Since March 2010, we have been conducting coral reef monitoring and research in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, filling a much-needed data gap for one of the most remote marine protected areas in Belize. One of the focuses of our research is investigating the impact of lionfish on the world heritage listed Belize Barrier Reef and on juvenile reef fish, as this invasive species has no native predators outside its original home in the Indo-Pacific, and therefore poses a huge threat to Belize’s reef fisheries.
Join us in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve on a lionfish dive trip to assist with our research that aims to understand how to effectively control lionfish populations, monitor the progression of the invasion in Belize, and directly contribute to efforts to combat its spread through participating in lionfish culls while scuba diving.
Our lionfish project volunteers are based at our remote dive camp in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, which is a large, palm-studded island shouldered by white beaches and backed by mangroves that fade to the west into Corozal Bay. Volunteers love the eco-cabins that face out onto the Caribbean Sea!
Our lionfish project volunteers are given an introduction to marine life in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve, with detailed lessons about invasive lionfish, their behaviour, competitors and prey. Volunteers also learn about marine megafauna sighted frequently on dives and recorded diligently to monitor adundance. In-water training includes lionfish detection practice, survey training and safe, environmentally sound methods for hunting and removing lionfish from coral reefs.
The survey data collected by volunteers is used to monitor the progression of the lionfish invasion, population status, diet and reproductive rates, as well as to test hypotheses on specific impacts and recommendations for management.
There are so many advantages of joining us at Bacalar Chico for this lionfish project as opposed to going on a normal diving holiday! If you’re a scuba diver who wants to understand more about marine ecology then this trip is a fantastic way to learn, contribute to our invasive species projects and research and most importantly assist with protecting the stunning coral reefs that you’ll be diving in.
If all of this isn’t enough, it’s a great way to meet a diverse group of like-minded people from all over the world, and during your time off enjoy snorkelling, beach sports and other fun activities!
We require all participants for this short dive trip to have at least a PADI Advanced Open Water (or equivalent) certification, but this can be completed at your local dive centre if you’re not already qualified, or during a standard expedition with us beforehand.
The expedition is 9 or 14 days including the arrival and departure days, and the pick-up and drop-off point is the town of San Pedro, which is less than two hours by boat from Belize City and our dive camp in Bacalar Chico. Below are guides of what you can expect to do during the expedition.
9 days: £800 (discount available for volunteer medics)
14 days: £1250 (discount available for volunteer medics)
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