Diving and Conservation with Blue Ventures in Belize
This article was first published by our friends at Travel Off the Radar, who have agreed to its republication here. View the original article on their blog.
Out with a local fishermen in Sarteneja, Belize. Photo courtesy of Travel Off the Radar
“For a long time most of the villagers have made a living from fishing… they have always fished the entire coast of Belize…even those who don’t take part in the traditional lifestyle still make their income from the sea. With their close relationship to the reefs, Sartenejans quickly notice changes to the reef and fish,” says the narrator on an informative video put out by the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD).
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is impressive, covering 560 miles from Cancun to Honduras. In Belize, where the reef stretches for a remarkable 186 miles, Blue Ventures has taken a creative and effective approach to conservation.
Beginning in January of 2010, Blue Ventures, already in its eighth year of operation, began its project with the Belizean community of Sarteneja, the SACD and other organizations to understand the impact the local coastal communities have on the nearby reef.
Fishing and marine environments provide a huge source of income and nourishment for nearby residents, and while some are tempted to take extreme conservation measures, SACD clarifies in a video on the Blue Ventures website, “In this community, when people hear the word conservation, they think, ‘no fishing,’ that’s not what SACD wants. Conservation can allow fishing to continue but there are always better ways to do it, there are best practices to ensure the sustainable use of these natural resources.”
Manatee Rehab at Wildtracks Photo courtesy of Travel Off the Radar
For six weeks, volunteers with the Belize project are able to conduct research with Blue Ventures and their partner organization, the SACD. The mission behind the research is to eventually develop a sustainable environmental management plan for the region that not only increases the quality of life for the residents of Sarteneja, but also increases and sustains a healthy level of marine biodiversity.
Depending on schedules, volunteers undergo 7 – 15 days of their science training program, learning techniques of monitoring and identifying species. If you have not received your PADI certification, courses for PADI Advanced Open Water certification are given within two weeks of arrival.
Sign up for a spot on one of the five trips they have coming up in May, June, August, September, or November. Blue Ventures also has training and volunteer programs for their research sites in Malaysia and Madagascar. If you aren’t sure which would be the best fit for you, read about each one on their website.
About Off The Radar
By connecting passionate travelers with unusual travel opportunities, Off the Radar and Xola Consulting support adventure travel companies who provide guests with a genuine, personal experience; who believe in sustainable, environmentally sensitive travel and incorporate the local people and traditions of the destinations where they operate.
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to our friends at The Travel Word, who introduced us to this article.