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Ocean Health

Before and After in Belize: Testing a Marine Reserve

Earthwatchers investigated how harvesting regulations and marine reserves protect the Caribbean queen conch.

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

More than 3,000 conch have been tagged since 2006, helping to answer critical questions about the success of Belize’s resource management plan.

Researchers explored the reef to determine the impact of Belize’s management plan for queen conch.

A staple of the Caribbean diet, queen conch are nutritious and tasty. They are also crucial to the health of a reef ecosystem. As grazers, they keep grasses and algae in check; hermit crabs, octopuses, and other creatures find refuge in their shells; and they are important prey for many species, such as spotted eagle rays and southern stingrays.

In much of the Caribbean, the queen conch has been overfished to the point of commercial extinction, but the fishery in Belize remains viable. Belize has been developing marine reserves to protect juveniles and breeding-age adults. If these reserves are successful, individuals from these protected populations will grow and spill over into neighboring areas where fishing is permitted.

Queen Conch, Belize

Queen conch is an important resource; new regulations may help protect it from overharvesting.

With the assistance of Earthwatch volunteers, this project has been monitoring queen conch in the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve since 2006; data collected helped us determine if the reserve is succeeding.

About the research area

Sapodilla Caye Marine Reserve, Belize, Central America & The Caribbean

Daily life in the field

Itinerary

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The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

John A.
Cigliano
Professor and Director of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, Cedar Crest College

ABOUT John A. Cigliano

Earthwatch scientist Dr. John Cigliano is a marine ecologist with a special interest in the conservation of marine fisheries in the face of climate change.

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