Oceana Opens Office in Belize

In May we told you about the organization called Oceana – a big money, high profile conservation group that was coming to Belize. Well, it’s here and the vice president of its local office Audrey Matura Shepherd is leading the way. We found Matura Shephard hard at work at Oceana’s main office in Belize City getting ready for this weekend’s launch. I had a sit down with her to find out how much the country stands to benefit. Or will it just be another international environmental organization with a long list of things to do but nothing really achieved? Here’s what she had to say.

Jacqueline Godwin,

“Whenever you have these foreign environmental groups that come into our country, there is always this scepticism that there is a private agenda here.”

Audrey Matura Shepherd, Belize’s Vice President – Oceana
“Well I don’t know about any private agenda Jackie because for me to have taken this job I think I put my name and my credibility on the line.

And that is why Oceana is headed only by Belizeans because who knows better for their country than the local people. That is what Oceana hopes to do initially. As we progress, we will know exactly what are the specific things we need to do.”

Jacqueline Godwin,
“What got Oceana interested in Belize?”

Audrey Matura Shepherd,
“Very good question and people need to know that it is not that Oceana woke up one day and said oh, I am going to Belize. It is really an initiative from local NGOs and communities in Belize. Oceana was invited through a program or initiative called, Meeting of the Minds, where people who are concerned about Belize’s marine system said let’s come together and let’s brainstorm what are some of the issues here and what we can do about it and they all realized that a lot of us are into all sorts of conservation but none of us specialise only on marine issues.

And they said look, we are ignoring what’s happening out there in our waters, to our reef, our fish stock, our practices and we’re ignoring it and we need an entity that will come and focus only on that and so Oceana was invited and they Board of Directors sanctioned that to come to Belize and see what could be done. And most important, Oceana got the blessing of the other communities, they said look, the kind of work you do is the kind of work we would want you to do in Belize.

What we do is simply deal with issues of policy and legislation and that is why they hire an advocate who is an attorney. Oceana as the name suggests deals only with marine issues. Anything out in our waters, our oceans, Oceana deals with. So that is from the reef to the bottom of the sea to all fish life in it, specific creatures – that is what Oceana deals with.”

Once the advocacy non governmental organization is officially established on Saturday it will do an initial assessment of the situation in Belize and will be establishing a working relationship with existing marine NGOs in Belize.

Live and let live