Friday, May 30, 2008

Nightly turtle walks begin in Akumal

From the Web site of Centro Ecológico Akuaml (CEA):

We will be conducting our Turtle Talks and Walks Monday through Friday throughout turtle season. In order to make your reservations, please stop by the CEA Center during the day and sign up in person. The Turtle Walks are limited to 10 people each night and we ask for a $10 USD donation per person, which goes directly to the Turtle Protection Program.

The Turtle Talk begins at 9 PM at the CEA Center; following the presentation the volunteers will take you on the Walk. These talks are very informative and will help you to know exactly what to look for and how to protect the turtles better.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Aruba students survey local reef

A newsletter article by Reef Check Coordinator Sue Hieter:

On April 16, 2008, the International School of Aruba Oceanography class led by Reef Check Aruba coordinator Sue Hieter went to Baby Beach, Seroe Colorado, Aruba to survey its shallow reef. The class consisted of twelve students, 15-18 years old. They surveyed two sections of the channel area around Baby Beach. In 2004 this area was hit by the tail end of Hurricane Ivan, which destroyed most of the shallow reef (1-5m). It is also an area that tourists visit to snorkel.

As a result of our survey, we noticed that some of the coral is returning and fish populations are increasing slowly, but the invertebrate species are still next to nothing. The team plans to survey this channel every year and hopes to see an increase in the populations of these organisms.

Photos here.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Caribbean nations plan marine parks to aid economy

From a Reuters article by Alister Doyle:

OSLO, May 27 (Reuters) - Caribbean islands will create new protected areas for fish and coral reefs under a $70 million plan announced on Tuesday that will help safeguard tourism-backed economies.

"This is a trust fund for the future benefit of society," Bahamas Minister of Works and Transport Earl Deveaux told Reuters of the project. "Our economy is based on tourism and our greatest natural resource is our environment."

Inspired by a 2006 plan to protect part of the Pacific Ocean and a "Coral Triangle" project launched in 2007 for southeast Asia, nine Caribbean nations agreed to extend protected areas to 10 percent of their marine and coastal habitats by 2012.

The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines aim to set aside about (32,000 square km (12,500 sq miles), according to the U.S.-based Nature Conservancy which is advising Caribbean governments.

That area is roughly the size of Belgium or the U.S. state of Maryland. The Bahamas will be the largest contributor of protected areas under the "Caribbean Challenge" and aims to set aside 20 percent of marine habitats by 2020.

"In many Caribbean nations at least 50 percent of gross domestic product is derived from tourism," said Rob Weary of the Nature Conservancy. "Countries are realising the need to invest in protected areas so tourism can remain the economic engine. . . ."


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Call for photos for ReefBase

A post on NOAA's Coral-list listserve:

The ReefBase Web site would like to extend a request for photo contributions for its website's gallery.

The gallery is part of ReefBase's objective to develop a relational database and information system for structured information on coral reefs.

These resources will serve as a computerized encyclopedia and analytical tool for supporting reef management, conservation and researches around the world.

Hence our photos in the gallery is freely accessible to our registered users and the public strictly for non-commercialized purposes only.

If you have a collection of relevant photos concerning:

* coral reefs (fisheries, biology, bleaching, etc)

* mangroves and coastal ecosystems

* community based management/ participation and resource management

* coral reef monitoring, survey and evaluation,

... please forward it to me (in high definition, JPEG format) with the following details:

* Photo caption

* Date of photo taken

* Latitude and longitude (if possible)

* Locality

* Country

Please ensure that you possess the ownership of the copyrights to the photos that you will contribute.

Should you have a website or email if you wish to be contacted, we will have your photos linked back to you - ensuring that you have the full credit of those photos.

ReefBase will be selecting a photo each month to be featured in our monthly newsletters and also on the website.

Currently ReefBase is on the lookout for photos from the Pacific Islands; however photos from other regions are also welcomed.

Please email me personally the photos that you wish to submit and also if there are any questions or suggestions for the ReefBase website.

Many thanks for your kind assistance and looking forward to hear from you soon.

Evelyn Teh
Research Assistant
ReefBase Project
The WorldFish Center


Monday, May 26, 2008

Sea turtle slaughter on CARRIACOU /Grenada

From a post on the CTURTLE listserve:

From divers we are receiving information about turtle slaughters on the beaches of Carriacou Island/Grenada.

A video can be seen on youtube (video).

We don’t have detailed information until now, but to whom short term measures seem to be useful the PETA website delivers an address.

According to people who know Grenada a little bit nature conservation is not an easy job there. On the other hand almost everything on the island depends on tourism.

So telling them that many potential visitors to Grenada will be repelled by certain habits on their beaches might have consequences.

Eberhard Meyer
Ammerlander Hauptstr. 1
D-82541 Münsing
Tel +49 8177 926038
Fax +49 8177 8439

The PETA website:


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Blocking and using the sun in Akumal

From the April/May newsletter of Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA):

We at CEA are grateful for the donation of solar-powered heaters [pictured above on the roof] from Sunrain and recommend their use. What are you waiting for to take care of the environment? Install yours now!
The solar water heaters significantly reduce the need to heat water with electricity, propane or natural gas, thus reducing greenhouse gases.

CEA staff and voluneers built treleses and planted the bougainvillea vines to provide cooling shade from the sun that previously baked the volunteers' dormitory behind the planting. The shade cuts the use of air conditioners and their resulting green house emissions from electrical generation at a central generation plant or from a gas-, diesel-, or gasoline-powered generator.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spectacular Squid Found Off Little Cayman; 'The Best Preserved Specimen To Date'

From an article distributed by the Underwater Times news service:

George Town, Cayman Islands (May 21, 2008 15:40 EST) A rare squid found floating on the surface of the ocean about 5 miles south of Little Cayman this weekend has been positively identifed as Asperoteuthis.

Local fisherman Derren Burlington, who was taking part in the Brac Jackpot Fishing Tournament, discovered the 24lbs 4oz creature, which is over 7 feet (2.5m) long, on Saturday 18 May at around 9:00 am, and transported it to the Little Cayman Research Centre operated by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI).

Dr. Clyde Roper, Emeritus Zoologist at the Smithsonian Institution, has confirmed that it is only the fourth specimen known in the entire Atlantic Ocean. He said all other specimens known of this species – a dozen or so – have been found in the Indo-Pacific waters.

"This does not mean that we are suddenly being inundated by an Indo-Pacific species. It merely emphasizes something perhaps more interesting – it shows how little we know about the oceans that surround and sustain us, especially about the deep sea and its magnificent, though strange, inhabitants," said Dr. Roper.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Solar panels power house in Akumal

Bart Smith, owner of Turtle Bay Cafe, Akumal, Mexico, inspects the solar panels on the roof of an addition to his off-grid, year-old home in the jungle north of Akumal pueblo. The installation avoids emission of greenhouse gases from electrical generation from a central generation plant or a generator. Click on photo to enlarge.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Diadema plague in Sosua Bay, DR

From a post by Austin Bowden-Kerby on NOAA's coral-list listserve:

Diadema urchins have become super-abundant in Sosua Bay, Dominican Republic, where they are actively killing corals and eroding the reef, much like the reports from before their die off. Quite a few of these animals are of the white-spined sort. If anyone is interested in studying the phenomenon of urchin plagues, Sosua is your site!
A number of people on the listserve asked for photos (and Austin sent the photos above) and more details which he provided:
There are hundreds of thousands (at least) in the shallow bay area, and where dense they are killing corals and grinding the reef into dust. The over-abundance has been there since I first visited the are in early 2005, but seems to have gotten worse. In some localized areas there are some echnometra(?) uchins working with the Diadema to kill the corals. Once the urchins eleminate all the algae from dead reef rock, they begin actively attacking the corals, as clearly seen in the bottom photo. They tend to move around in aggregations in the vicinity, doing lots of damage to corals.

It is quite intereting that many coral reefs just out of the bay have no Diadema at all, or very few. I transplanted 30 of the prickly creatures in March from an area at the Canyon dive site where they were killing corals to a patch reef that was choked with seaweeds and that was just nearby (La Cabesa). The gardening damselfish attack the urchins and break off the spines one by one, until the urchins come togther into a tight group in a reef crevase.

This site is the best I know of for Diadema research, but no one is doing any research that I know of. It is possible to find reefs with high densities, medium densities, and low densities, and to do controlled experiments and Urchin transplants as well.

Some have proposed smashing thousands of urchins to protect the corals, as the damage is horrendous, but this might be the best spawning site for Diadema anywhere, so I have proposed that they be transplanted to other areas as an alternative to their being killed.... the reefs are the main source of livelihood to the Sosua community through tourism. There will be nothing benthic left alive on the reefs in another couple of years if the plague continues.
We are working on staghorn coral restoration and tourism inductry support for marine parks and poverty alleviation. The Sosua Diving Association is there and they have been a big help. I may be back to the site in July after ICRS.
For futher information, thoughts, or offers of assistance contact Austin at Or feel free to post here.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Where do sea turtles nest?

From an article by Wendy Dow and Karen Eckert on the State of the World's Sea Turtles:

In a recent assessment, the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conserva­tion Network (WIDECAST) answered the question definitively. Current nesting grounds for six sea turtle species, including 592 sites for the green turtle (shown here), were georeferenced and mapped in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, the United Nations Environment Programme–Caribbean Environment Programme, the Pegasus Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and more than 100 data contributors in the Caribbean region.

The study concludes that Caribbean green turtles typically nest in small colonies. More than half of all known nesting beaches receive fewer than 25 crawls (including successful and unsuccessful nesting attempts) each year. At 141 sites (23.8 percent of the total sites), current data are insufficient to estimate annual crawl abundance, although these colonies are also likely to be very small.

The 32 beaches (5.4 percent of total beaches) reporting more than 500 crawls per year are mostly distributed along the continental margins of the wider Caribbean region. Tortuguero, Costa Rica, recorded more than 50,000 crawls in the 2005 nesting season—by far the region’s largest green turtle nesting colony.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Plant replacement in waste water treatment gardens

The garden pictured at the right plays an essential role in an effective wastewater treatment system at Centro Ecológico Akumal.

As CEA's Web page on wastewater explains:

Constructed wetlands began with the observation that certain marsh plants, like cattails and bulrush, have special tissues that transport oxygen to the root zone. Oxygen is the driving factor for wastewater treatment by promoting the growth of microorganisms which transform the elements in our waste. Plants also take up water and nutrients in wastewater for their own growth, as well as provide beauty and habitat.
In this picture the smaller plants in the lower left corner have replaced more mature plants which no longer draw as much water and nutrients from the wastewater.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

CEA helps preserve Yal Ku Lagoon

From an article in the Sac-Be newsletter:

Yal Ku Lagoon is a gem to be treasured with a vibrant eco-system supporting a wide variety of tropical fish, coral, and plants.

Many of the owners are doing their part to see that the lagoon area is protected so that it will remain viable for generations to come. They are working closely with CEA (the Akumal Ecological Center).

According to Paul Sachez-Navarro, CEA's Director, "The experience with the local property owners in North Akumal has been wonderful. We've had several meetings to identify Yal Ku management issues, define conservation objectives and work to identify specific actions that can be taken to improve tourism use of this incredible freshwater outlet."

"Yal Ku is the northern-most part of the region of Akumal that we are working to protect. CEA is working with each bay in Akumal to define local management programs that will help us to protect the entire coastal marine ecosystem of Akumal."


A Bad Year for Caribbean Corals

From Clive Wilkinson's report A Bad Year for Caribbean Corals posted on ReefBase:

The years 1998 and 2005 were the two most damaging years for coral reefs in recorded history. They were also the world's hottest years since records began in 1880. About 16% of the world's reefs were lost to coral bleaching in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific in 1998. Seven years on, unusually warm waters caused even worse coral bleaching, this time in the Caribbean where it was also a record year for hurricanes. Some of these hurricanes nevertheless had a silver lining: although they caused extensive damage, they also helped to save many corals by 'taking the heat off them'.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

World Ocean Day - June 8

From the Web site of World Ocean Day:

The concept of a "World Ocean Day" was first proposed in 1992 by the Government of Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Although not yet officially designated by the United Nations, an increasing number of countries mark June 8th as an opportunity each year to celebrate our world ocean and our personal connection to the sea. The Ocean Project, working closely with the World Ocean Network each year, helps to coordinate events and activities with aquariums, zoos, museums, conservation organizations, universities, schools, businesses. Together with the World Ocean Network, we are also working to have the United Nations officially designate World Ocean Day as June 8th each year. Take time to do something good for our ocean: Sign the petition today!
The site goes on to explain:

It's up to each one of us to help ensure that our ocean is protected and conserved for future generations. World Ocean Day allows us to:

Change perspective - encourage individuals to think about what the ocean means to them and what it has to offer all of us with hopes of conserving it for present and the future generations.

Learn - discover the wealth of diverse and beautiful ocean creatures and habitats, how our daily actions affect them, and how we are all interconnected.

Change our ways - we are all connected to the ocean! By taking care of your backyard, you are acting as a caretaker of our ocean. Making small modifications to your everyday habits will greatly benefit our blue planet.

Celebrate - whether you live inland or on the coast we are all connected to the ocean; take the time to think about how the ocean affects you, and how you affect the ocean, and then organize or participate in activities that celebrate our world ocean.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fecal microorganisms inhabit sandy beaches of Florida

From a press release issued by the Soil Science Society of America:

MADISON, WI, MAY 12, 2008 -- Traditionally, the cleanliness of a beach is monitored by sampling the bathing water a few meters from shore. But since sand is an effective filter, it follows that fecal bacteria (those from sewage) may be concentrated in the sand as the tide flows and ebbs. Moreover, trapped bacteria are offered a large surface area for attachment, nourishment from nutrients in sand crevices, and protection from sunlight. These bacteria might be afforded greater survival opportunities and may even be nourished enough to replicate in the beach environment. Dr. Andrew Rogerson, formally of the Oceanographic Center of Nova Southeastern University, Florida, headed an Environmental Protection Agency study to determine the levels of fecal-derived bacteria in Florida beach sand and look for health implications. Early results showed that wet sand (in the intertidal zone) and dry sand above the intertidal zone had significantly more fecal bacteria than near-shore seawater. This lead to the question– do indicator bacteria survive longer in sand relative to open water? A series of laboratory experiments were conducted to answer this question and the results are presented in the May-June issue of Journal of Environmental Quality.
The study leads to another question, too. Do heavily used beaches in the Caribbean also harbor fecal bacteria?


Monday, May 12, 2008

The Bahamas signs proclamation for International Year of the Reef

From a story on

The signing of this proclamation by our Commander-In-Chief, The Right Honourable Hubert Alexander Ingraham, officially symbolizes The Bahamas’ awareness as a nation of the value of coral reefs, their fragility, and the need to further conservation efforts on their behalf.

In this proclamation our Prime Minister gives his blessings for the National IYOR2008Planning Committee to utilize this global awareness campaign to further our coral reef conservation efforts for The Bahamas, contributing to status of coral reefs worldwide.
More on the International Year of the Reef.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

New composting toilet in Akumal

Centro Ecologico Akumal(CEA) recently constructed a second composting toilet (on the left) to complement the overused toilet on the right. The toilets prevent human wastes from entering the water system and flowing into the Caribbean, where the wastes would present a hazard to swimmers, sea animals, and corals. (Click on photo to enlarge.)


Friday, May 9, 2008

Caymans & REEF set plans to preserve endangered Nassau grouper

From a press release issued by REEF, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation:

KEY LARGO, Fla. – The Cayman Islands government and REEF, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, today announced the start of a three-year research collaboration to study and validate efforts aimed at protecting Nassau grouper, an imperiled Caribbean reef fish.

“Nassau grouper are the poster-children for Caribbean coral reef health,” said Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, REEF director of science. “The species features prominently on almost every ‘Wish you were here’ postcard from the Islands. Unfortunately, Nassau grouper are disappearing rapidly throughout the region. In the Cayman Islands, we have a chance to help through the Grouper Moon Project.”

REEF scientists and volunteers are partnering with the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment to study Nassau grouper movement and reproductive biology using state-of-the-art acoustic tracking systems and satellite-linked drifters. The goal of the research is to determine whether recently established marine protected areas in the Caymans are meeting their goal of conserving regional Nassau grouper spawning aggregations.

“The Cayman Islands have perhaps the largest remaining spawning aggregation of Nassau grouper in the world,” said Dr. Brice Semmens, REEF researcher. “It is a precious resource, and the Cayman government is serious about managing it accordingly. The products of this collaborative research program will give us the information needed to make prudent conservation decisions that will ensure its long-term survival regarding this important species.”


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Adopt a turtle for Mother's Day

Still looking for a Mother's Day gift? How about adopting a baby turtle, nest or family from CEA? When ordering, put your mother's name and address in the "Comments" field, and I'll create a personalized adoption certificate and mail it and turtle cards to her. Happy adopting!

Click here to place your order. Proceeds support CEA's turtle protection program.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Carib tourism facing up to US$300 m loss as coral reefs die

From an article by Janet Silvera in the Jamaica Gleaner:

Coral reef degradation could result in annual losses of US$100 million to $300 million to the Caribbean tourism industry by 2015, marine scientists are predicting.

Rick MacPherson, director of conservation programmes with Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), said at a Turks and Caicos conference this week that almost two thirds of the region's reefs were under threat.

Coastal development, he said, threatens 33 per cent of the reefs, while land-based sources of pollution have harmed 35 per cent, and over-fishing more than 60 per cent.

80 per cent decline

"Caribbean reefs have suffered an 80 per cent decline in cover during the past three decades, while 80 to 90 per cent of elkhorn and staghorn coral is gone," MacPherson said in his presentation at the 10th annual Sustainable Tourism Conference (STC-10).

Senior research associate from Oxford University's Centre for the Environment, Dr Murray Simpson, another conference speaker, said this new reality includes a potential geographic and seasonal shift in tourism demand which will swing business away from the region.

Research in 2004 showed that 70 per cent of coral reefs were at risk of collapse because of human pressures, up from 58 per cent in 2002.

Underscoring that only a very tiny portion of the sea bottom is covered by coral reefs, 0.09 per cent, with a total area about the size of Arizona or the United Kingdom, the experts say they are home or nursery ground for 25 per cent of all known marine species.

Dive tourism hardest hit

MacPherson said the dive tourism industry in the Caribbean would be the hardest hit, should the quality of the dive experience be diminished.

He further warned that the effects of such a loss would be felt not only by tourism but sectors such as medicine.

"Fifty per cent of current cancer medication research focuses on marine organisms found on coral reefs," he said.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Nominate a Yucatán Penninsula or Riviera Maya destination/operator for ecotourism award

( Skål International is inviting companies from the public and private sector as well as NGOs to submit entries for the 7th Ecotourism Awards. As a new feature this year, the category of Corporate/Global Establishments has been added to the list of options for entries.

Following the evident effects of climate changes on the environment, Skål International is even more aware of the need to continue its efforts to create awareness for sustainable and responsible development in tourism and to this end continues to support initiatives around the world.

The 2008 Awards, sponsored by Johnson Diversey, Evian Water and Iznik Foundation, will be presented in Taipei on 13 October 2008 during the Opening Ceremony of the 69th Skål World Congress by the President of Skål International Philip Sims.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Loggerhead turtle nests lag, green and leatherbacks are up

From an article by Margie Kacoha in the Palm Beach (FL) Daily News:

The number of sea turtle nests recorded during the 2007 nesting season mirrors a general long-term trend of up-and-down results, depending on the species.

Loggerhead nesting is declining, while green and leatherback turtles' nesting is increasing, according to the most recent statistics.

Nesting numbers compiled and released by Florida's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute show loggerhead nests have dropped by almost 50 percent from 1998 to 2007.

Over the past year, state, county and local numbers are likewise showing a decline in loggerhead nests.

At the same time, green and leatherback turtle nests generally showed increases during the past year for the entire state, Palm Beach County and on local beaches.
A report on KTVH (Little Rock, Arkansas) includes speculation on the population differences:
While the number of loggerhead nests has been shrinking, green and leatherback turtle nests are showing an increase, in many cases at the same beaches. There's no simple answer for this disparity, said Anne Meylan, who coordinates the statewide nesting beach survey program. Disease, oil spills, red tide and boat collisions kill many sea turtles, and beach development can disturb all wildlife, she said.

One factor that could be affecting loggerheads more than other sea turtles is shrimp boat nets and long-line fishing hooks. Loggerheads eat shrimp and other hard-shelled invertebrates, whereas other sea turtles do not.

Want to post?
Ed Blume, a volunteer for Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA), moderates the blog. Anyone wishing to post can contact Ed at

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP