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#464844 - 05/21/13 11:44 AM Visiting Blue Hole with Marine Protected Areas Mgr
Marty Offline

PlusNews visit Blue Hole with Marine Protected Areas Manager

vlcsnap-2013-05-20-19h45m20s162Our news crew was on a tour of the Blue Hole Natural Monument and surrounding seas this weekend. They came across an instance of the Belize Audubon Society (BAS) acting in its co-management role on the issue of fisheries. A team of fishermen were in the area between the Blue Hole and Northern Two Caye operating. While they were on the right side of the law, except for one of the fishermen not possessing a commercial license on demand – the offender claimed it had been damaged – there have been instances of illegal operations by both Belizeans and Mexican, Guatemalan and Honduran vessels. Marine Protected Areas Manager Shane Young is a licensed special constable with powers of arrest for offenses committed in the two natural monuments. He took us through the procedure behind meetings like these.

Shane Young – Marine Protected Areas Manager:
vlcsnap-2013-05-20-19h44m39s7Yes, it is a concern, because normally the Captain is liable, and so we could charge him jointly, and it’s important to have the captain in the case of an emergency.
Those are conchs, the legal size conchs.
Everything was in order. 

Earlier, Young explained the kinds of threats Belize Audubon Society regularly sees in the area and the day to day operations it carries out as co-manager.

Shane Young – Marine Protected Areas Manager:
vlcsnap-2013-05-20-19h44m16s64The day to day operation include tourism management, enforcement, and marine research that the Belize Audubon Society conduct within Lighthouse Reef Atol.  The Blue Hole is a famous dive site, well known for its geological feature, a world-wide famous dive site, and we have a lot of visitors coming to this place. On average we talk about 12 thousand people per year.  It’s only important that Belize Audubon Society and the Government of Belize ensure that this place is protected.  We have heavy visitation, as I mentioned earlier, and the reason is because it’s an unique feature.  It’s a part of the World Heritage site, this along with Half Moon Caye Natural Monument.
Blue HoleIn terms of threats, the site is a Natural Monument so it’s a strictly no-take zone.  No fishing is allowed, only recreation, scientific, and research can occur within the protected area.  So the Belize Audubon Society ensure that we are obliged to the National Park System Act and the National Monument Status.

Audubon is also monitoring turtle development in protected areas.

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#465032 - 05/23/13 11:32 AM Re: Visiting Blue Hole with Marine Protected Areas Mgr [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Audubon Society monitors Blue Hole Marine Protected Area

400 feet deep and dived by the likes of Jean-Jacques Cousteau, home to dead bodies (one, to our knowledge) and dead civilizations, the Blue Hole is first and foremost a symbol of Belize. Its waters are dived nearly every day by visitors to our shores and they rave about its natural wonder. PLUS News got an up-close and personal look at the deep blue waters with Belize Audubon Society’s manager for marine protected areas, Shane Young.
Shane Young – Marine Protected Areas Manager:
vlcsnap-2013-05-22-18h17m57s132This place was actually land, and what had happened is the sea level rise and the cave collapse. So people come to dive because of the geological feature.  What you can find is that 120 feet is stalactites and stalagmites.  Also there’s a variety of marine wild life that you can fine in the Blue Hole, in particular the sharks, Caribbean shark, is quite common in there, and people come to see the shark, and dive along with the sharks, and at the same time have that cave experience in the marine setting.

According to Shane Young, BAS takes seriously the issue of fishing in a no-take zone, which the natural monument is.

Shane Young – Marine Protected Areas Manager:
vlcsnap-2013-05-22-18h17m39s186Because the site is a natural monument it’s a [restricted area.] We do have an issue with fishermen coming in and trying to take a chance and fish within a protected area.  One of the weakness in the system is because the fines are petty.  We’re talking about $100 for a first offense.  So if we could strengthen that National Park System that could have been so easier for us.  But the time and effort put into it, factoring, and when compared to the charge, to the fine, levied against these individuals, it’s quite slim. But nonetheless the Belize Audubon Society is committed to the work that we’ve been doing over the past 40-plus years, and we continue to assist in co-managing these protected areas on behalf of the Government of Belize and, most importantly, the Belizean people.  At the end of the day this is Belize.  This is what we call Belize.  

The interview was conducted aboard the “Papa Tomas,” the  61–foot dive boat owned by Amigos del Mar agency which was in the area conducting a tour. We thank them for their assistance with this story.

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