Tobacco Caye may seem like an island paradise, however when you take a closer look you realise that nowhere on Earth is immune from the estimated 16 billion pounds of plastic that enters the ocean each year.
Partnering with the Belize Fisheries Department and CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) Tobacco Caye Marine Station has started efforts to monitor, report and remove the ocean waste that washes up on our reef crest.
An unfortunate truth is that the Belize Barrier Reef experiences ocean pollution like many other places around the world. Plastic and other materials wash up around the reef crest and on our island. We are proud to actively promote conservation by encouraging study abroad groups to partake in our reef cleaning project.
Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences that make up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. At current rates plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050.
Studies estimate there are now 15–51 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans — from the equator to the poles, from Arctic ice sheets to the sea floor. Not one square mile of surface ocean anywhere on earth is free of plastic pollution.
Reef cleans can open a student’s eyes to our global plastic issue and inspire them to make small changes at home to reduce their plastic use. Whilst conducting the reef clean, surprising items found are noted and if possible identifying the origin of the rubbish is encouraged. This data, along with the weight of the rubbish collected is recorded so that we can compile an impact report at the end of the year detailing the scale of the problem here on Tobacco Caye.
After an hour of collecting on the reef crest we have a debriefing session back in the classroom to discuss the student’s experience and emotions about the reef clean. This session promotes discussion around global ocean plastic, single use plastic and how the students can make an impact at home.
We are extremely thankful to all of the groups that have participated in our reef cleaning project 2019! All of you have contributed massively on local scale to manage ocean plastic and pollution in Belize and specifically around Tobacco Caye. To understand the scale of ocean plastic and pollution is difficult on a worldwide scale but if everyone takes charge of ensuring they reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse we can all make a huge impact! Tobacco Caye Marine Station is proud to release our 2019 Reef Clean Report.