Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve (GSSCMR) is a protected marine reserve in the central part of Belize's Barrier Reef. It covers approximately 25,980 acres (10,510 ha) lying 36 kilometres (22 mi) off the coast of Placencia. Established in 2003, The reserve comes under the authority of the government's Fisheries Department, but is managed by the Southern Environmental Association, a community-based organisation.
|Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve|
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
|Location||Gulf of Honduras|
|Nearest city||Placencia, Stann Creek|
|Area||10,510 hectares (26,000 acres)|
|Established||18 May 2000|
Gladden Spit is a promontory forming the southernmost tip of the sunken atoll. The spit has a short sloping shelf that drops off steeply at about 40–2000 metres in depth within 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) of the reef.
The reserve contains some of the healthiest parts of the reef system due to its elevation and good water quality. Gladden Spit itself hosts over 25 species of reef fish. Since the 1920s, fishermen have congregated here to harvest mutton snapper and grouper during their ten-day spawning aggregation period that occurs between March and June. Historically, fishermen recorded substantial catches, and whale sharks—who come to feed on the eggs—were sighted in large numbers. It is the only place worldwide where this activity is known to occur.
The reserve was declared on 18 May 2000 (Gazette No. 68/2000). In 2001, the feeding site of the whale sharks was declared a special protected zone. Tourism regulations were drafted to regulate the increasing number of whale shark tours. Since 2003, the reserve has been divided into a general use zone, a no-take zone around the Silk Cayes, a conch restoration zone and a whale shark and reef-fish spawning aggregation conservation zone.
- Belize Tropical Forest Studies (2010). "Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes". Biodiversity and Environmental Resource Data System. Archived from the original on 2011-11-08.
- Belize Tropical Forest Studies (2010). "Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes (No take zone)". Biodiversity and Environmental Resource Data System. Archived from the original on 2011-11-08.
- SEA Belize. "Gladen Split/Silk Cayes". Archived from the original on 2011-10-02.
- Florida Museum of Natural History. "Gladden Spit & Silk Cayes Marine Reserve". Whale Shark Research on the Belize Barrier Reef. Archived from the original on 6 July 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2011.