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WCS at the forefront of Marine Conservation in Belize

The Belize Barrier reef is one of the world’s outstanding barrier reef systems, containing a necklace of three offshore atolls, hundreds of sand cays and patch reefs, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons, estuaries and a thriving ecosystem comprised of approximately 500 species of fish, 134 bird species, three varieties of nesting sea turtles, and one of the largest populations of West Indian Manatees.

Glover’s Reef Atoll is the southernmost of the three atolls found in Belize. It is situated approximately 45 km off the coast of Belize and forms part of the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the Western Hemisphere (See map of Glover’s Reef Atoll).  It is an oval-shaped atoll measuring 32km long and 12km wide and approximately 35,000 hectares in area.  Glover’s Reef Research Station is located on Middle Caye (see Map of Middle Caye),which is one of the six sand cays located on the reef crest along the southeastern edge of the atoll.



History

In the 1970’s, Glover’s Reef Atoll was identified by a team of renowned coral reef scientists as the best site in the Caribbean to carry out “long-term, multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional investigation of coral reef ecosystems.” In 1993, with the support of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and others, the Atoll was designated as the Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve (GRMR) by the Government of Belize.

The GRMR was established to maintain ecological processes, preserve genetic diversity, achieve sustainable yields through informed management of species and their habitats, maintain natural areas for education and research, and provide social and economic benefits through ecologically sensitive tourism and recreation

In 1996, the Reserve was also designated by the United Nation’s Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as one of seven Marine Protected Areas forming the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site.

In support of the management of the GRMR, WCS purchased Middle Caye and opened Glover’s Reef Research Station.

The mission of Glover’s Reef Research Station is: To promote the long-term conservation and management of the Belize Barrier Reef through in-situ research, cooperative management, training, andeducation. 


To achieve its mission, most of the research conducted is directly relevant to enhancing the management effectiveness of the reserve and has wide application to other reefs and marine protected areas in the region, and beyond.


Since its inception,the station has hosted more than 200 scientific expeditions and served as a platform for over 1,000 visits by researchers and students.  One aspect of WCS’s contribution to Belize is to provide data relevant to the policy and decision-making processes for the marine reserve and conservation in general.


Apart from generating scientific data, the station is a platform for WCS and its partners to provide training in various research and monitoring techniques, marine ecology and marine protected area management to government officials and local or foreign students. A vital component of WCS’s involvement in Belize is its strong ties with the Government of Belize and as such, the station also provides a home for the marine reserve headquarters.