Itz'ana Resort is committed to protecting and preserving Belize's natural resources, a responsibility we take great pride in. In an effort to ensure future generations can experience the extraordinary natural resources of our home Belize, Itz'ana has recently partnered with two NGOs: Fishers4Science and Fundacion Mundo Azul - both collaborating on our Shark Conservation Program which safeguards shark species near Belize, and throughout the Mesoamerican Reef region.
In this blog, our partners at Fundacion Mundo Azul share why sharks are invaluable to the preservation of a healthy oceanic environment. Read on to learn why sharks are so vital.
Why Sharks Matter
Sharks have lived on earth for over 450 million years; they existed earlier than dinosaurs and trees. Thanks to the fossils found we have information on more than 2,000 species of sharks that have existed throughout the history of the planet. Sharks have adapted to aquatic life over time and their bodies and senses have developed advantages as predators. Sharks currently number more than 550 species and new species continue to be discovered. They live in different ocean ecosystems, being the most important: pelagic (open water), demersal (near the sea bottom), and benthic (sea bottom) species.
As top predators, sharks have characteristics that give them an advantage for feeding. The shark skeleton is made of cartilage, which is lighter than a bony skeleton. This makes the body flexible to swim more easily making the animal more agile. Moreover, this feature allows this species to move faster to hunt its prey. In addition, sharks have organs that detect electricity called Ampullae of Lorenzini. These sensory organs are located around the head in the form of pores where sharks can detect the presence of prey through electro-receptors. In addition, sharks have a lateral line that runs along the body. This allows them to detect changes in the direction of the water caused by the movements of their prey.
Sharks play a crucial role in the food chain: they are top predators and maintain the balance of the ecosystem by feeding on weak and sick organisms. They are called "doctors of the sea" since they take care of the health and balance of marine and coastal ecosystems in the world. Moreover, they are considered indicators of the health of the ocean and contribute to a greater diversity of species. If sharks were to disappear from coral reefs, other predators would increase their populations and feed on all the small fish, directly affecting corals and the species that depend on them. Furthermore, sharks indirectly help the fisher's economy, more than one billion people depend on the trade of seafood as an economic source.
Unfortunately, pollution, overfishing, and climate change have threatened the survival of most of the shark species in the world. Since the 1970s, the population of species of sharks has been reduced by more than 50%. Therefore, it is essential to promote the conservation of sharks.
Join us at Itz'ana on April 22nd for the Waves of Itz'ana Fundraising Event, an exquisite evening of fine dining and meaningful contributions to our seas! Your support for our Shark Conservation Program will make a lasting difference for the marine ecosystem.
Photos by Alan C. Eagan