The Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI), Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development held the last of four public consultation sessions on Tuesday, September 1st at the Sun Breeze Hotel Conference room. The meeting was in lieu of the finalization of the Belize Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) plan. Mandated under Coastal Zone Management Act, the plan determines the suitability of coastal land use and outlines recommendations for sustainable development along the entire coastal zone in Belize. While still in its consultation stage, when completed the management plan will include the first three kilometers inland from the coastline of Belize and all cayes. The Integrated Management plan is divided into ten areas and looks at three scenarios of development over a 15 year period. One of the ten areas is Ambergris Caye and encompasses the entire island and surrounding flats, mangroves swamps, inland lagoons, the reef directly in front of the island and the seabed around the caye.

According to the president of the San Pedro Tour Guide Association, Billy Leslie, even though the plan seemed ready to be signed, it still needs some more exposure. “There are a lot of people out there that do not know about the project. In my view, they should do consultations in more areas so more people are aware of the plan. This plan that is being put together, especially by the Coastal Zone Management Authority involving the Forestry Department is one to question. First of all, Coastal Zone Management does not even have a boat to enforce the law. The Forestry Department do not go to coastal areas, as they deal more with matters deep in the forest, looking after the rosewood and mahogany. It is not that they do not want to, but the fact is that they have very limited resources. What we argue is that, if there is not sufficient man power or resources, then this plan of action for the sustainability of our coastal areas will simply not work, since there will be no adequate enforcement. A good example is all the massive construction happening on our island, mangroves are being cut left, right and center and the dredging is destroying the sea grass beds. There is not one coastal zone or forestry officer enforcing any law,” stated Leslie. The only solution Leslie believes will make this program work is the increase of man power and resources for the respective agencies, such as the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, Forestry and Fisheries department.

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