Expedition Will Spotlight Need for Marine Protected Areas
SAN FRANCISCO World-renowned marine scientist and deep-sea dive record-holder Dr. Sylvia Earle will lead an Oceanic Society expedition to Blackbird Caye, Turneffe Atoll, Belize, to foster public awareness regarding the need for marine protected areas and to discuss potential solutions for preserving oceanic biodiversity. Worldwide oceans face increasing threats from higher water temperatures, rising sea levels, over-fishing, and escalating ocean acidity. Yet, there is reason for hope. Participants in this event will enjoy daily, guided scuba diving and snorkeling along healthy reefs coupled with informative evening presentations on current scientific findings on preserving marine resources, and what individuals can do to help protect the oceans. The weeklong expedition is scheduled for January 17-24, 2009.
Dr. Earle is the Executive Director of Deep Search International, Explorer-In-Residence at the National Geographic Society and is the Advisory Council Chair for the Harte Research Institute. In 1998 she was named Time magazine's first "Hero for the Planet" in recognition of her pioneering work as an oceanographer. As Scientific Advisor for the Oceanic Society's Turneffe Atoll Biodiversity Project, she is intimately familiar with Turneffe Atoll and will share detailed observations not only about Turneffe's reefs and creatures but also about marine ecosystems worldwide. The Oceanic Society operates a field station and research center on Blackbird Caye which serves as a center for scientists conducting conservation research at Turneffe Atoll, as well as a unique destination for year-round educational ecotourism activities. An engaging speaker, Dr. Earle has inspired marine enthusiasts worldwide with her insights about the ocean wildlife and diversity.
Turneffe Atoll, the most biologically diverse and largest atoll in the Western Caribbean, supports a significant number of endangered and endemic species. Located within coral-ringed Turneffe, Blackbird Caye is an idyllic island serving as a peaceful oasis for birds while the atoll's interior lagoons are refuges for dolphins, manatees and abundant, colorful reef life. To preserve the ecological integrity of the atoll, local conservation efforts include an integrated program for the creation of Marine Protected Areas and community-based sustainable development to preserve the most biologically significant sites within the atoll.
Scuba divers will dive the renowned dive sites at Turneffe, while snorkelers will visit specially selected snorkel sites offering views of coral reef life in shallow, protected waters. Dr. Earle and resident marine biologists will accompany the excursions to identify reef life, share insights about fish behavior, and lead discussions on marine ecology. A highlight will be a day-trip to Lighthouse Reef Atoll including exploration of the Blue Hole made famous by a Jacques Cousteau documentary on its unique stalagmites. Nearby is Half Moon Caye Natural Monument, a bird sanctuary whose dense vegetation provides habitat for thousands of red-footed boobies and frigate birds. Diving and snorkeling at Lighthouse Reef is exceptional.
Accommodations at Blackbird Caye Resort are comfortable, air-conditioned Deluxe, Superior and Standard cabanas. The all-inclusive cost except for equipment and airfare begins at $2,190 per person for snorkelers in a Standard room, and $2,390 per person for divers. Superior rooms run $2,290 and $2,490 while Deluxe Suites run $2490 and $2,690. For further information, interested parties should call Oceanic Society Expeditions toll-free at (800) 326-7491, or (415) 441-1106 or visit: www.oceanicsociety.org.