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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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by Mike Campbell, longtime resident of San Pedro

In the not to distant past San Pedro was a small fishing village. There were many lobster and plenty of fish of all kinds. Because of the vast amount of fish and lobster San Pedro and the reef were "discovered" and people started to come to San Pedro for the fishing. They stayed here a few nights, went fishing, met the friendly Islanders and returned home to spread the word. This helped San Pedro a lot.

Money was circulating as it had not in the past. The life of a fisherman is hard and except for the lobster it did not really pay well, but it seemed almost everyone benefited in some way from our visitors. As a community it was agreed that we should focus on tourism as the fishing industry appeared to be declining. This started the development of the Island and accelerated the hotel and tourism industry as a whole. As more and more people came the condo industry was started and bars and restaurants flourished, all of course owned by local folk who really appreciated the chance to make a better life for themselves. After all that is what development is all about. The government seeing this, designated Marine Protected Areas and Hol Chan to protect and enhance the fledgeling tourism industry which was based on the snorkelers and divers who came. This was necessary to protect certain areas from the fishermen who seemed intent on its destruction by overfishing.

In our zeal to prosper and develop we are forgetting why we are now in this position and why so many developers wish to participate. First thing we must admit is that the developers are here only to make money. They believe they can do so based on the amount of people coming here and the potential of much more tourism in the future. They are willing to ask for any environmental concessions we will grant. Of course the community does benefit in a large way from the construction and we all welcome it.

Now we are systematically dredging the coastline of San Pedro all the while admitting that it is prime habitat for baby lobster, sport fish and adult and juvenile marine animals of an incredibly diverse nature. We are doing this in the name of progress and development with part of the justification being we are not a fishing village any more, we are a tourist destination and need to allow this to happen to accommodate construction.

The most important factor in converting this construction activity into sustainable development is to understand why people come here. In a word its the FISH! Just as it always has been. People come to either see the fish, catch the fish and/or eat the fish and others come to make money from those who come to see or catch the fish. We speak of the Reef as if it were holy and it is. It is holy because it is habitat to all the fish and marine animals that attract our visitors. Were there no fish the reef would not be very interesting at all and no one would come. It is clearly the fish that make the difference but without the reef there would be no fish or San Pedro for that matter.

Another justification of the dredging along the east coast is the Town Council's need for sand fill for the roads as they get a percentage of the dredged material. Of course we do need roads and road maintenance in the worst way and the Town Council is willing to sacrifice the environment for this purpose. This rings very hollow.

The San Pedro Town Council and the Minister of Tourism are the darlings of the UDP unquestionably. I do not understand why they do not DEMAND from central government our fair share. We all know that San Pedro pays for many of the bills of the country as a whole and we are glad we play an important role in the economy of our nation. We do however except to get our fair share of the budget. We have no Ministry of Works here, where is our share of that budget? That's where our roads are supposed to come from, not from grinding up the very thing that has brought us the prosperity of the last twenty years.

There is a published an average of 300 police per person in Belize. That being said we should have 40 officers on the Island all the time. Why don't our elected officials do something about it? We were all very happy when we thought that the power of the Town Council and our Rep could be finally brought to bear for the good of the Town. How wrong we were.

In years gone by what dredging that was permitted on the east coast was required to be no closer than 300 feet and usually farther from the shore. Please remember that when you dredge the shallows you not only grind up the habitat that WE require to survive but you also grind up all the baby lobster and small creatures that get in the way. Then we spread it on our roads where it washes away with the first rain. Dredging in the shallows also produces much more slit and sedimentation that when reaching the reef attaches to the living coral suffocating it damaging that environment as well.

As a Town we are more dependent on the health of our fish and marine life than ever. Without protecting these critical resources they will be destroyed by greedy developers. After the fish are gone the tourists will no longer come. San Pedro is no longer a fishing village living by killing fish. We are a growing Town that has become a major tourist destination with our attraction being the fish and diverse marine life that depend on this habitat to survive. A habitat that we should strive to protect as a nonrenewable and very fragile resource. A responsible developer would not even consider dredging the east coast and certainly not the shallows.

Nationally we have passed a Catch and Release Law aimed at developing our game fish/tourism industry while the San Pedro Town Council, with full knowledge of what they are doing, systematically destroys the habit of the species we are nationally trying to protect and develop as a renewable resource. This is done with the knowledge and agreement of the Department of Environment and I assume Fisheries as well. Ambergris Caye and its lagoons is the primary bonefish habitat in Belize and is far more valuable than a few yards of sand.

Dredging is not always bad. There are many areas that can be dredged for the benefit of all an example being the river. San Mateo could certainly use the fill and the river needs to be deeper. Using dredging on the west coast of North Ambergris Caye to enhance development of residential areas to take development pressure off San Pedro is another example of responsible use of dredging in a less sensitive area. This is opposed to allowing dredging for rich investor/developers in super sensitive areas that irreversibly destroy the environment that supports us all.

Of all our Town Councilors and Mayor, Joe Elijio alone stands as a voice for conserving our future. He is committed to our fight with the Town Council and Area Rep to restore conservation as a major factor in our development decisions. Joe believes that more public consultation would have avoided these very problems and realizes that the way of the past cannot be the way of the future. He deserves our support and thanks for his stand and we hope other Councilors will also realize that we must change and join our fight. We can all work together to find better solutions to our problems through consultation and cooperation.

Remember: NO FISH = NO TOWN

Joined: Apr 2010
Posts: 57
Mike, it is a great post and I agree with you. On your last paragraph though, I beg to disagree because I have never seen or heard Joe speak or comment about anything publicly or privately, when it comes to conservation as a major factor in our development . The last time we saw him he was on a video selling G.B.E. lands for David Mitchell.

Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 610
Thanks Ecoman, The master plan discussions and road use by big trucks in my area put me together with Joe again and we have had some very good discussions about our future direction. During one of these meetings I showed him the message board over Sea Trek and he was very enlightened as to what public opinion was of the Town Board and the project. A few days later the project was rejected by the Town Council. I made Joe aware of my last article on dredging and he presented it to the town council last week at the meeting concerning dredging where they vowed to continue. Joe has come to realize that our position of advocating sustainable development is not only admirable but also feasible. Joe told me that he was willing to go on record as being against the Town Council dredging decisions and wants to address the issues of the major developments and subdivisions as well. He was given a copy of this editorial before Marty published it and he agreed to it. I am hoping that we will all continue to press these issues and get more converts to our position.
It must be a hard decision to go on record as being against your fellow Town Councilors and Area Rep. I believe he is sincere and can be a big asset in our fight to save the island. Sometimes explaining things clearly works. We have also discussed GBE and the other projects and are trying to formulate a reasonable position for the master plan. We must do something to take some of the development pressure off San Pedro Town. All help will be appreciated and all ideas listened to. The message board is more important than some realize. I rarely post but always read as do many others.

Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 724
I think this is the best post I've ever read. There have been several great ones, but this one is truly special. Thank you for the thoughtfulness, accuracy and for so coherently stating what many of have been thinking!

Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 955
Yes I agree but its time for everyone to get together and take action.

Its time to make those that are in public office do the job they were elected to do.

They were voted in to be the voice of the people and act on the peoples behalf.

If they are not doing there job then resign and let someone in that will

It is no longer a case of red and blue anymore its a case of whats the best for the island.


Last edited by Gaz Cooper; 06/01/10 11:53 PM.
Joined: Apr 2010
Posts: 57
Mike,i have liked both articles and i certainly encourage you to put them in our local newspapers so that our entire populatiion can be informed.We need everybodys help cause our island, in my opinion ,cannot continue to grow this way.We have subdivisions like G.B.E. and Sugar Caye that are presently being sold or close to, that have by passed the laws of Belize, with our local politicians support of course, that without any planning will be a problem for this community in the not to distant future.The basic necessities that make this subdivisions prosper have not being included.We have schools that are OVERCROWDED,no sporting facilities ,parks, deplorable roads,no parking,no cemetery to bury our loved ones and the list goes on and yet our leaders continue to give us lip service when master plan comes around. The only football ''stadium;; that we have doesnt even have grass to play in or proper restrooms, WHAT A SHAME.We are killing the very reef that sustains all of us with all of this so called development projects. HOW SAD. The big fight in front of us presently will be the oil exploration that has been approved by G.O.B. Oil exploration very near Ambergris Caye, as the contract says,wake up San Pedro.

Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 1,206
You really have a way with words, Mike! I am fairly new to the Island (2.5 yrs), but often feel that we are heading in the wrong direction relative to crime control, real estate development, and environmental protection.

Perhaps the powers that be could ask the following question prior to each development consideration:

What is the best thing for the FISH? It may be the single best way to decide the "good of the whole"....

I also agree with your comments relative to the country of Belize and the obvious lack of support services for our Island. This is inexcusable and our leaders truly must step up to the plate and properly represent the needs of the people (and fish of course!).

Thanks so much for all of your continued efforts to communicate and inform us of these issues!

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