NOVA Shrimp Hatchery Protest

It wasn't environmentalists and Area Representative Patty Arceo but it was the majority of San Pedro's concerned island community, tired of NOVA SHRIMP Companies' continued breach of our environmental laws and standards on North Ambergris which prompted the recent movement by the citizenry to temporarily stop the hasty works to build a jetty to facilitate a 12" flush pipe from NOVAS two stage settling ponds to the reef

In our diagram enclosed, we illustrate the extent of the proposed development of NOVA'S hatchery. As our readers will note the proposed site coverage of this development covers more than 50% of the total site in an area that is most ecologically sensitive. Note that the (2) two stage settling ponds were created by dynamiting through the rock stratum. This dynamiting has been ongoing since the approval "in principle" was given by the Fisheries Department and ousted U. D.P. ex-mayor Manuel Heredia Jr. a year and 1/2 ago.

We are not against development but we certainly are concerned when the future of our community is at stake. Just as recently as last week NOVA rushed two sets of plans drawn by Rojas Schulz & Nelder dated 9/9/97 and the other as recent as 1998 showing the proposed development. The Ambergris Caye Planning Committee has categorically denied having on record any approved plans by this authority for this development to take place. According to the Ambergris Caye Planning Committee this area falls within the jurisdiction of the Ambergris Caye Master Plan and therefore, a development approval should have been sought from the previous U.D.P. administration. The Ambergris Caye Planning Committee has no approved plans on record granted to NOVA and as recently as May 4, 1999 NOVA or its representatives would not come up with any documentation to prove otherwise.

Our readers will note on the diagram enclosed, the proximity of a 12- "flush" pipe to the reef. The jetty may be temporary but no one knows the long term effects that the discharge of the effluents being dumped into our pristine barrier reef daily will have.

By his own admission Mr. James Hyde agreed using dynamite to blast some ,small holes in the seabed to facilitate digging. Mr. Hyde would not admit that there was any damage to the reef. Did he put on a mask and scuba gear to verify this? What about the long time environmental and economic effects this action will have to our reef and beautiful island? Do we want Ambergris Caye to turn a "shrimp" swimming up-stream or do we want to maintain a sustainable tourist industry for our children and other generations to come.

The jetty as the diagram depicts shows how the currents move in that area. It does not matter whether the wind is east, west, north or south, that particular area is geologically unique and the currents move in an easterly direction outwards towards the reef. As our useful diagram shows again the shoreline is approximately 600' from the reef. The Basil Jones "cut" move current outwards as shown. The "flush" pipe as shown on the diagram is extend into the Caribbean Sea outwards 300' to the reef.

Since we don't have access to NOVA's environmental studies, we understand that discharge of rich nutrients will be pumped into "cenotes" which are natural fresh water points and thus, changing their Eco-system forever. These "cenotes" connect to other wells in the sea and elsewhere on the island and advise any potential investor who is not sure or aware of our development standards to contact the Chairman of the Ambergris Caye Planning Committee at 226-2903 for advice. There are procedures and standards to go by and if developers would follow these standards, then situations like these would be prevented.

/s/ PUP Executive Committee San Pedro

Green Reef gives view
We, at Green Reef, are writing this letter because of the recent interest in our role in the dredging activity of San Pedro and the NOVA shrimp hatchery in the Basil Jones area. We think it's important for Green Reef to clarify our stance and to address individuals who feel we haven't been strong enough in protecting the environment.

First of all, Green Reef is not a regulator or watchdog organization. However, our function is to: positively raise the importance of conservation efforts in the public eye, educate the public on good conservation practices; raise awareness of environmental issues; and when possible. facilitate effective and beneficial problem solving related to environmental and development concerns.

In the past. related to dredging, Green Reef has taken a stand that it is in favor of such projects when two requirements are met. First, the projects must benefit San Pedro and' the country of Belize, and secondly, the projects must be done correctly in an environmentally compatible, socially appropriate, and fiscally responsible manner.

Green Reef has taken it upon itself to investigate concerns that are reported directly to the NGO. An example of this type of interaction is a recent visit to NOVA shrimp hatchery upon hearing reports of possible environmentally damaging activity. We first received reports from one of the tourist guides and it's only in this way that Green Reef knows what's going on out there because we don't have the money or personnel to police. We depend on community help and support and we would like to thank the community because we have been well supported.

Green Reef is continually involved, in educational and public awareness efforts. Examples of recent activities include the Reef Festival, an educational program with the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and hosting a group of U.S. Congressional staff involving the promotion of local GEF and UNDP funded projects. Additionally, Green Reef is also an active member of BACONGO (Belize Alliance of Conservation Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations) and regularly interacts with governmental agencies concerning local, projects.

Green Reef, as mentioned before, is active in its role as a facilitator for problem solving. And in its role, wishes to generate this letter. With elections approaching, there have been a number of politically generated comments related to the dredging and closure of NOVA. Articles and letters have appeared in the local paper, as well as in the Amandala, and a good deal of finger pointing and defensive, posturing has occurred. It is our view that such finger pointing and defensiveness is not productive to addressing and solving real issues. It should be noted that we all bear some blame. but more importantly, will have to live with the consequences of these actions, both individually and collectively.

NOVA knows what the correct regulations are, and yet has never chosen to do appropriate environmental studies, continued monitoring, or paid attention to the correct process. If they had, the closure never would have taken place. Since NOVA had begun and continued to operate during the governmental change, it is true that none of the appropriate regulatory agencies under either government have required NOVA to comply. Moreover, this incident occurred at a World Heritage site and Fisheries has rangers who are supposed to monitor the area. but they claim they did not out the activity. Why didn't Fisheries, of all organizations, know? At this point, we are left saying "the damage is done and let's hurry up and fix it before more damage is done," without asking if this action is appropriate. At what point do we say enough is enough and force individuals to pay for these violations? During the dredging to reclaim the beach, many organizations and governmental agencies gave input as to how the dredging was to be accomplished. These recommendations were not followed. Every time dredging is mentioned, so is the use of a silt curtain and sea walls. San Pedro itself has had a problem with regulations on the construction of piers and docks. And Green Reef is said to not be vocal enough?

The bottom line is that we should all stop pointing fingers and solve the problem by doing the correct thing. We have a process, so let's use it and enforce it. Instead of pointing fingers and arguing among ourselves as some might perceive this letter to be, why don't we forget whose fault it is, and work together to fix this issue. In this way. we can prevent future violations and continually improve our process. The parties need to come together and solve the problem correctly. Green Reef, for one, Would be more than willing to help facilitate this type of interaction.

/s/ Green Reef
San Pedro Town

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