Saturday, July 20, 2024

SCA students conduct beach clean-up in northern Ambergris Caye


A large portion of the Mexico Rocks Marine Reserve beachside in northern Ambergris Caye was cleared of a large amount of garbage on Saturday, January 25th during a clean-up conducted by a group of students from Belize City’s Saint Catherine Academy (SCA) and volunteers from San Pedro Town. The group of students, who are Oceana’s wavemakers, were welcomed on the island by fellow schoolmate, island environmentalist, and activist Carina Paz. Along with the help of Martin John (MJ) Leslie, Paz facilitated a very successful clean-up campaign.
SCA’s teachers and students arrived on the island shortly after 9:30AM and after a short briefing on the beach, they boarded two vessels from Ambergris Divers’ dock and headed north of the island. Despite a rainy start, the group was not deterred, and after a short boat ride, they were on the beach in the proximity of the Mexico Rocks Reserve getting ready to get some rubbish off the beachside. Paz told The San Pedro Sun that this is the second beach clean-up they have conducted on Ambergris Caye. “Last year we wanted to do something for the environment, so we decided to do a beach clean-up here on the island. It has now become an annual activity and we feel proud to be contributing to the preservation of our delicate coastal environment,” said Paz.
Armed with biodegradable garbage bags and gloves, the group removed a great amount of rubbish from the beach. The items most collected included plastic bags, Styrofoam products, straws, bottle caps, plastic bottles, plastic utensils, and even fiberglass material. Some of the participants stated that they hope the public would abstain from littering and understand how detrimental trash can be for the natural environment. The clean-up yielded several large bags full of garbage, which were then taken away by Chris Summers from the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES).
According to MJ, the activity aims to promote conservation and keep the environment free of hazardous materials. MJ spoke about some of the importance of the mangroves and the importance to keep a rubbish free area. “The mangroves are the “cradle of life” for the coral reef. It is where many species of juvenile fish thrive until they mature enough to transition out to the reef,” said MJ. “Floating plastics from all over the region wash up on shore and collect overtime on our coastline and beaches. We must do regular clean-ups to tackle this so that our last remaining mangroves and tidal pools are plastic-free for the marine life to thrive.” MJ added that plastic pollution is a serious thing, and everyone should engage in regular clean-ups to make a difference.

Saint Catherine Academy Founders Day
On Monday, January 20th SCA celebrated its Foundation Day, launching a water and go green bag project. The school held an official ceremony, in which Carina Paz was a panelist along with Jamal Galvez of Clear Water Marine Aquarium Research Institute, Lisel Alamilla of Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission, and Richard Harrison of Clean Water Alliance. Paz took to the podium and spoke about the urgency to tackle the serious threats the planet Earth is facing. “Our Environment is in a critical state, even as we are all gathered here today,” she said. “The recent fires in the Amazon and Australia are undoubtedly clear illustrations of the dire need to focus on care for the earth. Marine creatures ingesting plastic and water shortages in Africa are just a few to be added to the long list of environmental threats.” Paz pointed out the threats to the Belizean eco-systems, which range from climate change, pollution, coastal development, destructive fishing, and deforestation among others.
Paz added that Belize’s barrier reef is one of the most spectacular ecosystems in the country and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. “It is the main attraction of our vibrant tourism industry,” Paz highlighted. She mentioned the threats that placed the barrier reef under the UNESCO in-danger list and the efforts achieved by the Belizean people to get it off such a list. “Using our voices, we can definitely make a change,” she said.
To address the issues with pollution, Paz made a couple of recommendations. The public is asked to turn off lights when not being used, put electronics on sleep mode or turn off when not in use. Also, she suggests going paperless, recycling and changing lightbulbs in homes to LED lights to use less energy. More importantly, residents are asked to conserve water by turning off the tap during home activities like washing dishes, brushing teeth and showering.
After her address, the school unveiled its environmentally friendly projects. The water project asks students to bring their own water bottles to the school so they can refill with water. No plastic water bottles will be on sale or allowed in the school. With a $1 fee per week, students will have access to unlimited water by using their own bottles. The go green project saw SCA creating reusable grocery bags. According to Paz, to encourage the use of the bags, certain participating grocery stores in Belize City are offering a 5% discount.
Following the beach clean-up, the group returned to downtown San Pedro, where they met with a representative from the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The students were commended and encouraged to continue promoting conservation. The students were happy to have participated in the beach clean-up and are looking forward to another one in 2021.
Organizers thanked everyone that took place in this year’s beach clean-up and would like to acknowledge individuals and businesses that contributed to the event’s success. A BIG thank you goes out to, Martin John Leslie, Carina Paz, SCA students and teachers, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Victoria House, The San Pedro Town Council, Chris Summers of ACES, Roberto and Karen Canul of Ambergris Divers, San Pedro Tour Guide Association, Caliente Restaurant, and The San Pedro Sun.

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