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#512313 - 03/11/16 11:40 AM Eco Audit on MBRS says Belize Improving
Marty Offline
Every two years, marine conservation groups get together to conduct an eco-audit of the Mesoamerican Reef System. There have been 3 eco-audits done to look at what Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, have done to improve or worsen the health and sustainability of the Barrier Reef.

Today, the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative released the 2016 Eco-Audit, and it shows that once again, Belize has been making incremental progress. In 2014, the audit gave Belize a grade 57%, and this time around, Belize got a 68%. That's still a C, but the experts say that it's a lot to be proud of since Belize remains a trend-setter when it comes to Marine resources management. Here's an excerpt from the presenters on the findings of the Eco-Audit:

Dr. Melanie McField - Director, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People
"For this year we have 62% overall. So we are really continuing to get up there. We are still in that fair range. The marine protected areas is high. The research and education is high and the same to private sector and very lowest ones, sewage and sanitation. And that something we are going to talk about more I think in the Belize section where we really need to bring other players to the table, because its not necessarily this set of people that we collaborate with day to day that can fix the sewage and sanitation problems."

Roberto Pott, Belize Coordinator, Healthy Reefs
"We are in the 60's, we might be comfortable with that, but I don't want us to become complacent. There is lot of work to be done. But it's looking promising. We'll probably get a good grade next report card. But it's not about the grade, it's about what we see happen on the ground and ensuring that we benefit from it, Belizeans benefit and our economic development."

"It's important that Belizeans know that we are the trendsetters. Sometimes we are very hard on ourselves saying that everything that comes to Belize we break up, but we've done well when it comes to the management our resources and we've put in place the regulations. We have management presence out in the marine areas as so we've done well. When we look at the teams related to marine protected areas and ecosystem based fisheries management. What we need to follow through is some of the land-based issues; sewage management. That's a burning issue for Belize and it's becoming more expensive as we developed further and so it's important that we try and find creative solutions to those now. So we are doing well. I mean, we are getting a passing mark. We are leading the region. But this is not about the grade. This is about trying to ensure that we have access to those resources and we continue to benefit with the development in Belize that depend on those very coral reef resources."

Is Belize Reef Doing Ok?

As you heard, the purpose of these assessments is to ensure the long-term viability of the reef system for future generations. But, is Belize's barrier reef actually healthy? Here's how he answered that:

Roberto Pott, Belize Coordinator, Healthy Reefs
"There was a global alert towards the end of 2015 and we were concerned that we were going to see some of the same die-offs that we saw in the early 2000 late 90's and so we are happy to report that it wasn't as severe, but we are still continuing to monitor the situation. Climate change is now a reality and we have to be able to monitor the impact that its having and report back to those who could make the decisions to change and make changes."

Daniel Ortiz
"What are some of the more prominent threats to the coral system in Belize, the Barrier Reef System?"

Roberto Pott, Belize Coordinator, Healthy Reefs
"Well we've seen a lot of fleshly macro agro growth, which is an indicator that we have a lot of nutrients moving into the water that comes from the need for better sewage management, better management of our water sheds. But we are seeing a lot of coastal developments as well and we've had movements with the coastal zone plan and so we need to follow through on that plan. So we are seeing where we understand that there is a need for development and there are issues like global climate change that we can't really addressed locally, but we need to be able to weather the storm and prepare for it."

The conservationists say that the 2018 Eco-Audit, should yield even better results than this current audit, given that the same sort of progress from the past 2 years continues. That's because there were some major actions taken just a few weeks after the period that this audit reviewed.

Channel 7


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#512355 - 03/13/16 11:32 AM Re: Eco Audit on MBRS says Belize Improving [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Belize leads in 2016 Mesoamerican Eco-Audit

In commemoration of Mesoamerican Reef Day 2016 and as a highlight of Reef Week, the 2016 Eco-Audit of the Mesoamerican Reef was launched this morning at the Radisson Fort George Hotel in Belize City. It was a particularly momentous occasion for Belize, which again leads with the best results in the audit and which also has the largest portion of the reef system under its national jurisdiction.

Roberto Pott, Belize coordinator for the Health Reef Initiative, which is responsible for coordinating the audit in collaboration with over 60 partners, pointed out that there has always been a debate and even criticism over the talk of a Mesoamerican reef as opposed to the Belize Barrier Reef. The Belize reef system enjoys international acclaim as the largest in the hemisphere and it has since 1996 been designated as a World Heritage Site.

However, its proximity to and connectedness with reefs in neighboring countries—namely Mexico in the north and Honduras and Guatemala in the south—underscores the need for a more regional approach to tackling threats to the reef.

“Some of these issues are trans-boundary; some of the nutrients that we see coming into our waters are coming from across the border and then we are starting to see fishers coming from across the border, so if we get our partners from across border lines to start dealing with the same issues, it will be in Belize’s interest,” Pott argued.

The eco-audit looks at regional progress on achieving 28 management recommendations across 7 key themes which cover areas such as marine protected areas, fisheries, sanitation, and sustainability in the private sector.


Roberto Pott on Mesoamerican Reef concept

Dr. Melanie McField, director of the Healthy Reef Initiative, said that the overall regional score for 2016 is 62%. This represents an improvement over the score in the last audit in 2014, which stood at 57%, as well as the first eco-audit in 2011, for which the region received a score of 54%. Although the regional score has improved, only 3 of 28 recommendations have been fully implemented.

“We don’t want this to take the next 20 years and at the rate it’s going, that’s what it’s going to take,” said McField.

While the strongest regional performance was seen with research, education and awareness at 88%, with Belize earning a maximum of 100%; the lowest regional performance was seen with sanitation and sewage treatment at a dismal 47%, and Belize earning 60%.


We asked McField: who needs to act to address the challenges in dealing with sewage and sanitation? She said that the solution would be the establishment of a taskforce with some of the conservation groups, and entities such as the Environmental Research Institute (University of Belize), the Department of the Environment, Public Health authorities and the Belize Water Services Limited.

“They’ve all got to come together and look at what can be done in what time frame,” she said, underscoring the need to get the key players who can make things happen around the same table.

McField said that sometimes it boils down to money. In Belize, proposals to establish infrastructure to improve sewage and sanitation have been met with financial obstacles—just as in Honduras. In certain countries, changes in political administrations have also slowed down the implementation of the recommendations.


Dr. Melanie McField from Amandala Press

Of note is that Belize attained the highest score at the national level, at 68%. Mexico was second with 64%, Honduras third with 60% and Guatemala last with 54%.

McField said that while Belize was only able to record improvements in 4 areas for this eco-audit, as compared with 9 for Honduras, the country should see an even better result at the next eco-audit due in two years, because of a decision to roll out managed access programs in fisheries and the recent adoption of a coastal zone management plan.

The main area where Belize lags behind is in fostering sustainability on the private sector front. Pott said that he has heard from the private sector that they don’t get the support they would like from Government, although businesses are supposed to benefit from tax breaks for green energy investments. The industry says that the incentives are not enough and they might argue that they can do similar investments at a lower cost for the initial set-up. He pointed to projects by hoteliers in places such as Yucatan, Cancun, who, he said, have shown the willingness to make the investment because of the huge gains in the long-term. Belize, he said, should follow suit. He hopes that incentives will come on-stream to foster private sector participation.

Whereas Belize’s best score—74%—is for the establishment of marine protected areas, Pott noted that areas under protection should be expanded. While 4% of coastal areas are locked off from fishing, that needs to be improved to 10%, which, he said, is needed to be able to restock fisheries.

“I am hoping that we get there…” he commented.

“I don’t want us to become complacent. There is a lot of work to be done but it’s looking promising. We’ll probably get a good grade next report card,” Pott said.

“We really have to grab the shovels and start digging in…,” he urged.

Amandala


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