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#488738 - 03/28/14 06:20 PM Fishermen protest dredging at South Water Caye
Marty Offline
The Stann Creek Fishermen Association (SCFA) this week sounded the alarm that a company is dredging inside the South Water Caye Marine Reserve – even as fishermen from the community have been locked out for years from fishing in the protected area, after having been told that they could not continue their usual fishing activities inside the reserve.

The association said that they are exhorting the Minister responsible for fisheries to call an emergency meeting on this.

Earlier this week, Amandala consulted authorities at the Department of the Environment (DOE) on the reported dredging inside the protected area, and we were told that the DOE knew nothing of it.

We tried contacting the CEO responsible for fisheries, as well as authorities at the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, but no one was available to speak with us.

Amandala has asked whether the association could provide us with the GPS coordinates of the dredging operation, so that we could verify whether it is, in fact, being done inside the protected area. Still, the fishermen insist that the area where the dredge, reportedly being operated on behalf of Eagle Land Development, has been seen is within the zone where they have been barred from fishing.

We are awaiting further information on this story, and hope to have an official response in the days ahead.

Amandala

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#489009 - 04/04/14 10:48 AM Re: Fishermen protest dredging at South Water Caye [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Dredging Dispute In Marine Reserve

The South Water Caye Marine Reserve is one of the biggest in the country. 15 miles southeast of Dangriga Town, it is also a spawning ground and habitat for many of the marine life that make Dangriga's waters some of the most abundant in the country. And that's why the Stann Creek Fisherman Association is publicly complaining about a dredging operation that's happening within the Tobacco Caye Range. It's a private residential project spearheaded by locals but the president of the association told us it is contaminating their sea:..

Mark McKenzie, Chairman - Stann Creek Fisherman Association
"When you dredge in that area, the currents in that area - right now there is not even any supervision as we took out the reporter yesterday. Imagine somebody sitting on the street side in your neighborhood where dust blowing in your face every - that's what the dredge is pretty much doing to all marine creatures in that area; the manatees, the habit areas as far as marine life. Imagine dust and mud coming on your head top, either you will die or you will move right. Yes we can say that after a certain time everything will settle down, but you will kill what's already there. The SI was signed by government since 1996; nobody can't say that they didn't know this is a marine reserve. I don't care if the developer is local or a foreigner, the issue is that you basically is dredging in a reserve. You have manage to circumvent the processes and regulations that are in place to protect this and when you are basically telling is to respect that we need to have some protective areas to keep the harvesting or the fishing industry sustainable for future generations. We have been coming onboard to respecting that, now you are going to slap us in the face and basically close your eyes to somebody commercial dredging in that area and to actually now going to over a two acres space in size? That's ridiculous man."

Reporter
"You guys went out there yesterday. Tell us how that went?"

Mark McKenzie, Chairman - Stann Creek Fisherman Association
"We were confronted by the developer and he expressed that of course I would say concern that, I might be picking a bone with this on behalf of the association. Nevertheless this is business and specifically under no circumstances anybody should have a dredging permit to dredge in a marine protect area. That's total BS!"

Mckenzie says that no community consultations were held before the dredging as required by the environmental compliance plan. No one from the fisheries department would comment and the minister referred us to her CEO who did not return our calls.

We did get to speak with the developer, Kareem Castillo from Eagle Development who told us that Mckenzie has an agenda. He has a land dispute with them on that same island based on a squatters claim which was thrown out of court in 2010.

Second, he says that they are building one residence and a house for a caretaker and have followed very procedure and requirement. He adds that they have installed a curtain to contain the silt run-off and he is confident that it works.

He says they are not damaging the marine environment and will finish dredging in two days. They started two weeks ago, and he claims they have dredged less than the permitted five thousand cubic yards.

Channel 7


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#489379 - 04/11/14 09:00 PM Re: Fishermen protest dredging at South Water Caye [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Dredging inside South Water Caye Marine Reserve approved: official

For the past two weeks, fishermen from southern Belize, as well as concerned persons from within the environmental community, have been questioning an ongoing dredging operation inside the conservation zone of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve. When we first heard of the case more than a week ago, we checked with the Department of the Environment, but we were told that they were not aware of any such operation.

Roberto Pott, chairman of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve Advisory Committee, told Amandala today that they had received no notification that dredging would ensue inside the protected area.

Amandala confirmed today from Michelle Alvarez, Inspector of Mines at the Geology and Petroleum Department, that the department did issue a permit to Devon Castillo of Dangriga to dredge inside the protected area – but only after the required clearance was received from authorities such as the Fisheries Department and the Department of the Environment.

James Azueta, the Fisheries Officer responsible for protected areas, told our newspaper that Castillo followed due course in obtaining all the necessary permits to do dredging within the given guidelines.

The Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) signed by Castillo and Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria for Eagle Land Development permits development of 1.9 acres for residential use only at the Tobacco Caye range, Stann Creek.

The ECP, dated May 2013, gave clearance for a 30 by 20 foot building, a 20 by 20 caretaker house, a 75-foot long pier and a 40 by 50 deck, as well as the dredging of material for filling not exceeding 5,000 cubic yards.

Alvarez told us that the dredging has been approved for land reclamation, so that Castillo, director of Eagle Land Development, can build a dock for his boat.

Some of the persons we spoke with on the matter told us that the person who has sounded the alarm in the media about the dredging, Mark McKenzie, has a personal gripe with Castillo, because the two had a court dispute over the land and Castillo won the case.

However, several persons we spoke with in the environmental community also expressed concern about the dredging and the inadequacy of information from official sources.

Alvarez, who spoke candidly with us on the matter, told us that the landowners who hold properties inside these protected areas still have a right to develop their property; however, she said, they have had to turn down several other applications because of the potential harmful impacts. Pott told us that there are many landowners who hold titles for properties within the protected area.

According to Alvarez, authorities had done a site visit as well. She said that the DOE had initially demanded that Castillo do an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), but he said that he only wanted to develop the land for residential purposes – not commercial purposes, and so clearance was given in 2013 just for the residential development.

The South Water Caye Marine Reserve Advisory Committee has also written Hon. Lisel Alamilla, the minister with responsibility for fisheries and for protected areas, but Pott said that while the minister has acknowledged having received the letter, she has not yet replied. (Our attempts to reach the minister via phone were unsuccessful.)

Samir Rosado, the Coastal Science Research Officer at the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, told Amandala today that their information about the dredging operation is unclear, even after having consulted with the advisory committee. Rosado said that the CZMAI is still not sure who is doing the dredging.

He said that they have checked the GPS coordinates and verified that the dredging is being done within the protected area, and inside the conservation zone.

Fishermen in two associations in the south have complained that they are not allowed to fish in the area where the dredging is being allowed.

Information published by the Belize Fisheries Department indicates that, “There shall be only non–extractive recreational activities in the Conservation Zone,” and “no person shall engage in commercial, sport or subsistence fishing within the Conservation 1 Zone.”

Azueta confirmed that the conservation zone is a no-take area, and it is a replenishment zone for fish.

Amandala

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