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A baseline analysis of coastal water quality of the port Honduras marine reserve, Belize: a critical habitat for sport fisheries

Sweetman, Brenna M., Foley, James R., Steinberg, Michael K.
Environmental biology of fishes 2019 v.102 no.2 pp. 429-442
Albula vulpes, Megalops atlanticus, Trachinotus, coastal water, coral reefs, dissolved oxygen, economic impact, ecosystems, fish, fisheries, game fish, highlands, income, pH, population density, salinity, seagrasses, seasonal variation, sport fishing, temperature, water quality, watersheds, wetlands, Belize, Honduras
This analysis examines temporal changes in water quality of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR), Belize from 1998 to 2015. Trends in dissolved oxygen (DO), salinity, temperature and pH were analyzed from ten sites throughout PHMR for statistically significant relationships. Maintaining satisfactory water quality is critical for sustaining healthy fisheries. PHMR represents a unique link between upland watersheds and coastal wetlands, mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass beds. These ecosystems comprise important habitat for many fisheries including the economically valuable sport fish species of Megalops atlanticus (Atlantic tarpon), Albula vulpes (bonefish) and Trachinotus falcatus (permit). Sport fishing in the PHMR area has become increasingly popular in recent decades and is responsible for generating direct and indirect income opportunities for local communities, including Punta Gorda, the largest town in southern Belize. As a result, degradation of water quality of PHMR through land-based human activities could have ecological and economic consequences for southern Belize. The results of the analyses revealed significant seasonal variations and slight increasing trends in DO and salinity at several sampling sites. These relatively stable results are likely related to several factors including limited coastal development and low population density of southern Belize. This study provides baseline information for future research and outlines recommendations for management strategies of PHMR to mitigate impacts from current and future threats to water quality.