Agriculture
Protecting Cows—and People—from a Deadly Disease
Got Milk? How?
New Gene Fights Potato Blight
Amphibians
Poison Dart Frogs
Newts
Salamanders
Animals
Dolphin Sponge Moms
Fishy Cleaners
Life on the Down Low
Behavior
From dipping to fishing
Brainy bees know two from three
Baby Talk
Birds
Kingfishers
Parrots
Pigeons
Chemistry and Materials
Heaviest named element is official
A Butterfly's Electric Glow
A Spider's Silky Strength
Computers
New twists for phantom limbs
A Classroom of the Mind
It's a Small E-mail World After All
Dinosaurs and Fossils
Big Fish in Ancient Waters
Mini T. rex
Dino Flesh from Fossil Bone
E Learning Jamaica
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
Earth
Watering the Air
A Volcano's Deadly Ash
A Grim Future for Some Killer Whales
Environment
Ready, unplug, drive
Power of the Wind
The Down Side of Keeping Clean
Finding the Past
Early Maya Writing
Sahara Cemetery
Stone Tablet May Solve Maya Mystery
Fish
Hammerhead Sharks
Manta Rays
Eels
Food and Nutrition
Eat Out, Eat Smart
The Color of Health
In Search of the Perfect French Fry
GSAT English Rules
Capitalization Rules
Pronouns
Who vs. That vs. Which
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
Ministry of Education Announces 82 GSAT Scholarships for 2010
GSAT stars reap scholarship glory
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
GSAT Exam Preparation
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
GSAT stars reap scholarship glory
GSAT Mathematics
Deep-space dancers
10 Common Mistakes When Preparing for the GSAT Math Test
How to Slice a Cake Fairly
Human Body
Nature's Medicines
Sun Screen
Kids now getting 'adult' disease
Invertebrates
Crawfish
Beetles
Sea Urchin
Mammals
African Zebra
African Hyenas
Koalas
Parents
Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud
Children and Media
How children learn
Physics
The Mirror Universe of Antimatter
Extra Strings for New Sounds
Electric Backpack
Plants
White fuzzy mold not as friendly as it looks
A Change in Leaf Color
City Trees Beat Country Trees
Reptiles
Caimans
Garter Snakes
Pythons
Space and Astronomy
Super Star Cluster in the Neighborhood
Gravity Tractor as Asteroid Mover
Burst Busters
Technology and Engineering
Young Scientists Take Flight
Weaving with Light
Squeezing Oil from Old Wells
The Parts of Speech
What is a Preposition?
Pronouns
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Transportation
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
Robots on the Road, Again
Ready, unplug, drive
Weather
Arctic Melt
Warmest Year on Record
The solar system's biggest junkyard
Add your Article

Swimming with Sharks and Stingrays

Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Belize. Before we even got off the boat, we saw their shadowy figures in the clear water below. As Norman Eiley, our boat driver, prepared to cast anchor, a handful of sharks and stingrays swam beneath the boat's wake. The 15 high school students I was traveling with started to squeal. "I never get to see sharks in the water!" said Emma Cooper-Mullin, 17, from Irvington, N.Y., with fins and snorkel in hand. "I really want to swim with one." Within minutes, we were all in the water, making that dream come true. For the next hour, we snorkeled with a handful of nurse sharks and southern stingrays at Shark Ray Alley—a shallow sandbar just south of Ambergris Caye, an island in northern Belize. Shark Ray Alley is part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. It is illegal to catch fish there. Instead, tourism is the main draw. Every day, boats full of tourists arrive at Shark Ray Alley, where tour guides feed chunks of fish guts to the animals. As a result, the area's sharks and rays—some bigger than we are—have become so used to people that they'll swim right up to you and even let you touch them. And that's the problem. Just days before we snorkeled at Shark Ray Alley, Norman told me, a fisherman from the mainland had cruised in at 4 in the morning, caught 9 or 10 nurse sharks, and killed them to sell their fins and meat. "People noticed them missing that day," Norman said. "They were complaining—no sharks, no sharks, no sharks. Nobody has ever done something like this before on a large scale." Underwater national parks Marine reserves, or sanctuaries, are supposed to prevent such incidents from happening. Like national parks under water, marine reserves are set up to protect designated areas of the ocean from fishing, instead favoring research, education, and tourism. Published research on the benefits of marine reserves worldwide has exploded in recent years, says Jim Bohnsack, a fisheries biologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Miami. "The scientific community is 99 percent supportive of marine reserves," he says. "They work for protecting biodiversity and protecting resources." The idea is that a carefully designed network of protected areas should help the health of the entire ocean. Fish and other creatures can grow up safely inside reserves before spilling over the edges, where they become fair game for fishermen. "It's like an insurance policy," Bohnsack says. "If you make mistakes, you have something in the bank, like a savings account, that can help resupply areas that have been overfished." In support of marine reserves, Bohnsack points to evidence that bigger fish tend to lay more eggs. So, fish inside reserves should be more likely to produce even more fish with stronger genes. In theory, everyone wins, including fishermen and conservationists. "It's like having your cake and eating it, too," Bohnsack says. Boosting conservation Marine reserves also make sense economically, says Charles Acosta, an ecologist at Northern Kentucky University. By tracking lobsters, queen conch, and other animals with radio technology and using mathematical models to analyze population patterns, Acosta and his colleagues have come up with dollar figures to show fishermen that conservation will actually boost their business in the long run. Acosta's work has contributed to a debate over what marine reserves should look like. "One of our biggest, most important results has been that there is a limit that you cannot go below in terms of size of reserve," he says. "If the reserve is too small, it will have no effect at all." Still, plans to create marine reserves are often controversial, especially in places like the Florida Keys, where the fishing industry has a lot of money at stake. And even after reserves are established, enforcement is often difficult and more expensive than most developing countries can afford. At Hol Chan, a ranger zooms around all day long, collecting fees from snorkelers and divers who visit the area. You can pay a fine of up to $500 if you get caught stealing even a piece of coral. Other reserves rely more on word-of-mouth and the honor principle for protection. Sharks in the wild Unfortunately, those kinds of systems can backfire, as the recent incident at Shark Ray Alley demonstrates. "To have all those sharks living in one place is setting them up for something like this to happen," said Norman, who is also treasurer of the Belizean Tour Guide Association. He is now determined to track down and punish the shark poachers and to revise enforcement policies in Belize. "We all depended on the honesty of fishermen," he said. Besides, Norman added, maybe it's better not to turn shark sightings into humdrum, everyday events. "It used to be when you saw a nurse shark it was like, 'Wow!,'" he said. "But after going to Shark Ray Alley, it's like 'Oh, there's another one.' The element of surprise has changed." Given a choice between seeing a shark by chance in the wild and seeing a shark at a place like Sting Ray Alley, most of the students in our group reluctantly agreed. "I guess I would rather see sharks when no one else was around than at Shark Ray Alley," Emma said on the boat ride back to Ambergris Caye. Her classmate Cheryl Berman, an 18-year-old senior from Armonk, N.Y., wasn't so sure. "I think both are pretty cool."

Swimming with Sharks and Stingrays
Swimming with Sharks and Stingrays








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™