Written by IBD Team WCS, Banu Nagasundaram, Lindsay Zhang, Mark Parker, Maureen Klarich, and Pathak Pankaj
We are Team WCS. Our project this summer is to work in partnership with the Belize organization of the Wildlife Conservation Society to recommend effective management practices for Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, a World Heritage site that also serves as one of the nine designated marine protected areas in Belize.
During our five weeks at Berkeley, we began understanding marine protected areas and started navigating the complex network that involves marine protection management within Belize. From fishermen to government to landowners to conservationists, there are many whose livelihoods are impacted by decisions made within these marine protected areas. Each week, we met with the WCS Belize management team from Berkeley to begin building relationships and ultimately the direction in which we would take this project.
Upon arriving to Belize City, we spent a day in the WCS Belize office before heading out to the Middle Caye island which is owned by WCS. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience, exploring and understanding the realities of marine protection management 35 miles off the coast of Dangriga, Belize.
Follow us for a day in the life of a Berkeley Haas IBD consultant on Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve:
6AM – 9AM
Early to bed, early to rise! Along with the WCS and Belizean Fisheries and Coast Guard staff on the reserve, we started our days with the sun. Breakfast, delivered by the cooks Ms. Annette and Ms. Brenda, began promptly at 7AM. Fried jacks (a Belizean specialty best described by our group as “fried dough”) and coffee were essential to the start of our day along with in-depth conversations with the WCS team and their visiting guests from the St. Louis Zoo. We spent a lot of time on the dock of Middle Caye, learning about the experiences of the WCS staff – many of whom have worked for and amongst the various stakeholders throughout their careers. What valuable conversations and a beautiful environment to hold these!
9AM – 11AM
Taking in the nature of Belize. Along with the guests from St. Louis, we had the opportunity to explore the reserve each morning – learning about and understanding the marine ecosystem within the reserve and clearly understanding the need for conservation of this beautiful protected area. The team had the opportunity to partake in snorkeling the reef – a big shout out to our teammate, Banu, for diving right in and exploring the open seas for the first time! She went from joining boat rides to swimming on her own in the reserve within four days.
11AM – 12PM
We took each morning to check in with the WCS Operations Manager, Ken. We really valued this time to talk through some of our observations and understand his perspective on the region. These sessions took place in the Research Lab where we were able to get a break from the strong sun.
12PM – 2PM
Ms. Annette and Ms. Brenda were back in action for lunch, hosting for over 40 guests – the WCS staff, the St Louis visiting guests, the Fisheries staff and Coast Guard staff on-site at Middle Caye, and ourselves. Each meal gave us an opportunity to interact with stakeholders, learning their personal histories, their path to Glover’s Reef, and their thoughts and ideas surrounding conservation of this beautiful area.
2PM – 6PM
The afternoons were spent with more snorkeling and exploration of the Glover’s Reef atoll and the islands outside of Middle Caye. Throughout the week, we had the opportunity to visit and meet with key stakeholders in the region who sit on the Advisory Committee of Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve. These included Jim and Kendra who own a resort in Glover’s Reef. Living in Belize for 25 years, they have a vested interest in protecting the ecosystem of the reef for their guests and sustainability of their livelihood on this atoll. We also had a chance to speak with Warren, another landowner who was born in Glover’s Reef and continues to be an active participant in the community. One evening, our boat captain Bok took us out to meet fishers who had just come in for the day. Hearing their perspectives and efforts to teach the younger generations of fishers about the needs for sustainability was encouraging and inspiring.
7PM – 9PM
Dinners were served to the entire group – complete with rice and beans, chicken stew, and local desserts and fruits. Again, the opportunity to engage with the stakeholders on the island over meals and card games following dinner gave us the ability to build relationships and get to know the team better.
Throughout the day
Sun and mosquito protection were essential! The island’s mosquitos were no joke, and some group members survived the mosquito bites better than others. We also learned that any walk on the island needs to be accompanied with long sleeve t-shirts, long pants, and bug spray applied to any open skin. Wish we had bought some stock in mosquito repellent and sunscreen approved sunscreen brands!
As we’ve headed back to Belize City, we are looking forward to the continued learning in our 2nd week – meeting with other Marine Protected Areas to discuss best practices and exploring the best of Belize. Look out for another update in the next week!