Photo: Philip Hamilton
Coral Reef Image Bank

COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges for the development of the projects, however, even with the ever changing conditions, grantees have been able to move forward adapting to the current situation in their countries. MAR Fund has continued in constant communication with grantees and donors to continue advancing on the conservation of the Mesoamerican Reef System.

SAVING OUR PROTECTED AREAS

Photo: Elisa Areano

PROTECTION OF MARITIME RESOURCES IN CENTRAL AMERICA III

On December 8, 2021, MAR Fund and KfW signed the Financial Contribution Agreement  and the Separate Agreement to launch the project “Protection of maritime resources in Central America III.”  This new phase of the project will support the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in and between selected coastal and marine protected areas in the MAR. Phase III will operate through two calls for proposals targeting coastal and marine protected areas. The first call is expected to be launched by the end of 2022 or early 2023.

FISHING FOR THE FUTURE

Photo: Philip Hamilton
IYOR Bank Mesoamerican

MAR FISH:

SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES FOR A THRIVING REEF

The MAR Fish project is the largest coordinated monitoring network of fish spawning aggregation (FSA) 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.

CAYMAN CROWN

From August to September 2021, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) conducted reef health surveys using AGRRA methodology in three sites of the Cayman Crown area. No presence of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) was reported.

 

AGRRA monitoring in Cayman Crown. Photo: HRI

Belize:

  • TIDE’s application for the co-management of the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve (SCMR), is under revision by the Belize Fisheries Department (BFD).
  • The final draft of the SCMR Management Plan is also under revision.
  • Renovation work at the building administered by the BFD in Hunting Caye, to accommodate researchers and rangers, was finalized.
  • Patrolling of the Cayman Crown reef area was carried out by TIDE and BFD, during the spawning season of December 2021.

 

Restored building in Hunting Caye, Belize. Photo: TIDE

Guatemala:

  • Patrolling in the Cayman Crown area was carried in collaboration with maritime authorities.
  • A socioeconomic and fishing survey was carried out in July 2021, in Estero Lagarto, Punta de Manabique and Quetzalito.
  • Three environmental education workshops were conducted in August 2021, in Punta de Manabique Wildlife Refuge, Río Sarstún Multiple Use Area, Río Dulce National Park and the Santo Tomas Close Zone. Forty-eight people participated.
  • A workshop on the management and conservation actions carried out in the Cayman Crown no take zone was held in October, 2021. Fifteen people from CONAP, DIPESCA and the HRI participated.

 

SENTINEL SITES OBSERVATION NETWORK

  • Mexico: an air compressor was purchased to fill dive tanks used by used community divers monitoring FSAs in Punta Allen.
  • Honduras: Acoustic sensors were placed in three sites: Texas, Cordelia and Sandy Bay. Equipment purchase for CORAL: 4 camera structures and 8 clamps for laser sizing device, 1 GoPro camera, 2 diving flags and 1 lowrance transducer.
  • Belize: TIDE installed one temperature logger in Cayman Crown. Equipment purchased includes: 1 acoustic sensor, 1 GoPro camera, 2 go pro filters, 2 laser lights, 1 diving safety sausage and 2 mounting brackets for lasers.

 

Acoustic sensor moored in Texas FSA. Photo: CORAL

  • All AGRRA sites in Mexico were monitored; project FSA sites are still pending due to the pandemic.
  • Monitoring in Honduras was carried out in 73 AGRRA sites in Tela, Cayos Cochinos, Trujillo, Utila, Roatan and Guanaja.
  • AGRRA monitoring in Belize was conducted at 93 sites, 10 are near FSA sites and within 6 sub regions. Monitoring was carried out by members of Belize’s National Coral Reef Monitoring Network.
  • AGRRA monitoring in Guatemala covered three sites in Cayman Crown, two in Motaguilla and three in Cabo Tres Puntas.

Tiger Grouper spawning in Sandy Bay, Honduras. Photo: CORAL

FSAs monitored by the Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI) in Mexico:
Due to pandemic restrictions, monitoring of FSAs was not carried out. However, additional activities were led by COBI:

1. Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling

  • Fishers in Punta Allen, who were trained to collect in eDNA and tissue samples from fish in 2020, continued to collect tissue samples during the lockdown period of 2020-2021 and shipped them to COBI.
  • A report was published in 2021 with results of this survey, highlighting that Nassau Grouper are present, but also a range of other species that are not always visible to divers.

2. Data analysis of acoustic sensors

  • No acoustic sensors were installed in the 2020-2021 grouper spawning season, due to the pandemic, however they continued to work on data analysis.
  • In July 2021, they began re-analyzing the files with an updated version of the algorithm to remove background noise. The data confirms that 99% of the fish heard are Nassau Grouper and interestingly, the fish have a slightly different pitch to Nassau Grouper in other regions of the Caribbean.

SOCIAL ACCEPTABILITY AND SUPPORT FOR PROTECTING SPAWNING GROUNDS

  • Organized jointly by El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), COBI, Instituto Tecnológico de Chetumal (TecNM) and MAR Fund, the webinar shared information on new technologies being used in the study and monitoring of FSAs in the MAR, such as a DNA Barcode to identify early life stages of fish (ECOSUR) and analysis of environmental DNA to determine presence of fish species in the area (COBI).

Workshop in Honduras:

  • An online workshop was carried out on September 29, 2021 by CORAL, with support from Cuerpo de Conservación de Omoa (CCO), Fundación para la protección de Lancetilla, Punta Sal y Texiguat (PROLANSATE) and Asociación de amigos de los arrecifes de Tela (AMATELA). The objective of the workshop was raising awareness among fishers from target communities on the importance of Cayman Crown and its protected status.
  • Representatives of Cooperativa de pescadores de Puerto Cortés (COOPESCOL), and Unión de pescadores artesanales de Tela, were selected to join the Trinational Alliance for the Gulf of Honduras (TRIGOH).

CLIMATE CHANGE

Photo: Philip Hamilton
IYOR Bank Mesoamerican

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.

The parametric insurance is now covering four critical core areas in Banco Chinchorro, Arrecifes de Xcalak, Hol Chan, and Turneffe Atoll. Emergency response capacity training has been carried out in Mexico, Belize and Honduras and a Task Force for post-storm response capacity building in Guatemala was formed. Several restoration projects have continued to advance in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR).

MAR Fund and Wilis Towers Watson (WTW) are carrying out the project “Reef Resilience and Risk Financing in the Greater Caribbean” to scale the model of the parametric insurance program in the MAR to the Greater Caribbean by building the capacity of local communities, governments, the private sector and environmental funds to increase coastal resilience through innovative financing mechanisms.

The project is funded by the UK Defra-Blue Planet Fund, through a collaboration agreement between MAR Fund and the Stockholm University / Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) / Global Resilience Partnership; and it is being implemented with the support from the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF).

MAR Fund continues  working together with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the governments of the four MAR countries to develop and implement Emergency Response capacities at key reef sites in the MAR. Main advances on these activities include:

Mexico:
In September, the Rapid Response and Emergency Reef Restoration Course was held in Mahahual, Quintana Roo. Fifteen people among expert divers, protected area managers, tourism operators, and community members were trained.


Rapid Response and Emergency Reef Restoration Course for brigades training. Mahahual, Quintana Roo Photo: Juan Carlos Huitrón

Belize:

The Belize Response Capacity Building Task Force held two virtual meetings with the participation of representatives from the Fisheries Department, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, TASA, TNC and MAR Fund; the steps to follow for the second brigades training and the Response Plan were established.

Honduras:

Seven first responders from Honduras (5) and Guatemala (2) were trained in November, during the Training of Trainers (ToT) course for Post-Storm Reef Response Brigades carried out in Roatan, Honduras in close collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MiAmbiente+) and the National Institute for Forestry Conservation (ICF).

Subsequently, there was a first responders training with 12 participants that included community members, expert divers, protected area managers and tourism operators from the Merchant Marine of Honduras, the Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA), Kanahau, Utila Coral Restoration, Cayos Cochinos Foundation, among others.


ToT course for Post-Storm Reef Response Brigades. Roatan, Bay Islands Photo: Juan Carlos Huitrón


Rapid Response and Emergency Reef Restoration Course for brigades training. Mahahual, Quintana Roo Photo: Juan Carlos Huitrón

In October, the “Development of instruments for the governance of the Reef Restoration Network of the Mesoamerican Reef System (RRN-MAR)” were finalized and approved by the RRN Executive Committee. This consultancy was made possible with  support from the project MAR2R (CCAD/WWF/GEF).

From October 6th – 8th, the 3rd Biennial Meeting of the Network was held online and attended by representatives from more than 30 institutions. In addition, MAR Fund made a presentation on instruments for risk management and reef resilience in the MAR. The election process for the new Executive Committee was initiated.

The Regional Dialogue Group (GRD) of the Regional Demonstration Project in attention to the SCTLD, held two ordinary meetings to advance in the implementation of the project.

MAR Fund and the GRD, with  support from the project MAR2R (CCAD/WWF/GEF), hired consultants to carry out the following documents:

  • National Action Plan for the Detection, Attention and Monitoring of SCTLD in Guatemala
  • “Implementation of Actions of the White Syndrome Action Plan in Mexican Caribbean»

On November, within the framework of the MAR2R project, and MAR Fund, through the RRI, carried out the Regional Strategic Workshop “Building Resilience and Addressing Risk in the Mesoamerican Reef.” With the objective of strengthening governance of the MAR region.

Among the more than one hundred key actors who attended the event were the Executive Secretary of the CCAD, Jair Urriola; the Executive Secretary of the Central American Tourism Integration Secretariat (SITCA), Ilka Aguilar; the Executive Director of the Central American Maritime Transport Commission (COCATRAM), Otto Noack Sierra; and the Executive Secretary of the Council of Ministers of Finance of Central America, Panama and the Dominican Republic (COSEFIN), Efrain Flores.

Other participants included representatives from the environment ministries of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, as well as important cooperating agencies such as KfW, the InsuResilience Fund (ISF), and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The main agreements and results were:

  • The creation of a group of volunteers to write two pages of commitment to the topic of resilience to climate change in the MAR, including the endorsement of the Tulum+25 Agreements and to resume the topic of the Blue Economy.
  • To elaborate a roadmap towards COP 27 that contains parallel events to make the importance of the MAR visible in international, regional and local spaces.

In 2020, two Small Grants were formalized from the 12th Joint Request for Proposals. During this period the second project completed its activities and presented the following final results:

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

  • During 10 training workshops, the RMP team trained 9 dive centers and 55 staff members to treat SCTLD.
  • Nine Coral ID workshops to train divers on how to identify species susceptible to SCTLD were hosted virtually; 228 people were trained.
  • Nine webinars and three presentations were carried out to increase awareness in the public and the local stakeholders in Roatan, with 2099 participants.
  • More than 40,000 observations were recorded, and 27 species have been monitored. The RMP team was able to keep track of the spread of the disease by categorizing the outbreak conditions for the 21 sites.
  • The National Action Plan for SCTLD draft was socialized with government officials, MPA co-managers and partners from different NGOs located in the MPAs of Honduras. Next steps towards the officialization of the document will be done by the Secretariat of Natural Resources and Environment (MiAmbiente+) and the National Institute for Forestry Conservation (ICF).

In 2021, two Small Grants were formalized from the 13th Joint Request for Proposals. The project had the following progress:

“Beyond the White Syndrome: Rescue and Sexual Reproduction of Susceptible Species.” By Amigos de Isla Contoy (AIC).

  1. Seventeen colonies were collected; eight showed signs of the disease (these were treated according to the established protocols), and five died from causes not associated with SCTLD. The others are healthy and stable colonies.
  2. One hundred and forty-eight vials of 13 genotypes of Diploria labyrinthiformis (DLAB), Pseudodiploria strigosa  (PSTR), Orbicella faveolata (OFAV) and O. annularis (OANN) were cryopreserved.
  3. Three infographics about the project have been prepared and distributed.


Infographics of the project “Beyond the White Syndrome: Rescue and Sexual Reproduction of Susceptible Species.” Images for: AIC

The MAR2R Project grant includes collaboration for pilot projects, through small grants, for coral restoration in the MAR. Three small grants have been formalized and the progress made is the following:

Ecological restoration of coral reefs in Cozumel Island. By Fundación Comunitaria Cozumel I.A.P.

The project completed its activities and presented these final results:

  1. Eleven people were trained in reef restoration techniques and in the monitoring of their effectiveness, with support from Dra. Claudia Padilla’s team from CRIAP-INAPESCA in Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo.
  2. In 26 sites of Cozumel, 329 mother coral colonies of Acropora palmata were checked. Thirty percent presented more than 40% mortality and the rest are considered to be in relatively good health.
  3. One hundred coral fragments of Acropora palmata were collected from four mother colonies and planted in a submerged nursery.
  4. A total of 3,075 fragments were planted in different sites of Cozumel.


Diagnosis of the condition of the mother colonies. Photo: Fundación Comunitaria Cozumel I.A.P.

Coral restoration in the reef habitat of Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico: Phase II. By Centro Ukana I Akumal, AC.

The project completed its activities and presented the following final results:

  1. Five campaigns focused on the collection, stabilization and planting of coral fragments were implemented in three sites in Akumal, and 1,831 coral fragments were planted.
  2. Twelve fragment search campaigns were implemented, as well as rescue and stabilization of fragments in the nurseries. Eight hundred and twelve fragments were stabilized.
  3. Ten coral fragment replantation campaigns were carried out, and 1,881 fragments replanted at 6 sites on the reef.
  4. Twenty-two nursery maintenance campaigns were implemented.
  5. Four coral rehabilitation training activities were conducted for Akumal.


Coral nursery maintenance campaign. Photo: Centro Ukana I Akumal, AC.

Fragments of opportunity: rebuilding reefs and fostering resilient communities through coral restoration. By Roatan Marine Park (RMP).

  1. Agreements were established with three local dive operators to offer the RMP Coral Restoration Certification Course and participate in RMP’s coral restoration activities.
  2. Three webinars took place with restoration experts in the MAR to share experiences with the RMP staff and partners.

In October, the video “Local Participation in Post-Storm Response for Reefs in the MAR Region” was produced and distributed, to disseminate the results and importance of reef response capacity in the MAR. Watch it here:

In November, ORRAA and WTW used footage produced by MAR Fund to disseminate their collaboration in the MAR. This material was distributed during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) through the Resilience Hub. Watch it here:

In December, a promotional video was produced for the Brigades Course to be held in Roatan, Bay Islands in March 2022. Watch it here:

On November 10th and 11th, the TSC conducted its 11th ordinary meeting and it was online.  Participants included:

  • Mexico: María del Carmen García Rivas. National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP).
  • Guatemala: Luisa Fernández. Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN).
  • Honduras: Skarleth Pineda. Directorate of Biodiversity (DiBio).
  • Belize: Adriel Castañeda. Belize Fisheries Department.
  • María José González. MAR Fund’s Executive Director.
  • Claudia Ruiz. RRI Coordinator
  • Claudia Ocaña. RRI Administrative Assistant.
  • Daniela Larios. RRI Technical Assistant.

During the meeting, the progress, and main achievements of the Annual Work Plan (AWP) 2021 were presented to the TSC. In addition, the AWP and budget for 2022 were approved. The TSC is pleased with the advances of the initiative and will reconvene again in May 2022.

MANGROVES

Mangrove restoration manual

On December 1, 2021, the Manual for the Ecological Restoration of Mangroves in the Mesoamerican Reef System and the Wider Caribbean was launched. The virtual event was organized by the UNEP-Cartagena Convention, MAR2R/CCAD/WWF-GEF project and the MAR Fund. A total of 159 participants attended. You can download the manual here:

 

People who did not have the opportunity to participate in the virtual launch can see the recording of the event by clicking on this link (the recording is available only in Spanish).

BELIZE MARINE FUND

Photo: The Ocean Agency
IYOR Bank Coral Reefs

The Belize Marine Fund (BMF) supports projects through two programmatic windows 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.

TARGETED GRANT AWARDS

Towards Sustainability for the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (TAMR).

General Objective: Enhancing TASA’s capacity to provide effective management of the  TAMR.

Through its efforts to establish a baseline for sustainable lobster harvesting practices at Turneffe, TASA recorded 31 active fishing camps at TAMR. The organization has also confirmed the presence of 46 fishing grounds of which 43 have been mapped, covering 225 km² of the lagoon floor. The organization has also documented 8,199 lobster traps owned by 15 fishers, and 6,065 lobster shades, owned by 22 fishers utilizing TAMR. According to TASA approximately 50% of lobster traps have been tagged so far.

Continued Reef Replenishment in Southern Belize with An Emphasis on Mapping and Quantifying Natural and Replenishing Acroporid Cover.

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.

  • FoH continues to conduct outplanting, and maintains its focus on the outplanting of Acropora cervicornis and palmata given the impact of stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) and the resilience of these species to the disease.
  • The organization also continues to conduct drone mapping; covered areas include LBCNP, Moho Caye for restoration work, and Loggerhead, South Cramp, Crawl Caye, Saddle Caye, and Dales Reef for natural Acropora sp. stands.

Safeguarding Replenishment Zones within the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System.

General Objective: Expanding Belize’s protected areas network and improving its management and compliance by increasing support for the finalization of the replenishment zone expansion efforts in Belize.

  • WCS has been working closely with the Fisheries Department to assist the Government of Belize in meeting its conservation commitments as it relates to expanding biodiversity protection zones under high protection to represent 15% of Belize’s ocean. According to WCS, the sites that will be included in this expansion will be those that were approved in 2019 by the sitting Cabinet. This includes Phase I sites identified in the National Replenishment Zones Expansion project, and the declaration of additional sites at South Water Caye Marine Reserve, Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve, and Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • In October 2021, WCS hosted a virtual working session to update the enforcement strategy that was developed for the proposed replenishment zones expansion. The revision of the enforcement plan is now complete and will be used to inform a national enforcement strategy for the network of expanded replenishment zones (RZs).


Training of Fisheries Department on-site team in the use of Spot X Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) photo: WCS/J. Maaz

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) Monitoring and First Response in Belize.

General Objective: Providing a national response in Belize to the debilitating  SCTLD through monitoring, tracking and treatment.

  • In collaboration with the Belize Fisheries Department and Fragments of Hope, WWF/HRI hosted a training session at South Water Caye Marine Reserve on September 28th, 2021 for treatment of SCTLD affected corals in the Southern Reefs of Belize. A second training workshop was also hosted from 11-12 November 2021 for reefs along central Belize—with participation from four marine protected areas co-management NGOs, the University of Belize (UB) and the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI).
  • According to WWF/HRI, a total of 53 corals have been treated in northern Belize at Goff’s Caye, and a total of 72 corals have been treated at four sites in South Water Caye Marine Reserve (SWCMR). While a smaller sub-set of corals in each location has been re-treated (2nd application) based on date(s) of first treatments. Additionally, there have been 177 entries in the Bleaching and Disease tracker on AGRRA’s website, 75 of which have been monitored using basic surveys and 102 detailed surveys, and accounting for approximately 100 sites.


Application of treatment to SCTLD affected coral at Tobacco Caye/SWCMR. photo: HRI/Nicole Craig

Assessment of agro-pesticides bioaccumulation in Belize marine species to reduce impact to the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR).

General Objective: Assessing the current impact of agrochemical pollution in marine species and sediments in the Belize section of the MAR ecoregion.

WWF is assessing the current impact of agrochemical pollution in marine species and sediments in the Belize section of the MAR ecoregion. Specific sites include Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (TAMR), Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve, and the mouth of Monkey River. According to WWF, data collection will commence in February 2022.

Re-imagining Belizean Tourism in the Wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

General Objective: Setting the BTIA on a path that not only restores its role as the voice of the tourism industry, but helps to re-imagine Belizean tourism in the wake of a once-in-a century global event.

The BTIA is restoring its institutional viability in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic through the hire of an Executive Director. The organization will host a Re-imagining Tourism Summit in the third quarter of 2022 that it envisions will assist in re-establishing the path of Belize’s tourism sector in the face of its post-pandemic realities.

Forging A Sustainable Blue Economy for Belize: A National Development Strategy and Plan.

General Objective: Supporting the establishment and implementation of Belize’s Blue Economy through the development of a National Blue Economy Strategy and Plan.

  • TASA is working with the Ministry of the Blue Economy on the development and implementation of the National Blue Economy Strategy and Plan.
  • TASA and the Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation (MBECA) are in the process of organizing and commissioning the Project Steering Committee. Additionally, the terms of reference (ToR) for the consultancy has been developed.

SMALL GRANT AWARDS

Establishing Effective Lionfish Management in Belize’s Fish Replenishment Zones.

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.

  • Blue Ventures hosted the quarterly meeting for the Lionfish Working Group (LWG) virtually on November 17. During this meeting, Olacoral delivered an update on lionfish processing, which has been ongoing since July, and Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD) shared progress of lionfish control planning in the Northern Belize Coastal Complex (NBCC).
  • From 1st September – 30th November 2021, in collaboration with the TASA team, Blue Ventures also conducted lionfish control dives which saw the removal and culling of lionfish at TAMR, for which data collected is currently being analyzed.
  • All 39 lionfish control sites in TAMR were successfully surveyed between the 22nd of November and 2nd December 2021 by the TASA team, with support from Blue Ventures staff. Data collected during these surveys has been uploaded to the MERMAID – Marine Ecological Research Management Aid (datamermaid.org) online platform.


Blue Ventures and TASA team conducting lionfish surveys at TAMR. Photo: Blue Ventures

Exploration of Sea Cucumber Mariculture Potential in Belize. 

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

  • UB-ERI artificially spawned a total of 50 sea cucumber broodstocks, where ~ 400,000 eggs were successfully fertilized. Through microscopic observations of the larval development, it was discovered that the species spawned were not mexicana but H. floridana.
  • According to UB-ERI, morphologically Mexicana & H. floridana cannot be identified visually, except by DNA barcoding or by observing the larval development of the fertilized eggs—the latter of which was done by UB-ERI. The entity further asserts that it is possible that H. mexicana is not present in the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve (TAMR) —a hypothesis that can only be verified by studying its population and doing DNA barcoding to determine the presence of this species—.
  • Both Mexicana & H. floridana are known to interbreed and produce hybrids. However, UB-ERI also remains uncertain as to whether this is occurring in the Turneffe Atoll since it has only found H. floridana.
  • While ~100,000 encapsulated larvae settled as pentactula stages, approximately ~3,000 pentactula reached juvenile stages, with 12 of the 3,000 juveniles reaching 3 cm in total length. Of this, 3 of these 12 juveniles reached 8 cm in total length and were released in the natural environment.
  • According to UB-ERI a determination of the optimal conditions required for fast growth & optimal survival rates of larvae & juveniles was not possible due to high mortality of larvae and juveniles. However, three 8 cm juveniles were released in shallow seagrass beds, where adults were found, within the TAMR. While UB-ERI’s efforts did not yield the results anticipated, this work has provided valuable learning as the institution continues its efforts at determining the viability for pioneering sea cucumber mariculture in Belize.

Building Knowledge and Understanding, Managing Perceptions, and Engaging Fishing Communities of the North Eastern Coast of Belize Towards Improved Stewardship of Marine Resources.

General Objective: To strengthen BAS’ existing relationship with the stakeholder communities of Lighthouse Reef Atoll, through the expansion of its environmental education & community outreach programs; for improved stewardship and conservation of marine resources.

BAS conducted recruitment for its Reef Protector’s Program with the assistance of the teachers and principal of St. Viator Vocational High School. The organization received 14 applications (10 males and 4 females) which were reviewed and all applicants were accepted.  While BAS did not meet its target of 15 participants, the project team is working on a strategy to recruit 1 more participant by January 2022.


Reef Protectors orientation meeting. Photo: BAS

Investing in Crisis-Resilient Fisheries by Strengthening Managed Access Committees across Belize

General Objective: To strengthen Belize’s Managed Access Committees (MAC) to become stronger, more effective governance institutions that champion management changes that will improve fisheries health within Managed Access fishing areas.

In collaboration with Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE), EDF trained 30 fishing community members from Punta Gorda, Punta Negra, Monkey River, and Barranco Village on the use of the Small-Scale Fisheries Resource & Collaboration Hub (SSF Hub). The organization also shared relevant information and resources they could access on the Hub and discussed how the Hub could help fishing communities advance their goals. For example, through access to information regarding funding opportunities to support local activities.


Fishers from Monkey River and Punta Gorda participate in SSF Hub training at TIDE Conference Room. Photo: EDF/Nic Requena

Building Resilience and Environmental Stewardship Among the three Fishing Communities of Hopkins, Independence and Placencia.

General Objective: To strengthen the resilience of fishing communities so as to minimize shocks compounded by depleting fish stocks and COVID-19.

SEA conducted Boat-to-Boat outreach sessions within Managed Access Area 3 from November 10 – 12, 2021. During these sessions, SEA reports having encountered a total of 121 fishers in the vicinity of South Water Caye Marine Reserve and Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve.

Monitoring Effectiveness of the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve through Long-term Monitoring of Marine Megafauna (MMM).

General Objective: To conduct standardized monitoring of marine megafauna at Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve as a method of assessing whether current regulations are adequate for their protection and recovery.

  • MarAlliance successfully completed its MMM in Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve and Lighthouse Reef Atoll for comparison. Data analysis from the 2021 Turneffe Atoll MMM highlights a total of 20 standardized scientific longline sets (50 hooks each, standard bait and 90-minute soak time) at Turneffe Atoll over a 5-day period. This gave a total of 1000 hooks set for a total of 30.1 soak hours.
  • MarAlliance asserts that only one species of shark, the Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) was captured (n=30), along with the Southern stingray (Hypanusamericanus sp.) (n=3). Catch per unit effort (CPUE) was relatively high for Caribbean reef sharks, at 0.30 sharks per 100 hook hours and represents a 10-fold increase in sharks caught compared to 2016. By comparison CPUE for stingrays was 0.05 rays per 100 hook hours.
  • Most Caribbean reef sharks captured were juveniles (n=20, 67%) (<180 cm TL for males, <200 cm TL for females), and the majority of shark and ray captures occurred in the north of the atoll. Mar Alliance has also met with principals of the co-management organizations (TASA and BAS) to share their findings and noted the impressive increase in shark abundance following the pandemic pause to shark fishing.

Length-frequency of Caribbean reef sharks tagged and released by scientific longline at Turneffe Atoll in 2021. The dashed line represents the approximate size at maturity for males and the solid line is the size at maturity for females.

MAR FUND SMALL GRANTS
PROGRAM

Photo: Philip Hamilton
IYOR Bank Mesoamerican

TRADITIONAL WINDOW

13TH JOINT REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS (2020)

SUPPORTING COASTAL AND MARINE RESOURCES MANAGEMENT AND PROTECTION IN THE MESOAMERICAN REEF (MAR)

The thirteenth request for proposals is currently under development. Some of the eight projects approved are presented below:

Grantee: Centinelas del Agua (CDA), Mexico

Progress to date:

  • In November 10, 2021, CDA ratified its commitment to the creation of the Lázaro Cárdenas Watershed Committee and participated in the third Informative Meeting for the installation of the Auxiliary Bodies of Puerto Morelos, Cozumel and Lázaro Cárdenas.
  • December 1, 2021, the presentation and launching of the Eco-pedagogy Manual took place during the V Ordinary Session of the State Council of Environmental Education with the participation of 34 members of the Council.
  • On December 14, 2021, the Manual was presented to the City Council of the municipality of Solidaridad with the participation of 19 participants.
  • An experiential eco-pedagogical virtual tour was carried out in the form of a 30-minute video that was launched on YouTube and FB within the framework of the National Festival for Water and Forests, which was broadcast on October 23 via FacebookLive with a reach of 837 people and 313 reproductions.

Launching of the Eco-pedagogy Manual Photo: Centinelas del Agua, 2022

Grantee: Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI), Mexico

Progress to date:

  • COBI continues to train five men and four women in the use of PescaData App and promoted its use with the fishing cooperatives. COBI also elaborated a guide to use Zoom.
  • COBI is updating their education materials and contents and joined a Scientific Inclusive Education Network (RECI in Spanish) to promote knowledge sharing and create alliances with other organizations that work in environmental education.

Tablets purchased for the project. Photo: COBI

Grantee: Fundación Mundo Azul (FUNMZ), Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) & Pixan’Ja, Guatemala

Progress to date:

  • Two coral reef expeditions were conducted to monitor three sites in the Cayman Crown reef, two  in Motaguilla and three coral reef patches in Cabo Tres Puntas.  No presence of SCTLD was reported on the reefs monitored in Guatemala.
  • Ana Giró gave a talk on “Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Identification and Conservation Actions” at the Coastal and Marine Webinar Congress organized by CEMA, FUNDAECO and Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.
  • A stakeholders database was created with approximately 92 people from different sectors (NGOS, private, academia and government).
  • A presentation at the meeting named “Management and Conservation of the Cayman Crown Reef – Temporary Space Closure Zone” was given to inform the government officials (DIPESCA, CONAP officials and park rangers) about the importance of Cayman Crown.

Coral reef expedition. Photo: Ana Giró/HRI

Grantee: EcoLogic Development Fund (ECOLOGIC), Guatemala

Progress to date:

  • Thirty-three parcels of agroforestry plots were established with Inga edulis, Theobroma cacao (cocoa), Citrus X sinensis (orange), Citrus limon (lemon), Cinnamomum verum (cinnamon).
  • Twenty-one technical assistance visits were made to the communities of Sarstoon Creek, Lo de En Medio II, and Playa Sarstún for the design, layout, hollowing and planting of the different species of the agroforestry systems, providing personalized support to promoters and direct participants.
  • Three women’s committees corresponding to the communities of Sarstún Creek, Lo En Medio II and Playa Sarstún have been legalized before the Municipality of Livingston, Izabal.
  • A training workshop for women leaders was held for 15 women leaders, focusing on leadership, the importance of women’s participation and community organization.
  • A training plan was developed for the credit committee of the Fishermen’s Association of the San Juan Community and an assembly was held to elect the credit committee. The seven people selected will be in charge of managing the credit fund of the San Juan community and three training workshops were implemented.
  • The seed capital regulations were prepared in a participatory manner and validated by the Community Assembly.

Parcels of agroforestry Photo: EcoLogic 2022

Grantee: Asociación Multicultural de Mujeres para el Desarrollo Integral y Sostenible (AMMUDIS), Guatemala

Progress to date:

  • During seven meetings with 101 people from the communities Torno de la Virgen, San Marcos, Buena Vista Miramar, La Pintada, La Angostura, Nueva Esperanza, Cayo Quemado, Creek Jute y Barrio Barique, organisers raised awareness on the pollution problem and thought about on how to promote change took place.
  • The Mesa Manglar committee was installed and is working in the conformation of the Comité de Saneamiento Ambiental del Barrio Pueblo Nuevo with the Livingston Municipality. Through six workshops, they promoted the use of waste resources in useful products for women in the communities as a productive development strategy that, in addition to providing certain income, motivates reuse of material and circular economy. A total of 62 people participated in the workshops, all of them women, who are producing 70 products per month with the plastic material.

Environmental Sanitation Committee, Photo: AMMUDIS

Grantee: Polo’s Water Association (Polo’s) Honduras

Progress to date:

  • The water quality monitoring of the effluent and affluent of the water treatment plant continues, sampling dissolved oxygen and also sedimentable solids in collaboration with BICA-Roatan. Samplings are carried out to identify the efficiency of the aerobic treatment in the plant that allows the degradation of the organic matter.
  • Improvements were made to the wastewater treatment plant, acquiring a blower for the aeration system.

Blower for the wastewater treatment plant. Photo: Polo’s

  • The new fine bubble diffusers were installed in the aeration tanks to provide greater oxygen transfer in the system. With this action, an improvement in the water quality parameters of the effluent is expected. Previously it was necessary to suck up 39,200 gallons of residual water and transfer it to the Coxen Hole oxidation ponds.

 

Installation and operation of the fine bubble diffusers. Photo: Polo’s

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

Photo: Philip Hamilton
IYOR Bank Mesoamerican

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