For the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal cleanup day, Pez Maya cleaned a ninety meter stretch of the San Juan Beach. The San Juan Beach is an important turtle nesting site and we collected 329kgs of debris. This achievement contributed to our base’s long term goal of raising awareness about environmental issues and our more localised goal of continuing to undertake beach cleans, helping to create to a healthier ocean.
One of the most important objectives of GVI is to create long term sustainable conservation within our own sphere of influence and within the local community. We at Pez Maya do this through many avenues, one of which is conducting weekly beach cleans and when the International Coastal Cleanup took place, it was the perfect opportunity to expand our work. Gathering together volunteers and staff, everyone traveled to the San Juan Beach, located inside the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, and collected litter and debris for two and a half hours.
The San Juan beach is an important turtle nesting beach located an hour south of Pez Maya, in Tulum, Q. Roo Mexico. This four and a half kilometer stretch of beach is where we do our main turtle research and so far this year, we have protected 550 nests. The turtle is not only an integral part of the Meso-American Barrier Reef ecosystem, but it is also a crucial part of the local culture and tourism. For example, each year in Tulum they have a turtle festival in order to educate people on the importance of turtles and celebrate these ancient reptiles. This not only raises awareness but also brings in visitors and thus revenue for the locals. In the two and a half hours that we worked at San Juan, we amassed 329kgs of rubbish, which filled fifty bags and this was only over a 90 meter area. The waste collected was also very diverse. It ranged from toothbrushes to fishing line and we collected over fifteen hundred bottle caps (Figure below). According to the Ocean Conservancy most common item found in the International Beach Clean Up Day last year was cigarettes/cigarettes filters 1, however, we only found 1 at our beach this year.
In 2012, more than half a million volunteers participated, collecting more than 10 million pounds of trash and covering a distance of nearly 18,000 miles.Therefore, for us at Pez Maya, this beach clean was very rewarding. Not only were we able to clean a portion of an important turtle nesting beach and accomplish satisfying and productive work, but also participated in a worldwide initiative that has been running for the last 25 years, and more importantly, it helped us contribute to the world’s Millennium Goal of ensuring environmental sustainability.
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All the best
I am excited to share with you some scientific research that has come out of this project. Pedro Paila is a spur and groove reef exhibiting an average depth of 10m located 3.94km north of Pez maya. Volunteers have been conducting surveys for the last eight years, providing information on coral species, diseases, benthic composition, presence of adult fish species and juvenile recruitment at the site. Pedro Paila has proven to be a favorite with many of our volunteers due to the beautiful corals and numerous fish species often seen here. Data collected by volunteers has shown that over the past eight years the percentage cover of hermatypic corals is increasing, with a noted increase present over the past three years
Whilst instances of dark spot have increased over time, predominately recorded on Siderastrea siderea, a coral that appears to be increasingly susceptible to pathogenic diseases, records of fast spreading diseases such as Black Band, Red Band and white plague have dramatically decreased.
There has also been an increase in the number of Acanthuridae recorded at the site, which includes fish species such as the Blue Tang (the above figure), ocean surgeon fish and Doctor fish, which feed on macro-algae, this helps to increase the percentage cover of coral as the percentage cover of macro algae is reduced, thus reducing competition for space. Nutrients from fish excretion can also facilitate coral growth, which reduces the space for algae colonization, again leading to a shift towards a healthier coral reef
We are very pleased to see these results and hope that continued research on this reef will lead to further insight into the future health of our reefs.
Thank you as always for your support for this project
Least terns (Sternula antillarum) are a small migratory bird approximately 22 -24 cm long with a wing span of around 50cm. Least terns arrive to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve in early April and spend 3-5 months on the breeding grounds. The terns nest on open sandy or gravely areas near water, producing small burrows in the sand where they will lay a clutch of 1-3 eggs, the sight chosen for nesting must be of low vegetation and at a vantage point where it is possible to see the approach of oncoming predators, after 21-24 days the eggs hatch and in the following four weeks the chick will be able to fly .
The least tern is currently described as ´of least concern’ by the IUCN Red list (2013), however it has been noted that the population is in decrease due to an increase in development and storm surges destroying important nesting habitats (Birdlife international,Species factsheet: Sternula antillarum, 2013).
Due to the remote setting, the limited human disturbances and the plentiful food source the Pez Maya beach provides, the area has become an ideal breeding ground for the Least tern. In 2012 approximately 65 nests with a colony population of around 100 mature individuals were recorded. Last week volunteers and staff headed to the beach with painted signs, shovels and a lot of rope to mark and protect the Least tern nesting grounds. We hope that this season’s breeding will be a success with the help of the Pez Maya staff and volunteers and the Least Tern will return for many years to come.
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GVI Charitable Trust manager
The Mesoamerican barrier reef system (MBRS) extends over four countries, from the tip of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico down to Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala. It is the second largest barrier reef in the world and the home to over 500 fish species as well as numerous endangered species such as the Loggerhead turtle, Nassau and goliath groupers and black coral. There are an estimated 2 million people directly linked to the MBRS coastal environments, depending on the health of the ecosystem for food, water, livelihoods and income. Its marine and coastal ecosystem provides the foundation for the Yucatan peninsulas multi-billion dollar tourism industry. These activities are continuing to increase in the area, placing varying degrees of pressure on the natural ecosystems of the MBRS.
Due to its importance, a program known as the synoptic monitoring program (SMP) was developed to assess the health of the reef. The MBRS SMP was designed as a standardized methodology to monitor changes in ecosystem health with the aim of improving the management of the coastal and marine resources.The Marine Conservation Expedition run by GVI in collaboration with Amigos de Sian Ka’an, is located in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve,Tulum, Mexico, in a place called Pez Maya.This programme trains volunteers on the SMP methodology in order to monitor fish, coral, algae and other sessile organisms in the reef .
Following learning a list of target species and the SMP methodology, volunteers are able to monitor within 100m of GPS marked sites. The SMP method Pez Maya uses involves belt transects. It is designed to measure the density and sizes of selected Caribbean key fish species, such as predators, herbivores, and “indicator” species, many of which are commercially exploited. For each transect, volunteers record the following information: recorder’s name, date, time of start of transect, Site name and GPS location, transect number
Jaguars have been practically eliminated from Mexican territory because of the destruction of their habitat. In spite of this, they are still found in remote areas where development is minimal, and even in areas near rural villages. Jaguars have suffered deliberate persecution as hunting trophies and as a perceived threat to cattle. They are also included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) so any international trade of this species, it’s parts (often in demand for Chinese traditional medicine) or it’s hunting is strictly prohibited.
Amigos de Sian Ka’an with the El Eden reserve are taking part in the Jaguar corridor initiative to try to help extend the current range of this vital predator. The territory of the female jaguar is about 25 and 40 km2 and it can lap with the territories of other females, but the animals avoid encountering each other if possible. The territories of male jaguars are twice as large.Jaguars are the largest predators in Tropical America, and they need enormous land extensions for their conservation.
This November we have been lucky enough to observe jaguar prints on base and, just one kilometer from the base, a lucky staff member even sighted a female with two cubs. Whilst following the jaguar prints South along the beach, two staff members discovered the carcass of a Green Sea Turtle dragged into the undergrowth bordering the sand.
Acting quickly, CONANP in conjunction with Amigos de Sian Ka’an have set up five camera traps with the purpose of comparing the characteristics of these individuals with other sightings in the area, they have also confirmed that a jaguar was responsible for the death of the Green Sea Turtle found by the staff. Amigos de Sian Ka’an and CONAMP hope to investigate the range and prey of the Jaguars moving through the area. In Mexico there are sixteen areas that have been deemed important for the conservation of the species, eight of those are primary priority areas, like the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, with confirmed jaguar populations present
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GVI Charitable Trust Manager