Hol Chan Marine Reserve, working through the Belize Fisheries Department, was awarded one of six grants given out by the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT). The grant award ceremony took place on Monday October 7th at the Belize City House of Culture, where the Ambergris Caye based Hol Chan Marine Reserve was awarded $199,500. A total of $736,769 in new project grants was given to six different groups in the country.
Speaking at the ceremony, Lisel Alamilla, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development said that the PACT grants is one of the tools that the Government of Belize (GOB) utilizes to ensure that funds reach their partners. “It is extremely vital to ensure that the government contributes to the management of Belize’s protected areas and PACT is the mechanism that we use for the distribution of government funds, really to the NGOs (non-profit government organizations) that partner with us, in sustainably managing our natural resources and engaging the stakeholders such as the fisher folks. Today is an important day because it marks the first time that the Protected Areas Conservation Trust has seen it important to make an extraordinary call for proposals. And so today, we are here to sign this; in seventeen years, this is the first time we’re doing that. I think they heeded my call that what we want to do is to make sure that the monies get to the people on the ground who are making the work happen. And so today, we will be signing agreements to the sum of seven hundred and thirty-six thousand seven hundred and sixty-nine dollars…quite a significant amount you would agree,” said the Minister.
According to PACT, the Belize Fisheries Department project under Hol Chan Marine Reserve focuses on expanding enforcement capacity and environmental monitoring activities as well as the inclusion of new zones into education and research programs in the reserve. The project aims to conserve a representative sample of the Belize coastal zone through responsible and sustainable management actions that will enhance the biological and socio-economic integrity of the area.
At hand to receive the grant on behalf of Hol Chan Marine Reserve was Miguel Alamilla, the Reserve Manager. “Our project titled ‘Hol Chan Marine Reserve management zone expansion’ is something we have been working on for some time now. As you may recall, we held consultations for the expansion of Hol Chan to include Mexico Rocks, the wetland areas near Mata and Cayo Frances Lagoons and the shoal on the leeward side of Ambergris Caye. Combined, these three areas have an area of 370 square kilometers so our management zone will expand to over 400 square kilometers when added to the existing Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The grant will certainly help us during the first year of implementing the management expansion,” said Miguel Alamilla.
The three areas [Mexico Rocks, Cayo Frances Conservation Area and the Shoal] were proposed and agreed upon as a single expansion to Hol Chan Marine Reserve during various consultations with stakeholders and community members. Those consultations took place during the past two years and the proposed legislation is currently sitting at the Attorney General’s Office awaiting final review before it is taken to Cabinet and then Parliament for approval.
Small grants were given to Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation of Development and the Sarteneja Fishermen Association. Two research grants were issued for the development of a monitoring plan; the first to Alex Anderson for the Queen Conch at Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve and Wilber Martinez for the Ecology of Conservation of the Baird’s Tapir in Central Belize. The biggest grant was issued to the Association of Protected Areas Management Organization (APAMO) to the tune of $384, 071.00 for the strengthening of institutional capacities for effective protected areas management.
San Pedro Sun