The 2016 cohort of the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program is currently meeting in Belize City for their 4th workshop. 12 Fellows from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico are learning about project design, how to speak with media, sustainable business plan, economic impact analysis, small scale fisheries and resource mobilization. Fellows are sharing their project advances, experiences and meeting Belizean Fellows from previous cohorts, strengthening relationships and forming a vibrant network of professionals.
The Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program (MAR-L), an initiative of the Mexican Fund for Nature Conservation (FMCN) is building the capacities of motivated and visionary professionals from Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico to become advocates of Blue Economy in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) region. They are leaders that understand the importance of a healthy environment for human development.
The Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) is the world's largest transboundary barrier reef with an approximate length of 1000 km, starting in Quintana Roo, Mexico and ending in the Bay Islands of Honduras. It is the shelter of more than 65 coral species, 500 fish species and is home to emblematic megafauna such as turtles, whale sharks, manatees, dolphins and sharks. It is estimated that around 2 million people depend directly from this ecosystem, which is an important source of economic activities and great value natural resources.
MAR-L Program's main goal is to accelerate conservation and protection efforts in the MAR by empowering emergent leaders in each country through capacity building, providing the necessary tools and an international networking.
MAR Leadership Fellows are trained in economic tools for conservation and sustainable development with Conservation Strategy Fund*, and in advocacy and strategic communication with the Environmental Law Alliance** to become agents of change. They are designing blue economy projects: from the protection of watersheds, the appropriate management of toxic chemicals to securing small scale fisheries and community sustainable development.
The MAR-L network is formed by 71 Fellows from which 17 are Belizean. They work in the government, civil society organizations and the private sector, and are bold, forward thinking leaders implementing impact projects and creating synergies through to the MAR Leadership network. From this rich group of experts, 18 multinational synergies and cross-border collaborations have arisen and 15 Fellows have undertaken important public policy advocacy campaigns geared towards conservation.
Collaboration efforts among the four countries that share the MAR started 20 years ago in 1997, when the heads of State of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras singed the Tulum Declaration to promote MAR conservation through its sustainable use.
Although great work has been done towards its protection since 1997, the MAR still faces great challenges and current environmental problems need effective multinational responses.
Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras need to take their commitment to the MAR a step further. Currently, four pressing concerns threaten to drastically hurt the health of the MAR: discharge of effluents and contaminants, including sewage; unsustainable coastal development, including mangrove destruction; chronic pressure on fisheries and insufficient enforcement, and climate change impacts on the reef.
To address these threats, the Governments of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras must pledge to protect the reef through renewing the commitment to the Tulum Declaration and take actions to ensure the health of the reef and the people that depend on it.
Join us and sign the petition to tell the heads of state of the four countries to renew the Tulum Declaration and commit to the reef!