ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP FORMED ON AMBERGRIS CAYE
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 firstname.lastname@example.org The Reporter