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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,392
Marty Offline OP
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ACCSD New Project on Protected Areas
Proposed Bajos Marine Reserve

The Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development Executive Committee would like to inform the public of the current project that the group is working on.  Their first meeting for this project was held in July and its objective was to create the Ambergris Caye Wetlands Management Committee. The ACCSD along with other organizations including Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Tour Guide Association, BTIA, San Pedro Business Association, Green Reef, and the ACLBA came together to form the Ambergris Caye Wetlands Committee. The ACWC's goal is to be able to create protected areas which will be the future of our young generation and for the betterment of our island. Through this committee and with your support we will be able to accomplish this and make it a success! The proposed protected areas are as follows:

Mexico Rock's Marine - total proposed area 8.75sq miles
This new area will be an exclusive recreational area. On the map we can identify the red lining as the NO TAKE ZONE and the blue lining is the General Use Zone.  Access will be given to the traditional users for them to continue their usual activities.  This is to benefit both fishermen and tourist guides.  The size of the of the NO TAKE ZONE is proposed to be 1.5 sq. miles (1 mile running along the reef and 1.5 miles running east to west from the outer fore - reef.).  

Bajos Proposed Marine Reserve - total proposed area 350 sq kilometers
The Bajos proposed area is designated as a marine reserve with zoning for catch and release fishing.  A possible area is being studied at the moment for extracting dredge material. The proposed site encompasses a total area of 130 sq. miles of shallow semi contained marine bay called the Corozal Bay. This area includes nine small islands and five shoals which are vital habitats for the islands fisheries for schooling tarpon, permit and bonefish which are key target species for sport fishermen.  

Cayo Frances/Mata Frances Lagoon
This is proposed area will be a National Park and will encompass the Cayo Frances and Mata Lagoons. This area has served as the route for the annual Reef /Lagoon Eco-challenge and recreational uses including catch and release sport fishing. This area will give proper conservation initiative to protect the few remaining tracts of mangrove wetlands.

This concept paper was presented to the Hon. Min. Manuel Heredia Jr. last week and he is in full support for these projects.  Amendments will be made to the areas so that we are able to finalize the concept.  Presently, the Minister is in the process of submitting the copies of the concept paper to the relevant Ministries for consultation.  It has been agreed that a Public consultation will be held on January 05, 2012 to present the concept paper to the local community for their input.

Proposed Mexico Rocks Marine Reserve

Cayo/Mata Frances Wetlands


  • Conservation Initiative 2011.docx - on Dec 28, 2011 4:17 PM by Citizen Ambergris (version 1)
    16k View Download
  • Mata Cayo Frances Proposed National Park Concept Paper.pdf - on Dec 28, 2011 4:57 PM by Citizen Ambergris (version 1)
    461k View Download
  • Mexico Rocks Marine Reserve Concept Paper Draft Nov. 03, 2011.pdf - on Dec 28, 2011 4:56 PM by Citizen Ambergris (version 1)
    293k View Download
  • Proposed Bajos Marine Reserve Concept Paper.docx - on Dec 29, 2011 6:59 AM by Citizen Ambergris (version 1)
    443k View Download

Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 24
The press release and full concept paper can be viewed on the ACCSD site . www.accsdbelize

Amendments will be made to this document as we move along this consultative process. The first Public consultation will be held on January 05, 2012 at the Lions Den at 6pm. Please come and participate in this process.

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 732
I hope that people take the time to support/recognize just what truly HUGE steps in the right direction for EVERYONE on the island these three projects are. Way to go ACCSD and all involved.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,392
Marty Offline OP
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A new environmental advocacy group has been formed on Ambergris Caye with an aim to protect its coastal resources. Public consultations will begin in the first week of January.

Maria Novelo reporting�
"The newly formed Ambergris Caye Wetlands Committee is in the first stages of launching its conservation initiative for 2011 with its conceptual plan to acquire protected status for three areas on Ambergris Caye. The wetlands committee is comprised of the Ambergris Caye citizens for sustainable development, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, San Pedro Tour Guide Association, Green Reef and the business community partners. The aim is to conduct a public consultation process that will allow sustainable management of our coastal resources. In a press release from the Wetlands Committee, it stated the proposed sites for protected status including, Mexico Rocks Marine which comprises of 8.75 square miles, Bajos Proposed Marine Reserve spanning 135 square miles and Cayo Frances adjoining the Mata Frances Lagoon. While the committee's spokesperson declined an interview, Love News understands that this was done so as to not confuse the public of their efforts without holding a proper public consultation to acquire the concerns from the residents in this municipality. While still in its conceptual stage, the release states that the paper was presented to the Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia Junior on December 15th where it was reported that he was in support of the initiative. The release ended stating that the Minister is in the process of submitting the copies of the concept paper to the relevant Ministries for consultation. It has been agreed by all the parties involved that a Public consultation will be held on January 05, 2012 at the Lion's Den at 6pm to present the concept paper to the local community for their input."



Sanpedranos propose 3 new MPAs

Concerned citizens of San Pedro Town and Ambergris Caye have proposed that the Government of Belize should create three new Marine Protected Areas: the Mexico Rocks Marine Reserve, Bajos Marine Reserve and the Mata/Cayo Frances National Park.

They formed the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development group, which held its first public consultation at the Lion's Den in San Pedro Town on Thursday evening, January 5.

They wish to include as many interested parties as possible and welcome anyone who may contribute creative and meaningful ideas to improve this effort. These citizens recognize the importance of tourism and sustainable fisheries to the island's economy, and they want to protect what they have as responsible stewards with proper planning, without compromising the livelihood of future generations.

To this end, they have prepared three concept papers, one for each of the proposed protected areas. In preparing their proposals, they collaborated with other organizations such as the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the San Pedro Tour Guide Association, the local chapter of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (B.T.I.A.), the San Pedro Business Association, the conservation NGO Green Reef, and the ACLBA. Together they have formed the Ambergris Caye Wetlands Committee.

The committee's goal is to facilitate the process to create a protected areas network in Ambergris Caye so as to guarantee sustainable management of the island's coastal resources for future generations and for the betterment of the island.

At Mexico Rocks, they propose to create a Marine protected area measuring 8.75sq miles, which will be an exclusively recreational area. It will have and a zone for general use and a No Take Zone measuring 1.5 sq. miles (1 mile along the reef by 1.5 miles running east to west from the outer fore - reef).

The idea is for the No Take Zone to serve as a nursery to ensure the sustainability of the areas where the traditional users will continue to have access for their usual activities. This arrangement will benefit fishermen and tour guides.

At Bajos, they propose to create a Marine Reserve measuring 135 sq miles of shallow semi contained marine shoals called the Corozal Bay. The Bajos area would be designated as a marine reserve with zoning for catch and release fishing. This area includes nine small islands and five shoals which are vital habitats for the islands' fisheries for schooling tarpon, permit and bonefish, which are key target species for sport fishermen.

The citizens group also wishes to create a National Park encompassing the Cayo Frances and Mata Lagoons. The area has been the route for the annual Reef /Lagoon Eco-challenge. It also has recreational use for catch and release sport fishing. Proper management of this area would also protect the few remaining mangrove wetlands on the island.

The citizens group presented their concept paper to their area representative, Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. on December 15. He has expressed full support for the project and is in the process of submitting the copies of the concept paper to the relevant ministries for consultation.

The citizens' group has an executive committee chaired by Elito Arceo, with Miguel Alamilla of Hol Chan Marine Reserve as Vice Chair. Other members include Chris Beaumont, the secretary; Sarah Dalsin, the group's treasurer; Chair of Media/Communications committee, Catherine Paz; Chair of Education/Community committee, Kirah Foreman; Chair of the Fundraising committee - Sarah Dalsin; Co-Chairs of Program committee - Miguel Alamilla/Chris Beaumont; and Directors: Billy Leslie, Rebeca Arceo, Mito Paz, Abner Marin, Kevin Gonzalez and Ernesto Gomez.

Approximately 60% of overnight tourist arrivals to Belize visit Ambergris Caye, which is marketed as an eco-tourism destination. This makes it one of the most important tourist destinations in the country, but this success has attracted mega-developments to the island that do not mesh really well with the principles of ecotourism.

The concerned citizens now see this uncontrolled development as threatening the long-term health of the neighboring coral reefs and associated ecosystems. This would impact many locals whose livelihood depends on a healthy coastal and marine environment.

A case in point is the proposed South Beach Mega development, which the citizens see as being inconsistent with sustainable tourism. The development proposes to alter over 500 acres of perfectly healthy and productive mangrove wetlands.

The developers of this project would ignore the vital role the mangrove plays by providing a habitat and nursery for many species of fish and invertebrates; serving as a breakwater that dissipate wave energy and help stabilize the shoreline; and filtering nutrients and pollutants that would otherwise contaminate the reef. South Beach is also very close to Hol Chan, which is important to the island's economy, today and in the future.

The citizens group may be contacted at: 226-2799 or by email at [email protected]

The Reporter

Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 610
This is a very important step in the right direction. We must recognize the uniqueness of North Ambergris Caye and its environmental sensitivity. All these wetlands and reserves both proposed and existing need to be written into the master plan in a manor so that the development regulations in these areas be adhered to both by the development community and by the government without fail. This is extremely important to the future of the Island.
Mexico Rocks has long cried out for protection. Hol Chan has proven their abilities to manage marine resources and I am confident that they can absorb Mexico Rocks into their system without too much trouble.
This is truly great news. Congratulations to all concerned, way to go!

Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 13,675
A little early for congratulations.
Nothing has happened here but yet another committee has been formed. I'm all for the Reserve idea but try and keep your feet on the ground.
This Mexico Rock Reserve idea comes up every few years, everyone says 'Great idea!' and nothing happens but more mangroves are cut, more dredging occurs and more permits go out for developments.
sorry to be the skeptic but someone needs to point this out to everyone patting themselves on their back that nothing has changed.

White Sands Dive Shop
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 5,563
I hope that everyone that is running for office attends this meeting on the 5th.

Take only pictures leave only bubbles
Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 610
The congratulations are for the effort and work that has been put forth. It seems it is getting a positive reception from the government and if we all support it and concentrate on its strengths rather than weaknesses we may get it passed into law.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,392
Marty Offline OP
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AC Wetlands Committee receives unanimous support

The Ambergris Caye Wetland Committee is moving fast with their concept plan to have three areas off and on Ambergris Caye declared as reserves. Along with public consultation with stakeholders, policy makers at the executive and ministerial levels are working on the concept document which will see three areas; Mexico Rock's Marine Reserve, Bajos proposed Marine Reserve and Mata/Cayo Frances lagoons declared as reserves within two months. Unlike the opposition the Hol Chan Marine Reserve received when it was first proposed back in the late 1980's, the ACWC received unanimous support from the attendees of the Thursday, January 5th public presentation at the Lion's Den.

The smallest of the three proposed areas will be the Mexico Rock's Marine Reserve. This particular area starts north of the Palmero Channel area, runs five miles south to Mata Channel and 1.5 miles wide for a total of 8.75sq miles. It is proposed that the reserve will begin at the coastline sea grass bed area and extend east to where the reef shelf drops off. A "no-take" zone is designated in the middle of the perimeter, which is currently used for recreational activities. The size of the no take zone is proposed to be 1.5 square miles (one mile running along the reef and 1.5 miles running east to west from the outer fore-reef). The no take area is positioned so that there is a 1.5 mile buffer on the north and south sides of the perimeter.

Should the proposed site be approved it will be managed as a marine reserve. Marine Reserves in Belize are used as fisheries management tools under the Fisheries and Marine Reserve Act. This means that those managing the reserve will have to identify traditional users into the statutory instrument governing the reserve. Once these traditional fishermen are identified they will be permitted to use the area. The proposed Mexico Rocks Marine Reserve will be managed by rangers with an agreed park fee.

The second area proposed is the mangrove wetlands area in the central part of Ambergris Caye. The document proposes that Mata and Cayo Frances lagoons be designated into a National Park. The southern border of this proposed national park is located three miles north of San Pedro Town.

According to ACWC, the proposed area is bordered by Social Security lands to the west, and hotel developments on the coastal dunes of the windward side of the island. For the most part, the area is considered Government Land. The site is dominated with inundated wetland with several inner island lagoons interconnected by a network of channels that are highly influenced by tidal exchanges of water that transport sediments, nutrients and many species throughout the system. The proposed area also entails many sink holes that lead into an extensive array of underwater caverns that are yet to be explored. The area is also rich in flora and fauna and has been used as hunting grounds by many locals.

While there was no opposition to the concept, a few residents were concerned about the path of the proposed national park where it borders the hotel developments and private properties. Residents suggested that a buffer zone be included to discourage major and large development along the shared border line.

According to the ACWC, they are working very closely with private property owners in establishing the area as a national park without any major setbacks or opposition. In an interview with Hol Chan manager Miguel Alamilla, who is part of ACWC, Alamilla explained that a management document will detail how they plan to deal with developments, landowners and management of the proposed national park. Should the proposed wetlands protected area be given the green light; it will be managed as a National Park to be established under the National Park System Act of the laws of Belize. This will mean that nothing will be allowed to be extracted from the area, however recreational usage such as catch and release sport fishing will be encouraged in the lagoon section.

The largest of the three proposed area is the Bajos Conservation Area. The proposed Bajos Marine Protected Area is located between the southern portion of western Ambergris Caye and mainland Belize. It is bordered by the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary on the north and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve on the far south-eastern end.

The proposed site has a total area of 135 square miles including the shallow, semi-contained marine bay called the Corozal Bay. A total of nine small islands are found within this site. Also of significance are five shoals associated with these islands. These shoals are important habitat for schooling tarpon, permit and bonefish which are key target species for fly fishermen.

According to the Minister of Tourism Hon. Manuel Heredia, already the Government of Belize has reacquired two of the Los Salones islands from private developers along with shoals around the general area. When established as a marine reserve it will be managed similar to the proposed Mexico Rock's Marine Reserve. The proposed protected areas will physically link all the northern marine protected areas, thus creating a biological corridor. The biological corridor will see El Sancturio del Manatee along the Belize-Mexico Border up to Xcalack, Mexico, Arecefe de Xcalak, Corozal Wild Life Sanctuary, Hol Chan Marine Reserve and the three proposed protected areas.

The consultation had representation from a wide cross-section of the San Pedro community including business owners, developers, land owners, fishermen, tour guides and politicians. With no major opposition from the citizens of Ambergris Caye the proposed protected areas are expected to get the green light from the Government of Belize. Minister Heredia said that he has gotten full endorsement from the relative ministers during a Cabinet meeting. Heredia explained that the technical people in the relevant departments are finalizing the documents which should be ready and approved by government within two months.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun

Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 13,675

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