Caye Caulker residents weigh in on the impacts from the Caye Chapel Development

The massive development at the island of Caye Chapel, which its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), is yet to be approved by the Department of Environment (DOE), has Caye Caulker residents very concerned. The development group on Caye Chapel are proposing to build a US$250 million 5-star resort over the next four years that will include an extended airstrip, brand new buildings along with a beach reclamation project and over the water structures. The developers are expecting to create as many as 500 jobs during the construction phase and even though they intend to take into consideration the traditional territorial fishing right of local fishermen, these are still not par with the development.

Many of the residents in Caye Caulker expressed that they are not against development, but what does not sit well with them is the intentions to manipulate the natural environment. Fishermen and tour guides are against the dredging that is expected to take place around Caye Chapel. Longtime fishermen Marty Rodriguez and Emilio Novelo are very active in their opposition to dredging and shared with The San Pedro Sun that they have already experienced the negative effects of the dredging. They recalled in February of 2017 the developers did a pilot project in beach building and engaged in dredging activities. According to Rodriguez and Novelo, just that brief dredging affected their fishing activities significantly. "The last time they test the area for dredging they did a lot of damage to the surrounding fishing grounds," said Rodriguez. "I lost over 20 lobster traps and the area is becoming less viable for fishing. Imagine it was just a test, and what about when they start with the full-scale project? It will destroy our fishing livelihood." Rodriguez mentioned that part of that dredging did not have skirting which led to the dredging affecting their fishing grounds.

Novelo pointed out that in the past when dredging was happening around the Caye the production of marine products was largely affected to the point that fishermen had to move to other areas. "The area that they wanted to dredge now is right in front of our fishing grounds. They want to dredge there because of the rich deposits of sand to build their beach. However, besides being part of our fishing areas, it is also an area with seagrass, home to turtles, different fish species, sharks including dolphins sometimes," Novelo said. "If they dredge they will hurt our livelihood, what will we do. Every year I get around 1,500 pounds of lobster among conch from that area."

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