UB ERI’s Marine Research Fellow, Dr. Arlenie Perez Conducts Sea Cucumber Biological Survey
Since November of last year ERI’s Marine Research Fellow, Dr. Arlenie Perez-Rogers has been hard at work with her research project on Belize’s sea cucumber fishery. The goal of this research is to establish a baseline on the current status, distribution and abundance of sea cucumbers in Belize with the ultimate goal of investigating the potential of sustainable sea cucumber mariculture in Belize.
Dr. Perez-Rogers completed part 1 of the study where she conducted interviews with fishermen and other stakeholders, visiting sea cucumber processing plants and landing sites as well as participating in a range of other activities related to the fishery. She is currently completing part 2 of the study. This includes a Sea Cucumber Biological Survey of the entire coast of Belize at randomly selected sites.The purpose of this survey is to determine the diversity, abundance and distribution of sea cucumber species within the waters of Belize. This survey effort is conducted in full collaboration with the Belize Fisheries Department. Several teams have assisted in conducting these surveys including staff from the HCMR, SWCMR, GRMR, TIDE, SEA and staff from the Belize Fisheries Department in Punta Gorda Town and Belize City.
A number of ERI staff and volunteers participated in one of the survey on expeditions to Turneffe and Light House Reef Atoll on June 4-8. This survey was conducted with the assistance of volunteers, Allan Romero, John Romero, Monique Lamb, Jenelle Griffith and the ERI’s marine Field Technician, Jani Salazar as the team leader. Six sites were selected around each atoll where the team ran four transects at each site. During the first two days, the Turneffe Atoll was surveyed where the team found the Tiger Tail, Donkey Dong, Three Rowed and Five Toothed Sea Cucumbers. Also found was the Florida Sea cucumber which had never been documented in the formal literature in Belizean Waters before. Finding undocumented species allows us to understand more of the complexities and biodiversity of the Belize Barrier Reef. The surveys carried out at the Light house Reef Atoll was a joint effort between the ERI and BAS who assisted through Marine Biologist, Eliceo Cobb and Boat Captain, Joshua Murrey. Two species were found at this atoll including the Tiger Tail and Donkey Dong Sea Cucumber.
Upon completion of this effort, Dr. Perez-Rogers hopes to conduct a third component of her research which includes a mariculture pilot study.