing them. Progress to date and final results are presented, as indicated below:

Grantee:  Fundación para el Eco-Desarrollo y Conservación (FUNDAECO). Guatemala.

Final results:

  • A media campaign was developed as a strategy to communicate the urgency for rescuing and protecting the Punta de Manabique Wildlife Refuge and adjacent areas (Cayman Crown).
  • Over 10 meetings were held with different Congress representatives, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Congress, the Environment and Natural Resources Commission, the Vice Ministry of the Navy and the Directorate of Maritime Affairs of the Ministry of Defense, as well as the Belize Commission in Foreign Affairs to present, discuss and approve the amendments to the law of Punta de Manabique Wildife Refuge to include Cayman Crown as an expansion of the area.
  • The draft document of the Punta de Manabique Wildife Refuge – Cayman Crown law was prepared and submitted to Congress, pending approval.
  • FUNDAECO, RARE and the Center for Marine Studies (CEM) held the workshop “Recovering the fisheries of Honduras and Guatemala: Aligning Policies and Strategies” on the 29th of October 2019. It was determined that, for Guatemala, the fastest and most practical way to protect Cayman Crown was to declare it as a spatial and temporary no-take zone through a ministerial agreement. FUNDAECO submitted the paperwork to the authorities for the declaration of Cayman Crown as a no-take zone.

Recovering the fisheries of Honduras and Guatemala: Aligning Policies and Strategies” Workshop. Photo: FUNDAECO

Grantee:  Fundación Mundo Azul & Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI). Guatemala.

Final results:

  • Two photomosaic images were developed in two sites of the Cayman Crown reef during monitoring. The images serve as baseline information to track the overall health of the reef and of individual colonies, and to evaluate species composition. Both sites are characterized by having spur and groove reef areas with high rugosity. This is the first time such type of analysis and technology is employed to study Guatemalan reefs.
  • No coral diseases were observed during monitoring. However, bleaching at different stages was encountered in October 2019 (during the NOAA bleaching alert). Results indicated that 36.5%-38.6% of the surveyed corals were fully bleached, 16.5%-22.2% were partially bleached, 18.3%-21.5% were pale and 21%-25.5% had no signs of bleaching. Data collected at Cayman Crown in 2016 shows that bleaching impacts have increased in recent years. It is important to point out that when the thermal stress is over, corals may recover and return to their normal color and healthy status.
  • On July 28, 2020 a technical webinar to share the preliminary results of this project with the scientific and marine conservation community was carried out in collaboration with multiple scientists working on climate change, reefs, bleaching and reef protection. 245 people registered for the event, but HRI had a maximum capacity of 100 attendees. The webinar was recorded and shared with the community.

Bleaching event monitoring of the reef. Photo: HRI

Grantee:  Bay Island Conservation Association-Roatan (BICA-Roatan). Honduras.

Final results:

  • 910 students have been sensitized by BICA on proper management of solid and liquid waste through talks and activities outside the classroom.
  • The group of “Pepenadores” who have been working with BICA since Phase I of this project established the Roatan Recycling Association (RRA).
  • With the support of BICA, the RRA has held 10 meetings to discuss topics such as promotion of teamwork and conflict resolution, the effects of solid waste on health, among others.
  • BICA and RRA developed a baseline of solid waste collected. The annual average of recyclable materials collected is 5,822 kg.
  • The municipal ordinance for the separation of waste at the source in households, which includes solid waste management plans, was submitted in October 2019 and was not approved. BICA continues to advocate for its approval and collected 3,757 signatures on the platform change.org. The signatures obtained are an indication of the interest of the population in favor of the ordinance.
  • Paradise Hotel continues to implement its management plan, enabling an area destined for compost; a solid waste collection / separation area, and separation bins with their respective signs to sensitize guests. The hotel also completely eliminated the use of single-use plastics and foam.
  • The staff of the Mayan Princess hotel participated in a workshop on composting and they will begin implementing this practice.
  • Three characterizations of solid waste were carried out at Anthony’s Key Resort to complete their solid waste management plan.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the collection and separation activities of the RRA and substantially affected their income. It also reduced BICA’s socialization events for promoting good practices related to solid waste management. Even so, it was possible to continue promoting the reduction of single-use plastics with the purchase of 7,080 reusable bags for the island’s food bank. In addition, 374 basic food baskets were delivered, directly benefiting recyclers and the communities involved in this project.

Bicycles purchased for “Pepenadores” to help them during the collection of recycling items. Photo: BICA

Grantee:  Fundación Islas de la Bahía (FIB). Honduras.

Progress to date:

  • 16 eco-leaders are being trained in mangrove and black iguana conservation, reefs species, environmental threats, energy efficiency, among others.
  • The eco-leaders participated in the preparation of two murals. One alluded to energy efficiency and the other to the protection of the black iguana (Ctenosaura bakeri).
  • Between January and February 2020, two beach cleanups were organized and conducted in the Neptune area and in Rock Harbor.
  • On February 14, 2020, 50 kids from 9th grade and 40 7th graders participated on a talk based on the history of environmental education and the impacts the planet has suffered in the recent years.
  • In February 2020 the BICA reef leaders and FIB eco-leaders carried out the black iguana monitoring at Turtle Harbor.
  • 3 females and 1 male black iguanas were captured and prepared to be reared in captivity in the cages of the Utila Wishiwilly environmental center, allowing them to be ready for gestation.
  • The Utila Wishiwilly environmental center continues to be a space for environmental education talks and conservation activities.

The Wishiwilly environmental center in Utila. Photo: FIB

Grantee:  Amigos de Sian Ka’an A.C. (ASK). Mexico.

Progress to date:

  • 11 tourism services permit holders that provide services in the Arrecifes de Xcalak National Park (PNAX), Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve (RBBCH) and Caribe Mexicano Biosphere Reserve (RBCM)-Mahahual, were trained in good practices based on the “Sustainability Guide for Good Ecotourism” produced in Phase I of this project.
  • All these permit holders apply the Insular Biosecurity Plan (also developed in Phase I of this project) to avoid reinfestation of feral fauna.
  • A specific “Action Plan for Good Aquatic Practices for Sustainable Tourism” was developed and presented to the 11 permit holders. Five of them are implementing the actions recommended.
  • Between March and June 2020, a book and video of testimonies of collaborators in the “Control and Management of Exotic Species”, were produced.
  • A training program for tourism services permit holders for aquatic activities of 8 natural protected areas, endorsed by ASK, CONANP (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas) and Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) was organized and took place in September 2020. The 30-hour program for permit holders provided information on natural protected areas, coral reef ecology and the identification of reef species. 31 permit holders participated, of those, 18 completed the training successfully.

One of the poison traps/stations for invasive rodent installed in Mahahual to avoid reinfestation of feral fauna. Photo: ASK

Grantee: Casa Wayuu, Centro de Aprendizaje para la Conservación del Medio Ambiente, A.C. Mexico.

Progress to date:

  • As a follow up to the Analysis Phase developed by Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA) during Phase I of this project (9th RfP), Casa Wayuu is developing the Valuation Phase with the support of a new organization, Resiliencia Azul.
  • The applicability analysis of international standards for a voluntary carbon market was carried out for Yum Balam and Cozumel (the Certification Phase is carried out by Programa Mexicano de Carbono in this RfP), selecting the Plan Vivo as the best standard for Quintana Roo.
  • The economic data obtained for the spill-based (earning and loss of blue carbon) assessment has been systematized.
  • An analysis was developed on the profiles of stakeholders that live around the mangrove areas.
  • A financial mechanism for the carbon market that includes these stakeholders is being designed with the information collected.

The Yum Balam coastal ecosystem. Photo: CASA WAYUÚ

Grantee:  Centinelas del Agua A.C. (CDA). Mexico.

Final results:

  • Two monitoring campaigns were carried out to determine the water quality of the Yalahau lagoon in January and July 2020. Maps were prepared to show the distribution of each water quality parameter measured in the lagoon.
  • Results show that the lagoon has a tendency to being eutrophic. Based on the bacteriological concentration found, caused by the groundwater discharge near Chiquilá and Holbox communities, the lagoon is vulnerable to human activities.
  • Three more Experiential Routes “From the Watershed to the Lagoon”, were carried out with a total of 47 participants (mostly students) in March 2020. A virtual eco-pedagogic experiential tour (https://fb.watch/1zOhKBxMtw/) was carried out in July 2020 and shared with the public.
  • The first meeting to install the Auxiliary Bodies of the Yucatan Peninsula Basin Council (CCPY in Spanish) in the municipality of Lázaro Cárdenas was undertaken and a draft work plan was presented. This Council has a multidisciplinary technical working group on water quality composed of 80 people from the civil society and academia (27 men and 53 women). The group is currently active and supporting the CCPY to finalize the work plan. CDA is following up on this process and it is in communication with them to exchange information and educational material.
  • Three alliances were made between CDA and: 1. The municipality of Lázaro Cárdenas, 2. the Holbox Hotel Association and 3. the Research Center of the Aquifer System of Quintana Roo (Centro Investigador del Sistema Acuífero de Quintana Roo A.C.). CDA will work with these institutions to improve sustainable practices, prevent contamination of the aquifer system and collaborate in actions aimed at the protection and conservation of water in Quintana Roo, respectively.
  • As a follow-up and promotion measure for the Tulum agreement and the Cartagena protocol, the seminar “Conservation of the MAR: State of the reef and the need for strong international commitments” was held on August 26, 2020 on Facebook Live, which reached at least 2,231 people.

Birdwatching during the Experiential Routes “From the Basin to the Lagoon”. Photo: CDA

Grantee:  Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, A.C. (FMCN) MAR Leadership (MAR-L). Mexico

Final results:

  • 20 leaders of the 2018 generation were trained by international experts during a 15-day workshop in Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo in project design, systemic thinking, sustainable fisheries and community development, impact on public policies, strategic communication, leadership, negotiation and conflict resolution. The leaders received mentoring during the entire year from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) team.
  • 3 online seminars (gender equality, blue economy and resource mobilization) and an exchange of experiences between representatives of the Gulf of California in Mexico and the leaders of MAR communities were held.
  • The Executive Committee of the MAR Sustainable Fisheries Network held a meeting in July 2020 with the objective of consolidating the network and approving its bylaws. This Network is being promoted and supported by the MAR-L Program and MAR Fund.
  • The leaders of the 2018 generation are employing their new skills and abilities through the implementation of projects on sustainable fishing and community development in each of the four MAR countries.
  • All these activities are strengthening the MAR-L network and the conservation work that each leader is performing.

MAR Sustainable Fisheries Network Executive Committee meeting. Photo MAR-L

Grantee:  Programa Mexicano del Carbono, A.C. (PMC). Mexico.

Progress to date:

  • The mangrove area of Cozumel was characterized and restoration and conservation sites were identified.
  • A mangrove loss associated risk workshop took place in January 2020 to understand the perspective of key actors (29 participants) regarding the threats to and opportunities for the mangrove ecosystem in Cozumel island. A template for associated risks for mangroves in Quintana Roo was designed.
  • The applicability analysis of international standards for a voluntary carbon market was carried out for Cozumel and Yum Balam (the Valuation Phase carried out by Casa Wayuu in this RfP), selecting the Plan Vivo as the best standard for Quintana Roo.
  • The legal, technical, social, financial and economic feasibility study for the carbon market in Cozumel was developed.
  • The forum entitled “Blue Carbon as a strategy for climate change in the Yucatan Peninsula” took place on Facebook Live on September 30, 2020.

Mangroves in Cozumel. Photo: PMC

12th Joint Request for Proposals (2019)

Supporting Coastal and Marine Resources Management and Protection in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR)

With the overall objective to contribute to the conservation of the ecological functions of the Mesoamerican Reef System, two themes were considered for the first window:

1) Monitoring and conservation of fish spawning aggregation sites (FSAs) and

2) Waste-water and solid waste management.

The twelfth request for proposals is currently under development. Eight of the nine projects show progress to date and are presented below:

Grantee:  Fundación para el Ecodesarollo y la Conservación (FUNDAECO). Guatemala.

Progress to date:

  • On May 19, 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock -MAGA- through Agreement 85-2020, established Cayman Crown as a 10-year temporal space no-take zone.
  • A webinar called “Advances in Marine Conservation for Guatemala, protecting the Cayman Crown Reef” was jointly developed with HRI on June 18, 2020. Its objective was to support and promote further conservation of Cayman Crown. 17 decision makers and conservation influencers attended.
  • In June 2020, two virtual meetings were held with the Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture Regulations -DIPESCA-, General Directorate of Maritime Affairs -DGAM-, the Caribbean Naval Command -CONACAR- and FUNDAECO, during which the control and surveillance plan developed by FUNDAECO was discussed, and the communication mechanisms for the conservation and management of Cayman Crown began.
  • The team that will manage Cayman Crown was hired. It will be integrated by a technical sub-coordinator, a control and surveillance technician and a community work technician.
  • 3 meetings were held (one in May and two more in August, 2020), with a total of 11 participants from the General Directorate of Maritime Affairs (4), FUNDAECO (6) and the Healthy Reefs Initiative -HRI- (1) to coordinate and plan the hydrographic survey for Cayman Crown.
  • The hydrographic survey took place on September 7-14, 2020 identifying the presence of new shallow points in the reef, a sunken ship, lobster gillnets and plastic waste in the polygon monitored.

Implementation of the hydrographic survey. Photo: FUNDAECO

Grantee:  Fundación Mundo Azul (FUMNZ) & Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI). Guatemala.

Progress to date:

  • This project is the continuation of Phase I undertaken during the 11th
  • Specialized equipment was purchased for the project including:
    • One hydrophone model SNAP,
    • One Onset HOBO UTBI-001 Tidbit Waterproof Temperature Data Logger,
    • One Onset Bluetooth Low Energy pH and Temperature Data Logger,
    • a Scuba Diving Equipment Cressi,
    • two rescue Nautilus Lifeline Marine GPS.
  • On June 18, 2020 the workshop “Advances in Marine Conservation for Guatemala, protecting the Cayman Crown Reef” was developed jointly with FUNDAECO, aiming to support and promote further conservation of Cayman Crown. HRI shared scientific information about the study site, explaining the history of its discovery and the scientific work done since 2014.
  • The team is updating emergency protocols for field expeditions, as one of the major challenges of working in Cayman Crown is the isolated location of the reef, generating complex and expensive logistics including the safety of the team.
  • The project coordinators postponed the fieldtrips due to the COVID-19 pandemic until further notice.

Webinar invitation “Advances in Marine Conservation for Guatemala, protecting the Cayman Crown Reef”. Photo: HRI

Grantee:  Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza (FDN). Guatemala.

Due to the pandemic, the grant agreement was signed in October 2020 and the project recently started activities. There is no progress to report.

Grantee: Roatan Marine Park (RMP). Honduras.

Progress to date:

  • A preliminary assessment of the Sandy Bay fish spawning aggregation (FSA) was partially conducted. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team, limited in number, was not able to perform the monitoring completely. However, they were able to observe the aggregation and register the spawning. Monitoring activities will resume in December.
  • A presentation on FSA with the Fisher Association of Punta Gorda took place on September 14, 2020. Six people participated.

Fish spawning in Sandy Bay. Photo: RMP

Grantee:  Bay Island Conservation Association-Roatan (BICA-Roatan). Honduras.

Progress to date:

  • The first socialization meeting of the project was conducted by the team to determine how to proceed with the implementation of the project considering COVID-19 restrictions.
  • A socioeconomic survey for fishermen was prepared. It was slightly modified from the original provided by the Coral Reef Alliance.
  • An informative virtual workshop on fish spawning aggregation sites took place in September 2020, with the participation of students of the José Santos Guardiola Institute in Roatán. The workshop will be replicated in other schools in Roatan, Guanaja and Utila.

Virtual workshop on fish spawning aggregation sites with students. Photo: BICA. Photo: CDA

Grantee:  Bay Island Conservation Association-Roatan (BICA-Roatan). Honduras.

Progress to date:

  • Two surveys (1. socio-economic and 2. management of drinking water and sanitation) were prepared for the Pensacola community. Approximately 50 people of the community will be surveyed.
  • The first socialization on sanitation of households in the Pensacola community was carried out through home visits. In addition, the socialization of this activity was also made on BICA’s social networks.
  • 30 properties in the Pensacola community were selected to clean their septic tanks to reduce the wastewater that contributes to marine pollution.
  • The first meeting with the Regulatory Body for Drinking Water and Sanitation Services (ERSAPS) technician, Juan Carlos Fuentes, was held via WhatsApp. The technician will help BICA to conduct the water fee analysis remotely.The installation of a system to collect rainwater at Lunsford Johnson School in Pensacola was completed.

Installation of a system to collect rainwater at Lunsford Johnson School in Pensacola. Photo: BICA

Grantee:  POLO’s Water Association (POLO’s). Honduras.

Progress to date:

  • Six submersible pumps and one aerator pump were purchased to be used in the treatment plant and lifting stations.
  • Materials and accessories were purchased for the repair of the lift station located in the area in front of Coconut Tree in the West End community.
  • A baseline of water quality parameters was obtained in the treatment plant of West End.
  • A diagnosis of the current state of the treatment plant was carried out. An improvement modeling was made after this diagnosis.
  • The new roof structure of the treatment plant was finished. The installation of 37 solar panels was completed. 25 units remain to be installed.

Installation of solar panels in the treatment plant. Photo: POLO’s

Grantee:  Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI). Mexico.

Progress to date:

  • A hydrophone model SNAP1 was purchased for the collection of acoustic data of Fish Spawning Aggregations (FSA).
  • Nine ballasts to anchor the hydrophones bases to the reef in the FSA sites are ready to be installed.
  • Packages for the collection of grouper tissue samples were sent to three partner fishing cooperatives (José María Azcorra from Sian Ka´an Biosphere Reserve – Punta Herrero, Vigia Chico from Punta Allen and Langosteros del Caribe from Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve). Through the analysis of environmental DNA, the ecologic connectivity will be determined between different FSAs.
  • MSc. Alejandro Medina, researcher at the technological Institute of Chetumal, will be hired for the consultancy aimed at passive acoustic monitoring in the FSA of “El blanquizal” in Xcalak.

Elaboration of the ballast to anchor the hydrophones bases to the reef. Photo: COBI

Grantee:  Transformación, Arte y Educación, A.C. (TAE). Mexico.

Progress to date:

  • An online training course on legal framework, inspection and surveillance for fisheries was given to a group of tourism services providers in Cozumel in May 2020. 10 people participated (6 women and 4 men). TAE will work together with this group, CONANP and the six fishing cooperatives in the next trainings.
  • A collaboration agreement between TAE and CONANP was signed and TAE is providing legal advice to CONANP, following up with them on complaints and infractions related to fisheries.
  • An infographic was prepared to socialize this project among the fishing cooperatives. It was also published in the Kanan Kay Alliance News Bulletin.

Elaboration of the infographic of the project. Photo: TAE

13th Joint Request for Proposals (2020)

Supporting Coastal and Marine Resources Management and Protection in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR)

On August 10, 2020, with the participation and support of the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, the French Global Environment Facility and the Government of Germany through KfW, the Mesoamerican Reef Fund (MAR Fund) announced the 13th joint request for proposals, again with the three finance windows.

The Traditional small grants window’s main objective was to contribute to the conservation of the ecosystem functions of the Mesoamerican Reef System through resilience measures and other activities, with the following specific objectives:

  1. To support actions to strengthen the resilience of NGOs, protected areas and coastal communities;
  2. To support activities related to effective conservation and monitoring of fish spawning aggregations sites (FSAs) in the region;
  3. To support and strengthen efforts for waste water and solid waste management.

The Reef Rescue Initiative window’s main objective was to support and strengthen science-based restoration, repopulation and rehabilitation of coral reefs in the MAR region, with the following specific objectives:

  1. Support activities and actions to strengthen the resilience of NGOs, protected areas and coastal communities that work on coral reef restoration;
  2. Promote and contribute new techniques for restoration, repopulation and rehabilitation of coral reefs in the MAR region;
  3. Promote strategies to prevent and address the coral disease known as Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) and contribute to its prevention and treatment.

The Belize Marine Fund window’s main objective was to support marine conservation and civil society organizations to develop and implement initiatives that address and provides solutions to sustainable resources use and management issues; while working to achieve resilience in the face of ever changing economic, social and resources management-based realities, with the following specific objectives:

  1. To support resources managers in responding to the most pressing of resources management needs in strengthening resilience in communities and coastal and marine protected areas;
  2. To support improved management effectiveness of MPAs across the national seascape through enhanced water quality monitoring at site and systems level, and support for effective monitoring and conservation of mangrove ecosystems, seagrass beds, fish replenishment sites and fish spawning aggregations sites (FSAs);
  3. To address the need for sustainable financing in marine resources management by working with key stakeholders to integrate financial planning into areas of conservation planning

The deadline for submission of proposals was October 6, 2020.

Forty-two proposals were received in total, 28 for the Traditional window, distributed as follows: 9 from Mexico, 8 from Guatemala, 10 from Honduras and one for Belize. For the Reef Rescue initiative, seven proposals were received (five from Mexico, one from Honduras and one from Belize) and seven proposals were received for the Belize Marine Fund.

The proposals are under revision.

CREDIT: PHILIP HAMILTON /
CORAL REEF IMAGE BANK

Re-Granting in the Mesoamerican Reef

Oak Foundation has been an important partner and funder in the MAR for over 15 years. To consolidate and provide continuity to the achievements, Oak Foundation gave to MAR Fund a provision of sinking funds to on-going activities for a period of two to four years.

Three grantees successfully completed the implementation of their projects:

  • Comunidad y Biodiversidad A.C. (COBI) with the project: Assuring the long-term success of the network of fish refuges in the Mexican MAR.
  • Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) with the project: Strengthening financial sustainability initiatives to support management of Port Honduras Marine Reserve.
  • Centro de Estudios Marinos (CEM) with the Project: Ensuring the Sustainability of No Take Zones in the Honduran Caribbean.

The results of the remaining Projects are below:

Grantee: Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI)

Progress to date:

  • On February 13th, 2020 HRI launched its 2020 Mesoamerican Reef Health Report Card simultaneously in the four countries that encompasses the MAR: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

HRI Staff during the launch event of the Report Card at the four countries. Photo: HRI

  • In Mexico, HRI’s coordinator requested the creation of the new watershed committee for the municipality of Puerto Morelos, which has been approved by the National Commission for Water.

Education campaign of Puerto Morelos’s watershed committee. Photo: HRI

  • In Guatemala, the 2015 fishing ban for parrotfish was re-evaluated and on February 7, 2020, the Ministerial Agreement No.23-2020 was officially published, extending the ban not only for parrotfish, but for other important herbivores fish (parrotfish, surgeonfish, butterflyfish and angelfish) for another five years.
  • In Guatemala, on May 22, 2020, the Ministerial Agreement 85-2020 that declares the Cayman Crown Reef as a temporal space closure zone for 10 years, was published in the official gazette. It is the first No-take zone declared on a reef area and the biggest replenishment area within the country. The newly declared area totals 202 km2 which rises the percent of full protection of Guatemala’s territorial sea from a low 0.6% to 13.1%. This activity was also co-financed through the regional MAR Fish project, with funding from the French Fund for the Environment (FFEM).
  • In Belize, the minister of fisheries, forestry, environment and sustainable development, Omar Figueroa, signed a statutory instrument that expands the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve to include the Cayman Crown reef ecosystem. The newly expanded Sapodilla Cayes reserve now totals an area covering more than 500 square miles.
  • In Honduras, HRI’s direct involvement with the local West End water management entity, Polo’s Water Association, has facilitated the approval of two projects. The first one, allocated through MAR Fund´s Small Grant Program, is to purchase new equipment and carry out improvements at the treatment plant in West End. With the second project they have created the basic pumping and pipe infrastructure in the area known as Millerville to connect 30 homes and businesses to the treatment system currently in place. Both of these projects are now on stand-by due to the Coronavirus quarantine in place for Honduras.
  • HRI’s regional team have been instrumental in alerting and organizing response to the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). Belize Coordinator lead the development of the national response plan, including a successful funding grant for treatment. Mexico Coordinator shared her experience and the Mexico action plan with MPA managers in Roatan a few weeks before the first sighting of the disease on the island.
  • In September 2020, SCTLD was confirmed in two sites of the MAR: the Belize Audubon Society confirmed it on Lighthouse Reef Atoll and in Honduras, the official statement confirmed the disease in Flowers Bay, Roatan

Grantee: Centro de Estudios Marinos (CEM)

Progress to date:

  • A first draft of a joint work plan to integrate the “Strategic axis for the sustainable management of fishery resources” was created by the three Mancomunidades of the north coast of Honduras (Mancomunidad de Municipios del Golfo de Honduras, Mancomunidad de Municipios del Centro de Atlántida y Mancomunidad de Municipios Garífunas de Honduras). This tool enables financial resources for the implementation of actions that strengthen the fishing sector and the marine conservation in the north coast of Honduras.

Mancomunidades of the north coast of Honduras. Photo: CEM

  • The Cayo Blanco Fish Replenishment Zone (FRZ) was established in the municipality of Santa Fe, in the Bay of Trujillo. This FRZ has 9.63 square kilometers.

Fishermen working to establish the Cayo Blanco FRZ. Photo: CEM

Grantee: Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD)

Progress to date:

  • The protected area was categorized within the 15 best managed protected areas in Belize with a score of 84.20%, in the most recent national management effectiveness assessment.
  • SACD generated a total gross income of US$17,442 that is approximately 7% of SACD’s total annual revenues from non-grant based mechanisms such as equipment and conference room rentals, pilot student expeditions and sub-contracts for water quality assessments.
  • To strengthen their financial sustainability, SACD purchased through this project and the support of the “Conservation of Marine Resources in Central America” Project -Phase II, a plot of land to invest in the construction of infrastructure required for the development of their Tourism and Recreation program.
  • SACD patrols and joint patrols continue to be developed resulting in greater coverage of the protected area, with a confiscation of 3 abandoned gill nets, 4 verbal warnings for operating without a valid Fishers Folks License and 2 for operating gills nets without a valid gill net permit, as well as the confiscation of 36 crab traps from the Mexican/Belizean border.

SACD rangers during a marine patrol. Photo: SACD

  • SACD continues doing the water quality monitoring, bird colonies surveys, manatee resting holes drone surveys and was able to conclude the analysis of fish egg and larvae.

Water quality monitoring, bird survey and manatee drone surveys at Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (CBWS). Photo: SACD

Grantee:  Southern Environmental Association (SEA).

Progress to date:

  • Rental items were purchased internationally and SEA is awaiting the delivery. During this period SEA met with the Women SeaWeed Producers Cooperative to sell their product in the Laughing Bird gift shop.

Seaweed products. Photo: SEA

  • To improve SEA’s and the protected areas visibility, SEA participated in the Annual Placencia Art Fest on February-2020.

SEA participating in the Annual Placencia Art Fest. Photo: SEA

  • SEA prepared Laughing Bird Caye for visitation for the upcoming tourist season following the COVID-19 standards for Protected Areas placed by the Belize National Biodiversity office.

CREDIT: THE OCEAN AGENCY /
XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY

Effective Communications

MAR Fund followers continue to increase in social media networks. As of September 30th 2020 there are 3,730 followers on Facebook; 1,622 on Instagram and 1,043 on Twitter.

We have kept our stakeholders, donors and friends informed through the newsletters sent in March, April and June. Last July, we launched MAR Fund’s Photography contest “15 years of conservation in the MAR.”

During the first semester of 2020, MAR Fund got media exposure on Guatemalan and Honduran media outlets:

January

  • Biólogo marino británico alerta sobre amenazas a manglares (Prensa Libre Newspaper – Guatemala)
    https://bit.ly/2KwJOnw

February

March

July

  • Arrecife contribuye a la conservación y restauración de manglares en el Arrecife Mesoamericano (Deutsche Welle)
    https://bit.ly/2HaVVbV

August

  • Telediario, Guatemala presenta noticia sobre el seminario virtual de manglares realizado el 28 y 29 de junio
    https://bit.ly/3dBZp2Z

Since February 2017, outstanding stories on the MAR have been shared on the MAR Fund website, as well as news on the activities and Small Grants Program empowered by MAR Fund.

March

April

May

June

  • En los sectores turístico y hotelero: “No hay que confundir el lujo con el desperdicio”
    https://bit.ly/2HbDhQS

July

  • La conectividad ecológica es clave en el ciclo de vida de las especies que habitan el Arrecife Mesoamericano
    https://bit.ly/2T7aAHm
  • English version
    Ecological connectivity is key to the life cycle of the species that inhabit the Mesoamerican Reef
    https://bit.ly/3nZ1TNP

September

  • Publication of two books on stories about the Mesoamerican Reef Women from the MAR. Positive impact on a positive scale.
    https://bit.ly/2Hk1kxe
  • The Sea in Bildo’s eyes. A story for the fisheries of Belize
    https://bit.ly/3lWiIac

Contact us if you need additional information

FOLLOW US

Address:
22 avenida 0-59, Zona 15 Vista Hermosa II
Guatemala, C.A. 01015

Phone: (502) 2369-3188 | (502) 2369-1978

Email: info@marfund.org