Belize has 103 areas all around the country which enjoy environmental protection. 69 of them are protected areas, and the rest are archaeological reserves, bird sanctuaries, and spawning aggregation sites. But did you know about them before? If the answer is “no”, then the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development has launched a campaign to inform you about the importance of these areas, which make up a network called the National Protected Areas System, or NPAS, for short.

Now, branding, or re-branding usually is commonly used in business when referring to the process of creating and recreating a unique name image of a product in the consumers’ mind. The Ministry has decided to adopted it to protected areas because they want the average citizen to reconsider the importance the NPAS and the reasons that they should do all they can to preserve and keep them in their pristine, untouched states.

Today, the Ministry held a re-branding campaign today at the Radisson Hotel, and 7News attended. The Chair of the National Protected Areas Technical Committee explained how important this exercise is to the Belizean identity:

Wilbur Sabido - Chair, National Protected Areas Technical Committee
"With over 27% of our national territory under protection, we're bound to stumble upon a protected area on land or in the sea. Protected areas are therefore interwoven into our 'Belizeanness', the same as rice and beans. Protected areas for instance, who wouldn't recognize the mighty and impressive natural feature, that atoll known as the Blue Hole Natural Monument as wholly Belizean, and one we readily and proudly identify as part of our natural heritage? Admittedly, though, we have done a very poor job at raising the profile of protected areas in Belize. We have also faltered at actively promoting the responsible use of our natural resources within protected areas. And while as Belizeans, we need to rationalize that delicate balance we need to achieve through responsible use of our natural capital, we also need to mainstream the invaluable importance of protected areas to Belize's national and economic development."

Hon. Lisel Alamilla - Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development
"The branding campaign represents a significant step, not only towards implementation of the systems plan, but also towards advancing our commitments under the convention of biological diversity, the CBD's. The program of work and protected, it is designed to achieve the CBD's program of work goal 3.5, which is to strengthen communication, education, and public awareness of the benefits of protected areas."

One of the first misconceptions that the Ministry of FFSD wants to change is that protected areas are totally off-limits when it comes to productivity. They say that prevalent idea is that, for example in forest reserves, absolutely no sort of logging takes place, and when it is spotted, it is supposed to be treated as illegal activity. They say that it is done but in a controlled manner so that the reserve can be replenished. Fishing permits are granted to some fishermen to operate in marine reserves, but they also have to abide by very strict rules, and they must also respect the off-season that the Government and co-managers set in place to preserve it.

Channel 7