Sunday, June 23, 2024

Belize’s Shark Conservation efforts highlighted on The Ellen Show


Under the Ministry of the Blue Economy and the collaboration of local and international experts, Belize has been making significant efforts to protect marine species. One milestone that became a reality on June 25, 2021, was the establishment of a protected area of 1,500 square miles around Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Glover’s Reef, and Turneffe Atoll, where shark fishing is no longer allowed. The country’s efforts in shark conservation were discussed by shark expert Dr. Demian Chapman when he was a guest on the popular United States television show, The Ellen Show. Chapman shared details with host Ellen DeGeneres on this important project and how all those involved have worked with the Government of Belize and Belizean fisherfolk to achieve this significant goal.

Host DeGeneres explained there is a campaign to raise funds for this conservation initiative. ‘The Ellen Fund’ raised $1 million for the ‘Endangered Campaign,’ of which a portion will go towards shark conservation. Chapman explained how those funds would be used, particularly in Belize. Chapman commended the government for having set aside 1,500 square miles to protect sharks. This project involved the team efforts of researchers, fisherfolk, and Belizean government officials. “We looked at science and came up with these protected areas,” said Chapman. According to Chapman, the funding from sources like the Endanger Campaign helped them get fishermen and women on board. “We said, well, you are going to lose the fishing opportunities in these places, so we are going to hire them to tag sharks instead of killing them, and work with us to get the data to feed into conservation in the future,” said Chapman. He loved working with the fisherfolk in Belize and getting this project working. DeGeneres was impressed with Chapman’s presentation of this shark conservation initiative in Jewel.

Nurse sharks at Shark and Ray Alley off Ambergris Caye.

The Ministry of the Blue Economy said that this project could be a model for shark conservation globally. Many environmental organizations have applauded the bold move to protect this apex sea predator. Non-Governmental Organizations like MarAlliance have been advocating for changes in the legislation to protect sharks in Belize for years. It was reported that the shark population in Belizean waters was under threat due to unsustainable fishing. The low number of sharks noted within the established new protected areas was a great concern. The annual shark fishing season recorded over a thousand sharks fished each year.

Shark encounters while diving the Belize Blue Hole can be quite the thrill!

With this new conservation management, the long-term sustainable use of sharks in Belize will positively impact the country and the region. The Belize Fisheries Department continues to enforce the necessary laws to protect the country’s marine resources and asked the public to report any infractions regarding shark fishing. They can be reached by calling telephone number 224-4252 or email at [email protected].

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