Cleaning a mile of shorline, miles away

This region was protected by a group of organizations including WWF in the 1980s, an initiative of which WWF-Canada’s Steven Price was a part.
After weeks of policy-focused negotiations, the WWF team was happy to visit this on-the-ground project, that has matured to become a well-run sustainable tourism hub amidst lagoons, mangroves, tropical forest, and hugged by the Mesoamerican Reef. Within 72 hours, colleagues had encountered more life than some see in a lifetime.

(c) Zoe Caron/WWF-Canada
One morning on the beach, a dorsal fin appeared – and moments later, a clear crisp wave curled, revealing the metre-long body of a juvenile nurse shark. The day before, as two WWF staff were exploring just off the reef, a large sea turtle emerged, swimming slowly with – and directly below – them. One colleague was even privy to watching 200 sea turtles hatch along the beach – an event that takes mere minutes to completely unfold, before each small being scurries into the water.

Dozens of brown pelicans swooped over head and constantly dove for food in the waves. Snowy egrets graced the shores at night-fall. Toucans were up with the sun. And a few of us were lucky enough to be in the presence of an ocelot, who stared graciously at us with its big, round eyes.Despite all of this beauty, along many stretches of the beach were scattered pieces of plastic, washed up from items falling overboard out in the ocean. After my sister arrived in the region to meet me, the two of us took a morning to pick up as much of this debris as we could carry. Three hours and three garbage bags was the result, as a small ode to the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup WWF participated in this past year, as well as to the dedicated work of our WWF-Mexico colleagues.

As our WWF-Mexico team told us, this solid waste washes up on beaches throughout the Caribbean due to strong ocean currents that carry and distribute waste from near and distant places to the shores off the Mesoamerican reef. On a small island in the Honduras, a colleague found plastic containers from as far away as Venezuela and Colombia – imagine. And, unfortunately, our oceans are filled with solid and liquid waste as a result of poor pollution control on land, which is having a major impact on marine life and the health of the reef system.

Because of these material threats to the Mesoamerican reef, coupled with the impacts of climate change, WWF is working diligently to ensure this area, rich and vibrant in its biodiversity, remains just that. And just as mi casa es su casa, your beach is my beach.