Marine conservation wildlife

Marine conservation wildlife


WHAT WILL YOU SEE IN THE OCEAN?

Whale sharks

Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the ocean; they grow up to 46ft in length and can weigh up to 15 tonnes living for between 100-150 years. They eat plankton and small fish and are harmless to people, but their gentle nature makes them an easy target for meat and fins. Diving with whale sharks is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have, but their very presence is dependent on the health of spawning fish aggregations. Like many of their shark relatives, whale sharks are in decline and they may soon face extinction if we don’t act now.

Coral reef

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, housing tens of thousands of marine species including octocoral, sea turtles, hundreds of species of fish, mollusks and sponges. About one-third of all marine fish species live part of their lives on coral reefs and despite how important they are to marine life, the world’s total adds up to less than 1 percent of the sea floor – an area about the size of France. They have a very slow growth rate, developing from 10cm annually to as little as 0.3cm per year and, shockingly, one quarter of all coral reefs worldwide are damaged beyond repair - the remaining healthy reefs are incredibly vulnerable to temperature change, pollution and human touch.

Sea turtles

Sea turtles are one of the most ancient creatures in existence and the seven species that can be found today have been around for 110 million years. The sea turtle's shell, or "carapace" is streamlined for swimming through the water and unlike other turtles they can’t retract their legs and head into their shells. Slaughtered for their meat, skin and shells, sea turtles suffer from egg theft and over-exploitation and nearly all species are now classified as endangered.

What can you see and where?


RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL ASKS THE EXPERTS

Polly Alford, from our supplier, ReefCI, shares her knowledge of marine life in Belize: “Belize is on the migratory path for the whale sharks, which are the biggest fish in the sea - you can see more whale sharks in Punta Gorda than anywhere in Belize and you can see them at any time of year. There are lots of other species of shark in Belize including nurse sharks and silky sharks, but that doesn’t mean you’ll see lots of sharks all the time and it’s always an incredible reward when you do. You can also expect to see sting rays, moray eels, turtles, big snappers and big groupers.”
Andy Woods-Ballard, from our supplier, GVI, shares his opinion on what marine life you can see where: “If you are diving consistently in a marine conservation location, there’s no doubt you’ll see some amazing marine life. In Mexico, I’ve dived with dolphins, lots of different rays, sharks, turtles and even manatees that I saw while I was teaching a group of divers, which was very cool. In the Seychelles I’ve seen turtles, lots of eagle rays, whale sharks and other sharks too, so there’s some excellent marine megafauna: the large species that are key components of marine ecosystems. On our trips, volunteers are tasked with really learning either fish or coral species, so once their knowledge is up to scratch they start to get excited about seeing smaller things like combtooth blennys – their knowledge base grants them a much deeper understanding of marine life and a richer experience for it.”
Photo credits: [coral reef: Mads Bødker] [Sea turtles: nicoboxethai] [Dolphin swim: israeltourism]
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