Often referred to as the “Jewel of the Caribbean”, the Mesoamerican Reef is a rich tapestry of bold corals, mangrove forests, coastal wetlands and diverse marine life. And while the reefs have endured all nature has to throw their way, including seasonal hurricanes and other natural disasters, the system is not so well equipped to deal with the impact of human activity.

The Mesoamerican Reef System stretches more than 620 miles (1000 km), spanning the eastern coast of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

Over two million people reside in the coastal communities encompassed by the reef, hosting more than 65 species of stony coral and over 500 species of fish. Several dolphin species also call the reef their home including spotted, bottlenosed and rough-toothed dolphin can be found in the reef’s waters.

The Meso-America Reef System is also home to one of the world’s largest populations of manatees — estimated to number anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500.

Of the fish that are sought after by fisherman, the most regularly caught are spiny lobster, shrimp, grouper, snapper and queen conch.

However, coastal development, pollution, overfishing and unregulated tourism are threatening the reef system.

Climate change is also expected to impact the Mesoamerican Reef. Factors such as coastal flooding, rising sea-levels and mass coral bleaching due to warming seas are posing considerable danger to the aquatic wildlife and fauna that thrive there.

Work is being undertaken in a bid to protect the reef though and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is collaborating with coastal communities to improve mangrove forest conservation and restoration, develop climate change adaptation strategies and to establish marine protected area.

Interested in taking a closer look at the Meso-America Reef System? Book a holiday with Blackbird Caye Resort today: http://www.blackbirdresort.com/

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