Our alarm rang way earlier than usual this morning! The plan was to cover the start of Reef Week by tagging along on one of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Boats following the courageous few willing to swim to the reef to raise awareness on the importance of Belize’s Barrier Reef. Only a handful of swimmers waited when we arrived, but little by little more and more joined the cause and as I saw the crowd growing and gear being prepared I clumsily whispered “I wanna swim!”
I was immediately offered a mask and fins without the slightest concern that I am in no shape to swim that distance let alone with a group of athletes. What was I thinking? Before I knew it I had fins and a mask and was running up to the end of the dock to catch up with the swimmers. I was the last one in the water, but I splashed in just in time to see the last couple fins swimming away into the distance.
What was I thinking? Ok, I was thinking “How hard can it be? I love swimming! It doesn’t look that far… If I can see it I can achieve it!”
And so, I kicked my little feet as fast as I could to catch up with the crowd or at least keep them where I could see them. I could not use my arms to swim because I was carrying my photo gear and believe me, that did not help my situation! Still, I was doing this for a cause and that cause pushed my little feet to their full potential.
Did you know that one in every four Belizeans directly depends on tourism with marine attractions being the number one reason to visit Belize, or that 5,000 Belizeans support their families via fishing? Did you know the sea could help secure 700 million people a seafood meal every day forever if we come together and protect our reef?
I’ve always supported Oceana in their cause to protect our Marine Eco System and I’ll pose for any selfie against offshore oil drilling in a heartbeat, but my swim left me hungry to learn more about why and how I could make a difference. So, I turned to their website for inspiration on how one person can help make a difference and what I found made me tear up. Granted, that could very well be the fact that everything, and I mean everything hurts after that swim, but there is so much I was unaware of. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one so I’d like to share this video of Oceana Belize’s Vice President, Janelle Chanona, at her TEDexBelmopan presentation “To Love and Protect”. It’s worth the 15 minutes if you love Belize and if you love the World.
Lets make some serious waves this week as we celebrate and raise awareness to the importance of our Reef. It protects us, it feeds us, it heals us and provides us with such a beautiful and exotic place to call home. Even if you don’t live here, this issue affects us all and we all have the responsibility to protect our natural resources.
Lets not let Reef Week be the only time we pay attention to the issues threatening our reef. Let’s hold hands, take selfies, and just flat out say NO! No to offshore drilling, No to destructive fishing gear, No to over fishing. Let’s work with our community to find sustainable ways to fish our waters. Chef Jennie at Elvi’s Kitchen is a great example of one person making a difference and of whom I am immensely proud of. Read about her sustainable crab claw project here.
As Janelle mentioned in her talk “The Great Blue Hole and six other sites within the Belize Barrier Reef System have been recognized by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as sites of Universal Outstanding Value”. Lets take pride in that and do our part so that our children and their children can one day visit these sites and feel the same pride. For information on how you can participate in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Reef Week activities visit our event calendar page.
To all of you out there doing your part, especially to everyone at Oceana, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and all the swimmers out this morning, you guys made some serious waves in my book! Thank you!
In case you were wondering… I did not make it all the way to the reef today, but I’m proud of the distance I swam, happy to have gotten some great photos of the other swimmers and if you’re still reading, hopefully I did my part in raising awareness to the importance of the Belize Barrier Reef. Let me know if my swim was worth it and what you will do to make a difference in the comments below.
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