Welcome to the Seafarer Journey!

 

Enter your name to begin.

 

Hi, {NAME}!

 

Today you will journey through three unique but connected ecosystems in Belize. 

 

Choose your character.

  • 1
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You are boating near the reef and spot a few whale sharks in the distance. 

 

What do you do? 

Stay put!

Observing wildlife too closely can impact feeding, mating, and other behaviours. Whale sharks are an example of an endangered species, so touching or disturbing them can result in legal consequences. It’s best to appreciate wildlife from a distance and let them do their part for the reef—like the whale sharks who keep populations of krill and plankton under control so reefs can thrive. Bring binoculars and be a good role model for other boaters.

 

SEAGRASS MEADOWS

Daycare of the Sea

Spread along the seafloor like secret gardens of the sea, seagrass meadows nurse young, vulnerable marine creatures before they are strong enough to make the big move to reefs and other marine ecosystems. They are critical for food security, and 20% of the world’s major fisheries industries depend on healthy seagrass meadows.

Though they cover only 0.1 per cent of the ocean floor, these meadows are highly efficient carbon sinks, storing up to 18 per cent of the world’s oceanic carbon.

But they are increasingly under threat from urban, industrial, and agricultural run-off, coastal development, dredging, unregulated fishing boating activities, and climate change. We have already lost 29% of known seagrass cover.

  • 2
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The boat stops at a seagrass bed to view fish. You find a plastic water bottle floating. 

 

Do you pick it up?

Plastic pollutes!

Plastic and other waste can kill seagrass and suffocate, wound, or poison marine life. You can safely collect it from the ocean or the beach using gloves or a grabber tool, and keep waste on your boat until you can properly recycle or discard it. As a rule, avoid single use plastics by planning ahead, and be a role model for other tourists by demonstrating and being vocal about the options. Plastics that leave your hands rarely end up being recycled. Learn about the effects of plastic at the Clean Seas website.

 

MANGROVE FORESTS

Guardians of the Coast

Lining tropical coasts like guardians, mangrove trees protect life on land from the harmful impacts of storms and waves which are getting stronger due to warming seas from climate change.

They are also critical habitats for many marine species and can even create their own islands. They are important for food security, as they provide the nursery habitat for many commercial fish species, and they are important for climate change mitigation as they are extremely efficient carbon sinks.

But they are under serious threat from coastline development, aquaculture, pollution and other human impacts. Mangroves are lost at a rate 3 to 5 times higher than other forests, and we have already a lost over a quarter of original mangrove cover.

  • 5
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You reel in your favourite fish, but it looks small.

 

What do you do? 

Set it free!

Immature fish that have yet to reproduce are important for maintaining a species’ population. You can gently remove the hook and put the fish back quickly to ensure a safe release and extended life span!

You’re a thoughtful traveler!

Thanks to  their  delicate yet diverse nature, coral reefs are at risk, but you did a great job of keeping them healthy! 

Two-thirds of our oceans have been negatively impacted by human activity, much of which happens on land from pollution, carbon emissions, and infrastructure development. In the ocean, overfishing is the greatest threat; however, even the subtlest actions like discarding plastics, using harmful chemicals, or changing animal behaviour can have a great impact on the health and functioning of ocean ecosystems. 

Protecting coral, seagrass, and mangroves also means protecting the thousands of species that rely on them. And in turn, this supports our food supply, culture, recreation, and livelihoods on land! 

Learn more about the Decade of Restoration and its link to oceans.

Now that you know you can keep marine ecosystems healthy as a tourist, how about trying your luck as a different character?

SEAGRASS MEADOWS

Daycare of the Sea

Spread along the seafloor like secret gardens of the sea, seagrass meadows nurse young, vulnerable marine creatures before they are strong enough to make the big move to reefs and other marine ecosystems. They are critical for food security, and 20% of the world’s major fisheries industries depend on healthy seagrass meadows.

Though they cover only 0.1 per cent of the ocean floor, these meadows are highly efficient carbon sinks, storing up to 18 per cent of the world’s oceanic carbon.

But they are increasingly under threat from urban, industrial, and agricultural run-off, coastal development, dredging, unregulated fishing and boating activities, and climate change. We have already lost 29% of known seagrass cover.

  • 2
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You see fish in the seagrass near the bottom. 

 

How do you catch them? 

 

Keep it traditional!

The way you fish can permanently damage marine ecosystems, making them less productive for future catches. Trawling (dragging a net on the bottom), poisoning fish, and using dynamite are examples of destructive fishing practices. Using a hook and line, a cast net, or a spear respects marine life.

 

CORAL REEFS

Cities of the Sea​

With as much life and colour as any big city, coral reefs are biological “hotspots” of the ocean. While covering only 0.1% of the ocean floor, they provide a home for twenty-five per cent of all marine life, and provide us on land with food, life-saving medicines, recreation, livelihoods, and protection from storms. They are one of the most productive and biodiverse ecosystems on our planet!

However, around much of the globe, we have lost 50% of coral cover. This loss is projected to reach 90% with even 1.5 degree Celsius of global heating. This could mean the end of an entire ecosystem that silently functions to ensure our human well-being.

  • 5
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You’re ready to take your boat out of the water, but it’s holding wastewater.

 

What do you do? 

Wait until you’re on land!

Wastewater can contain high amounts of bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses that can kill native species and cause humans to fall ill. Stay safe by looking up the best ways to pump your wastewater locally. 

You make a great fisher!

When done  carelessly, fishing  can pose  serious  threats to  marine ecosystems.

 But with your responsible fishing practices, you helped to keep the ocean healthy! 

In protecting mangroves, seagrasses, and reefs, we are actively protecting ourselves as well; around three billion people rely on seafood for protein. 

Fishing plays an increasing role in food security, livelihoods, and the global economy, yet fish stocks are being rapidly depleted. Fish provide nearly 20% of all animal protein globally and almost 60 million people were engaged in fisheries and aquaculture in 2012. Industrial fishing’s footprint is 4 times that of agriculture, covering at least 55% of oceans’ areas. Three-quarters of major marine fish stocks are fully or over-exploited or depleted.

Learn more about the Deacade of Restoration and its links to oceans.

Now that you know you’ve got what it takes to be a responsible fisher and sustainable fishing advocate, how about taking the journey as a different character?

Before you pack your bags…

You might want to consider how your desire to see these amazing ecosystems can affect marine health! 

Because reefs are so complex and interconnected, they are fruitful and diverse—but this means they can also be easily disrupted. 

Two-thirds of our oceans have been negatively impacted by human activity, much of which happens on land from pollution, carbon emissions, and infrastructure development. In the ocean, overfishing is the greatest threat; however, even the  subtlest  actions like discarding plastics, using harmful chemicals, or changing animal behaviour can have a great impact on the health and functioning of ocean ecosystems. 

Protecting coral, seagrass, and mangroves also means  protecting the thousands of species that rely on them.  And in turn, this supports our food supply, culture, recreation, and livelihoods on land! 

Learn more about the Decade of Restoration and its link to oceans.

Now that you know you can keep marine ecosystems healthy as a tourist, how about trying your luck as a different character?

 

MANGROVE FORESTS

Guardians of the Coast

Lining tropical coasts like guardians, mangrove trees protect life on land from the harmful impacts of storms and waves which are getting stronger due to warming seas from climate change. 

They are also critical habitats for many marine species and can even create their own islands. They are important for food security, as they provide the nursery habitat for many commercial fish species, and they are important for climate change mitigation as they are extremely efficient carbon sinks. 

But they are under serious threat from coastline development, aquaculture, pollution and other human impacts. Mangroves are lost at a rate 3 to 5 times higher than other forests, and we have already a lost over a quarter of original mangrove cover.

  • 2
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You want to float around, but you can’t see how shallow the water is. 

 

What do you do? 

 

Head for the deep end!

Boating in shallow water can cause your boat propellers to hit the floor, damaging seagrass beds and causing harm to the many species who live there. It’s best to avoided uncharted waters and look for channel markers that designate deep water. The biggest threat to the endangered manatees and dugongs that call seagrass meadows home is boat strike. In 2019 alone, an estimated 531 manatees were killed by boats in the US state of Florida alone.

 

  • 3
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You’re catching a lot of fish and more are biting! 

 

Do you:

Know your limits!

Catch limits are in place to prevent overfishing and help ensure there are plenty of fish for those who rely on it for their livelihoods and food. Abiding by these rules means you are contributing to the long-term sustainability of fish stocks.

 

  • 3
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You’ve finally arrived at your destination—the Mesoamerican reef. Before you jump in, 

 

which sunscreen do you grab?

 

Read the label!

Chemical sunscreens which use ingredients like avobenzone and oxybenzone are toxic to coral reefs. Look for a mineral-based sunscreen with zinc oxide to keep your skin safe and the reef safe, too. Make the effort to find companies and products that explicitly take environmental impacts into account, from ingredients to packaging and disposal.

You know your ropes!

Having fun on the water is an added bonus to the health, environmental, and economic benefits we get from marine ecosystems—but boating can damage these fragile environments. You managed to boat responsibly and keep the ocean healthy!

Although we can’t see all that goes on underneath the ocean’s surface, we surely do impact it. 

And don’t forget that what you do in your recreational boat also applies for bigger boats and cruise ships. If you take a cruise, do your due diligence to find an operator that puts its environmental impact at the heart of its business practice: reducing single-use plastics, being energy efficient, and responsibly disposing of waste. You might be surprised, but many ships simply dump their waste at sea to avoid paying to dispose of it properly.

Learn more about the Decade of Restoration and its links to oceans.

Now that you know how responsible boaters can help protect marine life, how about taking the journey as a different character?

 

You might need to reel it in!

Reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses are highly sensitive to environmental changes. 

Their complex and intricate food webs can suffer from a damaging rippling effect when even just one part is disrupted. Fishing practices can actually have a sizeable impact on the health of marine ecosystems, and given they are home to many so many different species that we rely on for catch, it’s certainly in our interest to stay on track!  

As of now, almost 30% of commercial fish stocks are over-fished, but our reliance on fish stocks as a food source for millions has not changed. With this in mind, through using responsible fishing practices, we can protect delicate ocean ecosystems and still reap the benefits of fishing.  

Learn more about the Decade of Restoration and links to oceans.

Now that you understand how fishing practices can either protect or harm marine ecosystems, how about taking the journey as a different character?

MANGROVES

Guardians of the Coast

Lining tropical coasts like guardians, mangrove trees protect life on land from the harmful impacts of storms and waves which are getting stronger due to warming seas from climate change.

They are also critical habitats for many marine species and can even create their own islands. They are important for food security, as they provide the nursery habitat for many commercial fish species, and they are important for climate change mitigation as they are extremely efficient carbon sinks.

But they are under serious threat from coastline development, aquaculture, pollution and other human impacts. Mangroves are lost at a rate 3 to 5 times higher than other forests, and we have already a lost over a quarter of original mangrove cover.

  • 1
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You’re snacking as the dive boat heads out through mangroves. You spot a grouper fish—

 

do you give him a piece?

 

Don’t feed the fish!

Even a little food, or food we think of as “natural”, can disrupt marine creatures’ feeding processes. They also learn to associate people with food, which can harm their instincts to avoid danger making them more vulnerable to nets, fishing lines, and predators.

  • 3
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You found the perfect swim spot. 

 

Where do you throw the anchor? 

 

Hit the sand!

Anchors can threaten seagrass beds when they aren’t thrown properly. It’s best to always look for a clear, sandy spot where there is no grass or coral to avoid harming marine life.

 

CORAL REEFS

Cities of the Sea

With as much life and colour as any big city, coral reefs are biological “hotspots” of the ocean. While covering only 0.1% of the ocean floor, they provide a home for twenty-five per cent of all marine life, and provide us on land with food, life-saving medicines, recreation, livelihoods, and protection from storms. They are one of the most productive and biodiverse ecosystems on our planet!

However, around much of the globe, we have lost 50% of coral cover. This loss is projected to reach 90% with even 1.5 degree Celsius of global heating. This could mean the end of an entire ecosystem that silently functions to ensure our human well-being.

 

  • 4
  • /

You jump in and explore the reef. After a while, your legs hurt. 

 

Where do you take a break and stand up?

Watch your step!

Corals may look like strange rocks, but they are actually made of living creatures called polyps! Stepping on or touching them can damage or kill these polyps and destroy an entire reef. Use a flotation device if you need to, or step on the sandy bottom outside of a reef. Identify water sport operators like Green Fins that put an emphasis on looking after the ecosystems they are benefitting from. Be proactive by asking your guide to do a briefing for the group about buoyancy and the impacts of unskilled use of fins.

 

You have some loose ends to tie!

Having fun on the water is an added bonus to the health, environmental, and economic benefits we get from marine ecosystems—but boating can damage these fragile environments.

It’s never too late to start practicing trash clean-ups, proper anchoring, and other responsible boating practices that protect the ocean and the many benefits it provides us. 

And don’t forget that what you do in your recreational boat also applies for bigger boats and cruise ships. If you take a cruise, do your due diligence to find an operator that puts its environmental impact at the heart of its business practice: reducing its single use plastics use, being energy efficient, and responsibly disposing of waste. You might be surprised, but many ships simply dump their waste at sea to avoid paying to dispose of it properly.

Learn more about the Decade of Restoration and its link to oceans.

Now that you know how responsible boaters can help protect marine life, how about taking the journey as a different character?

CORAL REEFS

Cities of the Sea

With as much life and colour as any big city, coral reefs are biological “hotspots” of the ocean. While covering only 0.1% of the ocean floor, they provide a home for twenty-five per cent of all marine life, and provide us on land with food, life-saving medicines, recreation, livelihoods, and protection from storms. They are one of the most productive and biodiverse ecosystems on our planet!

However, around much of the globe, we have lost 50% of coral cover. This loss is projected to reach 90% with even 1.5 degree Celsius of global heating. This could mean the end of an entire ecosystem that silently functions to ensure our human well-being.

  • 1
  • /

You caught a nice fish in the mangroves but some of your line is tangled on the roots. 

 

How do you fix it? 

Take it with you!

Fishing line can trap, suffocate, or wound marine life and humans. Sea birds and endangered sea turtles are examples of species that are often hurt or killed by abandoned fishing line. Taking precaution when you cast, and detangling your line, will help protect marine life from injury.

SEAGRASS MEADOWS​ 

Day-care of the Sea​

Spread along the seafloor like secret gardens of the sea, seagrass meadows nurse young, vulnerable marine creatures before they are strong enough to make the big move to reefs and other marine ecosystems. They are critical for food security, and 20% of the world’s major fisheries industries depend on healthy seagrass meadows.

Though they cover only 0.1 per cent of the ocean floor, these meadows are highly efficient carbon sinks, storing up to 18 per cent of the world’s oceanic carbon.

But they are increasingly under threat from urban, industrial, and agricultural run-off, coastal development, dredging, unregulated fishing boating activities, and climate change. We have already lost 29% of known seagrass cover.

  • 4
  • /

You enjoy a few sodas while you float. 

 

What do you do with the empty bottles? 

Leave no trace!

Leaving any kind of trash in the ocean is dangerous for entire ecosystems, for individual species, and for humans. Take any trash back to land where you can properly recycle or discard it. As a rule, avoid single use plastics by planning ahead, and be a role model for other tourists by demonstrating and being vocal about the options. Plastics that leave your hands rarely end up being recycled.

 

  • 4
  • /

You head to the reef to catch a few more species. 

 

How do you secure the boat? 

Know before you throw!​

Anchors damage or kill coral reefs. Many coral reefs have buoys where you can tie up your boat without having to anchor. If a buoy is not available, you can anchor a safe distance outside of the reef. Just be sure the reef is not protected from fishing before you cast away. And make sure you pass this knowledge on!

 

  • 5
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Swimming back to the boat, you see a stunning staghorn coral that you’ve seen in curio shops along the beach. 

 

Will it make a good souvenir?

Look but don’t touch!

Staghorn, like all coral, provide food and refuge for many species. Fragmenting them can kill the whole tree, and because they are also legally protected, it could get you in trouble. Try taking home local crafts, music, art, or clothing instead. If you buy any products from the sea, ask the shop owner if they are legal and sustainable. Often they don’t know, so it is better to avoid these altogether. Learn more about the fascinating life of corals through the Glowing Gone campaign so that you can be a better advocate for their future!