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Mangrove Beekeeping in the Guatemalan Caribbean

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Apiculture, as a sustainable activity, can provide an alternative income to coastal communities, reducing their dependence on fishing and increasing their resilience to various economic and cultural vulnerabilities. Simultaneously, it can foster mangrove conservation by providing economic incentives for the protection and restoration of mangrove forests.


Mangrove forests, located in estuaries and coastal areas, are ecosystems comprising various mangrove species adapted to the high salinity of the aquatic environment in which they thrive. By bridging terrestrial and aquatic environments, these forests harbor significant biological diversity.

Balance is essential for proper ecosystem functioning, and mangroves, alongside the ocean, are a great example of this. The complex root systems of mangroves act as a natural filter for nitrates, phosphates, and various pollutants flowing within rivers, hence mangroves cleanse and improve the quality of water that  flows into the ocean. Additionally, these ecosystems help maintain the ecological balance of the ocean by acting as a refuge and providing food for many species of fish and sharks during their juvenile stage. As adults, these species migrate to the open sea,  playing an important role in the food web.

In addition to their role in maintaining ocean health, mangroves are indispensable for the wellbeing and resilience of coastal communities by providing a wide range of ecosystem services. These services include the supply of food such as fish, mollusks, and crustaceans, both for local consumption and commercialization. Furthermore, mangroves play a crucial role in regulating environmental processes by filtering and improving water quality, reducing coastal erosion, acting as barriers against hurricanes and floods, and mitigating the effects of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Mangroves also contribute to the survival of other species by producing oxygen and serving as a breeding habitat. Lastly, on a cultural and economic level, mangroves offer opportunities for sustainable recreational and tourism activities, generating income for local communities.

Despite their importance for the balance of nature and people, 35% of mangroves worldwide have disappeared due to many years of unsustainable use primarily driven by demand for resources and products in the international market. The consequences of the disappearance of mangroves have been particularly detrimental to the life and livelihoods of local coastal communities. The Rio Sarstún Multiple Use Protected Area (AUMRS, in Spanish), which lies on the Guatemalan Caribbean coast, is home to the second largest mangrove system in the Guatemalan Caribbean along with several communities, including Barra Sarstún. This community has shown genuine interest in mangrove conservation and has actively participated in reforestation efforts since 2021, thus improving the mangrove ecosystem and the community’s surroundings. In order to contribute to conservation efforts and address the challenges facing mangrove forests, the Mangrove Beekeeping project was launched in Barra Sarstún with the support of Pure Ocean Fund and New England Biolabs Foundation.

Beekeeping involves the care and management of bees, whose role in pollinating plants significantly contributes to the reproduction of local flora during their search for and collection of nectar and pollen. Therefore, promoting beekeeping in coastal communities like Barra Sarstún also fosters mangrove reproduction in these areas, benefiting ocean health.

Beekeeping provides a wide array of hive products, including honey, beeswax, propolis, royal jelly, and other derivatives which can be commercialized, representing a valuable economic alternative to diversify community income. Such diversification is crucial for counteracting the adverse economic impact of declining fish populations and climate change on fishing, the main livelihood of Barra Sarstún.

Furthermore, the implementation of beekeeping can generate new job opportunities within the community. This is especially important for women, who often face limited access to and control over household economic resources. By participating in beekeeping, women can help support their families and achieve greater economic and social empowerment within their communities. The inclusion of women in beekeeping not only strengthens the local economy but also fosters gender equality and sustainable development in Barra Sarstún.

As part of the Mangrove Beekeeping project, a series of theoretical and practical training sessions have also been conducted. These sessions have covered the operation, inspection, and management of beehives, as well as honey extraction and packaging for commercialization. Together with project participants, a logo and brand for the community’s honey products was also developed, resulting in the name Ki’il Sarstoon, which translates to “Sarstún honey” in the Q’eqchi’ Mayan language.

The marketing of the honey, in addition to generating income for the group of Barra Sarstún beekeepers, has the potential to raise awareness within and beyond the community regarding the importance of mangroves as a source of ecosystem services and economic benefits. In addition, it highlights the value of beekeeping as a sustainable livelihood capable of benefiting both the community and the surrounding mangroves. The goal is that beekeeping in the area will significantly contribute to mangrove conservation, both through the pollination provided by bees and by providing economic incentives for the community to continue actively participating in mangrove protection and restoration.

As part of the project, environmental education workshops on bees have also been conducted with local children and young people from schools in the community. The aim of the workshops has been to expand their understanding of the importance of mangroves, bees, and beekeeping, and to foster their interest in training and dedicating themselves to beekeeping in the future. This will help guarantee the continuity of the project and promote active participation by younger generations in the conservation and sustainable use of the natural resources of Barra Sarstún.

Additional readings

Friess, D. A. (2016). Ecosystem services and disservices of mangrove forests: Insights from historical colonial observations. Forests, 7(9).

Getzner, M., and Islam, M. S. (2020). Ecosystem services of mangrove forests: Results of a meta-analysis of economic values. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(16), 5830.

Hernández-Félix, L., Molina-Rosales, D., and Agraz-Hernández, C. (2017). Ecosystemic services and conservation strategies in the Isla Arena mangrove. Agricultura, Sociedad y Desarrollo, 14(3), 427–449.

Hidalgo, H., and López, C. (2007). Reserva de Usos Múltiples Río Sarstún. Ficha Informativa de los Humedales de Ramsar (FIR).

Himes-Cornell, A., Grose, S. O., and Pendleton, L. (2018). Mangrove ecosystem service values and methodological approaches to valuation: Where do we stand?Frontiers in Marine Science. 5:376.

MarFund. (2021). Comunidades del Caribe de Guatemala participan en la conservación y restauración de manglares. Pysanczyn, J. (2021). Mangrove Mania – The Ecosystem that Keeps on Giving. The Marine Diaries.


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Mako shark is a hydrodynamic shark (it means that it has a conical, pointed snout that breaks tides while it swims), similar to the shape of a torpedo. Its figure, its powerful muscular mass, its caudal fin, and even its ability to stabilize its body temperature, are factors that allow the Mako shark to swim at high speed in the ocean; this shark can reach speeds above 110km/h which makes it the fastest animal in the ocean. 

It is possible that because of its ability to stabilize its own temperature (endothermic), this shark can live in temperate environments and in tropical waters. The Mako shark diet is mainly comprised of tuna and weevils, although it also feeds on marine mammals, turtles, cephalopods (octopus, squid, among others) and even other sharks. 

It has a reproduction viviparous aplacental, reproductive mode in which the embryos develop within the mother and feed from unfertilized eggs (oophagy), and when they are fully developed are expelled. 

It is also classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Preservation of nature, implying that it is likely to become an endangered species. 

Picture: Eduardo López Negrete


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During the last week of August, Blue World Foundation continued to work with the youth of El Quetzalito. In this activity young people learned practical strategies based on critical thinking to exploit their creativity. 

They learned how to make portraits, and through the interviews they made, they designed a small comic book using script narration techniques, drawing and painting. 

It is in this way, young people of El Quetzalito developed their artistic skills to transmit messages about the care of the environment in a different way. 

Art is fundamental to the development of critical thinking in young people and also gives mechanisms to learn to express their thoughts in a different way and integrate new knowledge as they are inspired to make art. Blue World Foundation believes in it, totally.


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With a slightly larger size than the Mako shark, Mako Prieto is an imposing shark with hydrodynamic features, its pectoral fins are long and have a slightly pointed and dark snout. 

Its habitat is still little known to researchers, although there are indications that it is epipelagic (describes of all marine species that live in oceanic areas between the surface and 200m deep). It is classified as viviparous aplacental because the offspring break the eggs inside the mother’s body and feed on the nutrients transmitted by it; before its birth, the offspring of the shark carry out the so-called intrauterine cannibalism or oophagy, which is only the action in which the most developed embryos in the mother’s womb feed on the eggs produced by the maternal ovary while these still are in gestation. 

The International Union for the Preservation of nature has classified Mako-Prieto shark as “Vulnerable” as a precautionary measure, partly because of many aspects that are still unknown to the species. 

Picture: Discovery Communications


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This shark receives its common name because of its bulbous head, small snout and a pair of small beards that it has on each side, very similar to the whiskers of a cat. On the dorsal part, this shark may have a gray or brown coloration depending on its maturity, while in the belly area the coloration is pale in all specimens. 

This species is predominantly demersal (it lives in the sandy and rocky bottoms) and is found at depths ranging between 1m and 75mm. 

The diet of the Cat sharks consists of small fish, mollusks (octopus, squid, clams), crustaceans, etc. 

Despite being a species of shark quite common in several places, scientific studies on this species are scarce, which has resulted in a “data deficient” classification by the International Union for the Preservation of nature. 

Picture: Andy Murch


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The silky shark acquires its common name because of the softness of its skin. Other notable features are a moderately long, pointed snout, large eyes, and a regular, non-prominent dorsal fin. It’s a kind of coastal, pelagic habits. As for their diet, this shark feeds mainly on Tuna, Mackerel, Las Lisas and Squid. 

Like other species of sharks, their reproduction is viviparous, which means that the embryos feed through the placenta. As for its classification, the International Union for the Preservation of nature has classified them as “almost threatened” which at the global level implies an indication of instability of the populations of this particular species. 

Picture: Alan C. Egan


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The great hammerhead shark differs from the other species of hammerhead sharks by having an almost straight head with a cleft in the middle and, that the first dorsal fin is very large, characteristic very particular of this species. 

It lives in the warm and tropical coastal regions of most of the world and feeds on fish, crustaceans and cephalopods from their specific regions. The great hammerhead shark is a viviparous species, a reproductive mode in which the embryos, through the placenta, are fed by the mother until the moment of birth. 

Remember that one of the most notable features of hammerhead sharks is to have a vision of 360 ° (peripheral), so the shark can see what happens in all around, taking advantage of this ability to hunt their prey.

Like the other species of hammerhead sharks, the International Union for the Preservation of Nature classifies the great hammerhead shark as “endangered”. 

Picture: Simon Rogerson


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Gulper shark is a species that inhabits the slopes of the continental coasts of different regions of the planet, being found from 50m to the 1440m of depth. Although it is true that it can inhabit from 50m deep sea, this shark is rarely seen at depths less than 200 m. 

Its most notable characteristics are very large and green eyes, a grey/brown coloration in the dorsal and clear part of the ventral area, and thorns in the dorsal fins. Also, your skin is covered with mucus. As for its diet, it feeds on: small bony fish, squid and crustaceans. Its type of reproduction is Ovoviviparous which means that the eggs are incubated inside the mother’s body, after that, the mother lays the eggs, and already outside the mother’s body the offspring are born. 

The Gulper shark is classified as “data deficient” by the International Union for the Preservation of nature and as for its preservation is considered a species vulnerable to the effects of the trawl fishery. 

Picture: Andy Murch


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The White saddled Catshark is characterized as a small-sized shark. As for its coloration it presents a pattern of dark and clear spots along its body as well as white dots. 

This shark is considered a kind of depth and inhabits the continental shelf at depths from 274m to the 457m. The type of reproduction is unknown, but the hypothesis is that they are oviparous. Because of the difficulty in accessing this specimen, abundance is also unknown, so the International Union for the preservation of nature cannot define its state of preservation. 

Picture: Andy Murch


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In hammerhead sharks, the head has a particular “T” shape, from the resemblance to a hammer, where the origin of its name comes from. For a long time the shape of his head has been the object of intrigue and study by the scientific community who have established different theories around this unique shark. 

With an excellent vision to recognize the depth, hammerhead sharks can see with great precision what happens to their surroundings, this being one of its greatest characteristics for the search of food. Their diet is mainly constituted of small fishes, crustaceans (like shrimps, lobsters, barnacles, etc.) and rays. 

Regularly, this species lives on the coasts and in the open sea. In addition, it is currently classified as: “Endangered” by the International Union for the Preservation of nature, hence the urgency to promote its preservation. 

Photo: Simon Rogerson