Hol Chan Marine Reserve Expansion Signed Off
The southern tip of San Pedro Ambergris Caye is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Hol Chan, which is Mayan translation for “Little Channel,” was officially established as a protected area in 1987. The reserve covered only eighteen square kilometers of the rich aquatic ecosystem, but since then, it has expanded to cover over fifty-five square kilometers. In 2010, the management of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve had proposed the expansion of the protected area. Finally today, the Minister of Tourism, Manuel Heredia Junior, officially authorized its further expansion. According to the reserve manager, Miguel Alamilla, the Hol Chan has remained sustainable through proper management by both the private and public sectors.
Miguel Alamilla, Manager, Hol Chan Marine Reserve
“The expansion includes a complete, a representative sample of Belize’s Coastal Zone. We have sea grass beds, we have mangroves, wetlands and coral reef. We have important fly-fishing areas that currently tour guides are using for fly-fishing and this will provide further protection and enhance the sustainable use of those catch and release fishing areas. We have wetlands/mangroves which are very important for coastal fisheries, coastal communities, they protect coastlines; they are nursery habits for many species of fish and invertebrates. They filter nutrients, sediments. So they have a very important environmental function. The coral reef and the ecological and economic importance it plays for our communities.”
Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism
“It couldn’t have been historic without the support of the community…the many people, organizations, stakeholders that are area and with the goodwill of this administration. This government believes if we have tourism as the number one priority of our administration, then we have to make sure that we can join forces in protecting the environment, to make sure that there is sustainable development that is happening over here and that is exactly what we are doing.”
“The process was and still is a collective consultative process. It is a back and forth process and I have been involved for many years in marine protected areas management and that is the approach we take to management and establishing new areas. There needs to be consultation with communities, with governments, with all stakeholders and that takes time.”
“So what will it take to continue the management of this Hol Chan Marine Reserve?”
“If you look at the history of Hol Chan, we have not remained static. Hol Chan has always been expanding, increasing. I remember when I came here it was myself and three park rangers. Now we are a staff of sixteen individuals working. We have three main management components—enforcement, monitoring/research and environmental education. So in all we will use our current resources to expand on those areas. It is an expansion of those areas and we will be adding more resources as we go along and we expand in management in those new areas.”
Hol Chan Marine Reserve now spans from the island of San Pedro to the coastline near Bomba in Belize District and will enhance no take zones, sea grass beds, mangrove islands, coral reef, conservation zones and Mexico Rocks general use and no take zones.
Monumental expansion of Hol Chan Marine Reserve is official
Hol Chan Marine Reserve was officially declared a reserve in 1987, and at the time included 18.1 square kilometers. In 2008, the reserve was expanded to include seabed, mangrove hatchery areas and grew in size up to 55.4 square kilometers. After five years of work, the marine reserve has expanded with the addition of 359 square kilometers of reef, sea, shoals, lagoon and wetlands added to the reserve. In his remarks, Hol Chan Marine Reserve Manager, Miguel Alamilla told the gathering, comprising of tourism and fisheries stakeholders, that the project was the brain child of San Pedro Tourist Guides Association, the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development, the Ambergris Caye Wetlands Committee and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. “Through an integrated approach and with the full participation of the government agencies and stakeholders, we are happy that we accomplished what we started a few years ago,” said Alamilla.
The expansion will include four additional areas. The largest of the four areas is Zone E referred to as the Bajos General Area. It will also be the largest of all eight zones that will now form a part of Hol Chan and accounts for a total of 330.6 square kilometers. Zone E has been further subdivided into I – Bajos General Use Zone, II – Cayo Pajaro Conservation Zone , III- Bajos Conservation Zone, IV – Cayo Rosario Conservation Zone, V – Blackadore Conservation Zone and VI – Los Salones Conservation. Zone E borders the current boundaries of Hol Chan to the south and then runs along the leeward coastland of Ambergris Caye up to Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve. To the west and north, it runs up to the mainland near the Bomba Village Lagoon entrance then northwards to the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
Zone F consist of Cayo Frances Conservation Zone which encompasses 13.5 miles of lagoon, cenotes and interconnected wetland area. It is located within the inner part of northern Ambergris Caye starting from the Grand Belizean Estate Road heading northwards along private resorts ending by the Social Security Board property. The area serves as a hatchery and home for thousands of juvenile reef fish and is also used for sport-fishing.Hol Chan new areas
Zone G is considered the Mexico Rocks General Use Zone, comprising of 15 square kilometers. It takes into consideration seabed, reef and part of the sea. Within this zone is the smallest addition – Zone H – consisting of Mexico Rocks’ No-Take Zone. It is approximately one square kilometer in size. Only recreational activities will be allowed in the area, and no extraction of any kind of marine resources (alive or dead) will be allowed.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun
Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Now 6x Bigger
It's already one of the most famous marine reserves on earth and tonight, Hol Chan is even better than that because it's gotten 6 times bigger. Last week, Cabinet approved an expansion to include a 40 acre plot of lagoon and wetlands - called Sunset Cove. It was designated as Zone F of the reserve some time ago, but in September reports emerged that it was being surveyed for house lots. That raised howls of protest - and the good news is that it worked - and yesterday a ceremony was held to celebrate the accomplishment. We found out more from the park manager:
Miguel Alamilla, Hol Chan Marine Reserve
"Hol Chan Marine Reserve has a total coverage currently on 56sqkm. This expansion will greatly add to what it is Hol Chan right now. I think it's over 330sqkm of additional mangrove, sea grass beds and coral reef that we are adding to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. So, in all we are multiplying what we have by more than 6 times."
Hon. Manuel Junior Heredia, Area Representative
"As the Minister of Tourism, I am extremely proud, because any reserve that you create within the number one tourists destination will definitely enhanced the visiting experiencing of our tourists and I can guarantee you, that once its internationally known that this has been done, you will find that a lot more tourists will be wanting to come to this destination, to see what it's all about."
Miguel Alamilla, Hol Chan Marine Reserve
"We started with a little over 18sqkm. We have been adding. In 1999, we added Zone D and in 2008, we further increased from 18sqkm to over 50sqkm and now this is another expansion that is happening. When I started working here, it was myself plus 3 rangers. Now we are a staff of 18."
This expansion was first proposed in 2010.