Elito Arceo yesterday: We are at Cayo Rosario protesting the proposed destruction of the area. This area sits inside the Hol Chan marine reserve. No to the over the water structures inside our reserve. The general public is invited to the Lions Den on Tuesday @ 5-30 . Topic to be discussed is Cayo Rosario.
#530405 - 05/14/1805:44 AMRe: 40+ Over the Water Cabanas Approved at Cayo Rosario
I still think this should be decided by the court. The law is the final determination. It trumps even public opinion. It would appear those responsible in government are motivated by other than public opinion. Otherwise this project would not have been approved. I would think this is a strong legal argument against allowing private development on what should be protected public domain. If this argument is successful in court, there would be no need for any public hearings for any future developments like this. Public hearings that go "unheard" by those responsible for approving these developments. Make those responsible accountable to the law. If you cannot prevail in court, all you fishing guides and people demonstrating in their boats might as well sell your fly rods and boats and get into the construction business. Or invest in buying a portion of the reef to develop.
PS: what is Minister Heredia's position on this?
Last edited by bywarren; 05/14/1806:36 AM.
#530413 - 05/14/1812:40 PMRe: 40+ Over the Water Cabanas Approved at Cayo Rosario
Boat Rally For Rosario Leads Up To Important Public Meeting on Tuesday, May 15th
Yesterday, local guides and concerned citizens met at the island to show unity: NO OVER THE WATER STRUCTURES AT CAYO ROSARIO.
This all leads up to the public meeting tomorrow. 5:30pm at the Lions Den, May 15th. For EVERYONE. Families, guides, children, visitors, residents, lovers of our island. Here are my photos from yesterday’s rally at Rosario.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Scoop
Boats lined up at Cayo Rosario
Boat rally against Cayo Rosario development held prior to public meeting
Hoping to send a strong message against development on Cayo Rosario, a small island within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Zone IV on the northwest coast of Ambergris Caye, a large crowd of island residents convened in front of the caye on Sunday, May 13th in a peaceful protest.
The event was spearheaded by active members of the island community who are opposing the tourism project that will include 40 over-the-water structures at the southern tip of Cayo Rosario. This part of the project is considered a threat to the future of some of the most important fishing flats around the island that supports the fly fishing industry. As such, a public meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 15th, starting at 5:30PM inside the San Pedro Lions Den. The public is invited to come out and discuss the next step on this sensitive matter.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun
#530439 - 05/16/1805:00 AMRe: 40+ Over the Water Cabanas Approved at Cayo Rosario
San Pedranos are up in arms about a proposed development within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. A small caye called Cayo Rosario was sold off to a private developer and since acquiring the land, San Pedranos say that the developer has published plans to build several structures over water. It is a massive proposed development that, according to the plans, will require significant dredging within a reserve. Now, the area in question is used every day by residents, tourists, tour guides and operators, but it also serves as a breeding ground for many ecologically important species of fish. But San Pedranos are saying no to the development. At this hour, more than two hundred guides, residents and concerned conservation entities are at a public meeting. G.O.B. representatives and local authorities were invited but up to news time they were no shows. In Wednesday’s newscast, we will have the full story with comments from all concerned sectors on the island. But for now, we bring you this interview with veteran tour guide Omar Arceo of the San Pedro Tour Guide Association.
Omar Arceo, Tour Guide, Member of San Pedro Tour Guide Association
“The Rosary Caye became a part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve area by the request of the minister, the mayor; they requested that in about 2006 and both the Hol Chan Board, along with the San Pedro Tour Guide Association, did an assessment plan that took six years. And then they took it to the government, they legislate it and past it as a law that Cayo Rosario will be part of Hol Chan Marine Reserve including from Bomba that is on the New River, by stone crab. From there to Blackadore Caye, south of Bracilete and Heavily Flatas, Punta Bajo, French Caye and the Mexico Rock…all the marsh lands and the mangroves and the wetlands will be part of the habitat where Hol Chan will be fully responsible to administrate it and to see that things happen the right way. And then six years after, we find out that they de-reserve it to give this huge mega development that is not going to bring us a profit to the local community; it will bring down the economy because where they want to build will be some mega resort is something that is not in our reach, we will never imagine. They want to reclaim three hundred feet in circle, about maybe fifty-two thousand tons of cubic yards to reclaim a beach of three hundred feet. And put in probably fifty to sixty mangrove bungalows. Pier on the south; probably two piers probably twenty water structures on each pier and they will run a sewer pipe, a water pipe and a fuel pipe. That is our concern because they de-reserved the Hol Chan Marine Reserve where the local community, me as a fly-fisher and all the community of San Pedro are not happy with this development because nobody will benefit.”
Again, on Wednesday we will have much more about the Cayo Rosario development in a comprehensive story.
A lot of "preaching to the choir". Interesting that no one from government was there to defend the decision to allow the development to proceed. I would be interested in what the law is as to over the water structures, especially in the Marine Reserve. If it is legal, no amount of public opposition will have any effect. I would hope those opposed would get a legal opinion and, assuming that opinion would be against this type of development, the court would rule against it and then there would be legal precedent which could be used to prevent any further development of this kind. Seems to me that would be much better time and effort spent as opposed to public hearings that do not seem to have much effect on those who make the decisions to allow these developments, or on the developers. Unfortunately, if is legal and developers feel they can make money, the voices of the public will be nothing more than just "preaching to the choir".
#530454 - 05/16/1812:43 PMRe: 40+ Over the Water Cabanas Approved at Cayo Rosario
San Pedro Turns Out for Cayo Rosario Meeting: NO is Unanimous
Yesterday I arrived early at the empty Lions Den in downtown San Pedro for the Public Meeting About the APPROVED Development at Cayo Rosario on the west side of Ambergris Caye.
I watched new residents, long term business owners, kids, parents, fishing guides, resort operators, tour operation owners, real estate agents, repeat visitors, San Pedranos…hundreds file into the large room.
The universal response from the crowd, reiterated by Billy Leslie, President of the SP Tour Guides Association, again and again (great post about Billy from the San Pedro Sun in 2000 – a bit of his history on the island)
NO OVER THE WATER STRUCTURES IN A MARINE RESERVE AND NO DREDGING OF ANY SEA BED IN OUR PROTECTED BAJOS.
I was there to listen. And report back.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Scoop
#530472 - 05/17/1805:09 AMRe: 40+ Over the Water Cabanas Approved at Cayo Rosario
On Tuesday, we told you about a developing story in San Pedro where residents and tour operators are against the Cayo Rosario development. The ten-acre mangrove caye falls within the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, but it was sold to a developer who has proposed a massive resort off the island. The resort first proposed ninety over-water cabanas and the developers later amended the plan to fifty or so over-water bungalows. But regardless of the number of cabanas, these structures over the water are what the San Pedro community is against. They say it will destroy the habitat of marine species and alter the tourism experience within the reserve. But based on the final Environmental Impact Assessment done in 2017, the report says that the seabed surrounding the island isn’t productive, neither were sport fish species present and that the project’s dredging will cause minimum impact. All of these claims are being refuted by San Pedranos. Over the past year, the San Pedro community flatly rejected the proposal at the first consultation when the 2017 E.I.A. was presented. They say the second consultation was done behind their backs with a handful of people. Now residents say they have learned that the National Environmental Appraisal Committee approved the design for the development, but they do not agree with the environmentally unsound and illegal project within the reserve. We note that on the D.O.E. website, the E.I.A. for Cayo Rosario is still classified as “under review.” News Five’s Andrea Polanco has more in the following story.
Romel Alexander Gomez, Fly Fishing Guide
“Where will these fish go? We are supposed to protect them. They make so much money for us. Five years ago there was a study that fly-fishing brings in one hundred and thirteen million dollars into our economy. That was five years ago. Our best scenario is to protect it for generations to come and just keep making money off the goose that keeps laying golden eggs. That’s just how I see it. Belize is that last place where we can say, you know what, we don’t want that. And we are gonna be successful. We have been. I am a third generation fly-fishing. I am the perfect example of how successful sustainable fly-fishing has been.”
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
Romel Gomez is a third generation fly-fishing guide. He is just one of the fly-fishing guides who use the salt flats, commonly called “los bajos” just off the coast of San Pedro to earn a living. Of recent, it has also become the spot to kite-surf – a relatively new tourism offering in San Pedro. But pretty soon, Alex and others who use “los bajos” around Cayo Rosario may no longer be able to do so. That’s because the mangrove island called Cayo Rosario which is a part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, was sold off to a private developer John Turley. And now Turley and his partners have been taking steps to start a massive development that will see more than fifty over-the-water bungalows built smack in the middle of the reserve and will provide some three hundred jobs and generate thirteen million dollars in revenue in five years. But for construction to happen, the developers say they will have to reclaim seventy-five percent of the caye that eroded over the years – that means that los bajos which serves as grounds for bone, permit and tarpon, could all be gone when the dredging start – and to locals it is not worth it.
Omar Arceo, Tour Guide
“To build on the island is not a problem. But to build on the crown land, all the bajos where we do fly fishing, permit, tarpon and bone fish, all around the island is a shallow flat. That is what we are fighting for, we are fighting for that quest that they are not supposed to touch one inch of that flat where I have made my life. Where other guys from the whole town, Pescador, Go Fish, Blue-Bone fish, private users in general have been using it for more than one hundred years but the fly-fishing started in the early seventies. So, right now, we are seeing that they will kill this flat; take it to zero.”
But if left up to the residents of the island, this will not happen. San Pedranos say this will not only be an environmental mess, but it will also cost the tourism industry in the long run and destroy the livelihoods of thousands. It is a view shared by marine scientist Adiel Perez who has been conducting research in this area.
Adiel Perez, PhD Candidate, EcoSur
“Those areas are very shallow, less than two feet and you have to understand that in these that is where macro organisms live; crustaceans, shrimps, crabs, these are the food source for bone fish, tarpon, permit, so if we remove this habitat. These fish are site specific and if they are removed from their habitat, they are gonna be creating more competition with other fish population in other areas. Everyone will suffer the impacts of such large developments and if we add them one by one, we are adding a large, long term impact to the tourism industry because those resources are what is helping to make our large economy that we have. This is very important. All of those sites are connected to one another and removing those sites will create a large problem in the long run.”
And for this reason, more than two hundred concerned residents held a public meeting on Tuesday night in San Pedro Town to discuss the proposed development. According to the organizers, government authorities and local officials were invited for this meeting to talk about the recently approved E.I.A., but the officials were a no-show. President of the Tour Guide Association Billy Leslie led the call for “no over water structures.”
Billy Leslie, President, San Pedro Tour Guide Association
“We want to see development done in a sustainable way. A way that it is gonna be here for me and my kids and my kids’ kids, for many to be able to enjoy. That is the type of development we want to see. The Bajos are very important for the precious bonefish, tarpon and permit. We cannot allow that development to dredge the area to fill the island to be able to develop.”
“So, they got clearance from NEAC to do the over-water structure?”
“They got clearance to go because this is a concept. Now they have to come with the right plans and get permission from all the right authorities and so forth. If you are a developer, you know that is an open ticket to continue.”
“And no explanation as to why we’ve given the green light to something like this?”
“No explanation whatsoever. They have even failed to answer our petition o come and explain. If they are representatives from the Department of Environment and they think we are wrong, then come and publicly show that we are wrong.”
Other local influencers, as well as visitors to the island, support the concerns of the residents, tour-guides and fishermen.
Gary Greif, Councilor, San Pedro Town Council
“When we get ready and start move on Belmopan, I will be there with you. Belmopan should not and will not decide what happens on this island. We are the protectors of San Pedro. I am telling Belmopan, my colleagues in Belmopan, I, Gary Greif, stand against you.”
Tamara Sniffin, President, B.T.I.A. San Pedro
“Unfortunately, our letters just like everybody else’s were not heard. This is what we have to do next. They went ahead and approved it. I do understand that they are gonna go back to the developers with a few stipulations that that they are gonna have to comply with but the bottom line is that they are still gonna be building within a marine reserve. So, our voices need to be heard and whatever the decision made by NEAC, we need to let them know that we do not support that. Our National B.T.I.A. is behind us on this effort, as well. And it is not just about all of us on the island.”
Jay Beebe, Sage Fly Rods
“I have been coming here for about ten years and what brought me here in the first place was permit, tarpon and bonefish. Fishing is a passion of mine. It is the industry I chose to work in. As these developments happen and as flats and mangroves are lost, the habitats are lost, the fisheries are compromised and it affects my decision to go to places. This is a place where I caught my first bonefish, I caught my first tarpon, I caught my first permit here with Abi Marin. I did that all here and I want my children and my grand-children to catch their first bonefish, first tarpon and first permit here in Belize.”
“Hearing about this proposed development out there, how does this make you feel as a visitor?”
Tim McCue, Visitor
“It is actually horrifying, as a visitor.”
Leslie called on the Mayor of San Pedro and Minister of Tourism to intervene.
“I am now pleading to both of them to stop and take a look at this and look at what we are saying We are saying that this developer doesn’t need to take our land to build and sell. Let him develop his land. Let him make presentations of what he wants to develop on his land. Leave the protected area alone. There was a reason we protect it, let’s leave it there.”
San Pedro rejects tourism development at Cayo Rosario
The public meeting was headed by Chairman of the San Pedro Tour Guide Association, Philip ‘Billy’ Leslie, Enrique Marin of the Ambergris Caye Fishing Guide Association (ACFGA), Chairman of the San Pedro Tour Operators Association Everette Anderson and Elito Arceo. Leslie began the meeting stating that the main issue is the building of structures off the island and threatening the delicate seabed underneath. “All our fishermen know that that is where they go to take their daily tours. Some go for bonefishing, other for fly fishing and even to catch barracudas,” said Leslie. “So, it is not only the bonefish or other protected species but also many other species that live there that can be affected by this project,” Leslie stated that the execution of such a large development can also damage the tourism industry on the island, particularly the fly fishing sector. He added that the island community worked very hard to make the area where Cayo Rosario lies into a marine protected area in 2015, with the help of Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Honourable Manuel Heredia Jr., along with current Mayor Daniel Guerrero.
The interactive discussion also included testimonials from visitors who come to Belize specifically for fly fishing. This is the case of American visitor Timothy McCue who has been fly fishing in Belize for many years. “When I saw the plans for Cayo Rosario, it was horrifying to me,” he said. “Whenever I come to Ambergris Caye, that is my favorite area for fly fishing, I always request it whenever I plan my trips to the island.” He encourages every island resident to voice their opinion and fight for this case, which is putting the future of the fly fishing sector in peril. The same opinion was also shared by Jay Beebe, who works at a company in the United States that specializes in the manufacturing of fly rods. He said that many anglers that travel to many areas around the world to fish bonefish, tarpon, and permit come to Belize. Beebe believes that they can easily change their decision to come to Belize if there is a compromise with these species.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun
#530506 - 05/18/1809:13 AMRe: 40+ Over the Water Cabanas Approved at Cayo Rosario
I'm completely on-board with bywarren and agree that this needs to be a legal fight. I would contribute to that fund. Also agree on wanting to know where Heredia, Guerrero as well as Andre Perez each stand on this issue.