With the hemisphere's longest
barrier reef, three atolls and
countless cayes and patch
reefs, Belize's marine resources
have never been more valuable
to our future. That's why
successive governments over
the last two decades have taken
steps to increasingly regulate activities in the
country's waters. On Monday, another large
portion of Belizean sea was given protected
status...but, as News 5's Ann-Marie Williams
discovered, conservation is not always a simple
Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting
"Fishermen have been fishing in this area of three
cayes, Northern Silk Caye, Middle and South Silk Caye
for over forty years. However, a memorandum of
understanding signed on Monday between Friends of
Nature and Government promises to change all that."
Chairman of Friends of Nature, Brian Young, signed on
behalf of the non-profit organisation, while Fisheries
Minister Daniel Silva did the honours for G.O.B.
Daniel Silva, Min. of Fisheries
"It means that the people of this area now will have a
direct input in how this area is managed. It means
now that we will not be making rules from Belmopan
and the people here will obey them; they will make
their own rules."
"About a year and a half ago, the three islands that
are around this area were declared a marine reserve,
the Gladden Spit Marine Reserve. Not too far away,
we have the whale sharks who come here especially
during the full moon. The fish come and spawn around
that time and the whale sharks come and eat the
eggs that the fish release. So it's a beautiful area,
and it's one of the few areas in the world where you
can see this."
The residents charged with responsibility to manage
the area are from five neighbouring communities,
namely Hopkins, Seine Bight, Independence, Monkey
River and Placencia. According to Silva, Gladden Spit
and Silk Caye Marine Reserve is known as the best
spawning aggregation area in Belize.
"Because the fish come and they aggregate here, so
it's just a matter of throwing in a line and you're
collecting fish. So it's an area where you have people
who are Belizeans and also we have a lot of illegal
fishing. In fact, just last week we caught two boats
from Honduras, and we want to continue that even
more. And now that the people here are managers, we
should have a better control on that."
Young, a former fisherman himself, knows all too well
that the area is plagued by illegal fishing; a problem,
which depletes Belize's stock of marine resources.
Brian Young, Chairman, Friends of Nature
"One of the biggest problems we have right now is
illegal fishing, which is only done at night right now.
We have the dark snapper and the cobera snapper,
which is the two biggest specie of fish that spawn in
this area that really attracts the whale sharks. The
whale sharks feed on the eggs of those fish. Now
those fish don't take line in the daytime. They're
vulnerable at night though, so the Honduran fishermen
come across and the fish at night and they catch most
of those species at night."
In order to create a balance between the fishermen's
development and the marine environment residents of
the five designated communities of southern Belize
must work together to come up with a sustainable
"Right now there's two zones in the area. there is a
one-mile no take zone around the three Silk Cayes
here where they can't do no fishing, absolutely no
"That's the preservation area for right now, and then
the other zone is the general area. We need to work
along with the fishermen to create some more zones
in that general area right now. There are two main
ones that we want to create. We want to create
again, a preserve area for a conch nursery that used
to be a conch nursery but the fishermen have killed it
out over the years, and we also want to create a
whale shark and a fishing zone, where we can make
laws specifically for those areas. So we need to work
along with the fishermen, use the scientific studies
and research and data that we have, to show them
why we need to make these new areas."
Ann-Marie Williams for News 5.
The Coastal Zone Management Authority and
Institute will co-operate with the Fisheries
Department to hire and train rangers to patrol the