Conservationists are calling for a temporary moratorium on all off-shore dredging permits near Placencia in the south. They say that the cease and desist will help scientists to conduct important assessments on the patch reefs in the area. The call was made by Fragments of Hope, a small N.G.O. working in southern Belize for more than a decade to restore coral ecosystems.  Executive Director Lisa Carne says that as far back as April, they have documented the negative impacts of the dredging on critically endangered corals and other endemic species. According to Carne, she has reached out to the appropriate authorities on multiple occasions but it appears it has fallen on deaf ears.  Once again, Carne has written to the Ministry of Natural Resources’ Mining Unit documenting her findings and concerns. Her letter has been backed up by the B.T.I.A., OCEANA, W.W.F., BELIPO and the Placencia Tour Guide Association – who have all echoed their concerns and support Carne’s call for a temporary moratorium. We spoke with Carne via phone and she shares why she is concerned about what’s happening off-shore Placencia.

On the Phone: Lisa Carne, Executive Director, Fragments of Hope

“The current dredging issue near Lil Bugle Caye, we have documented the fact that silt curtains are often not in place or used inappropriately. We have documented corals and other invertebrate life smothered by the sediments. We have been shared drone images of the impact site and the silt site. So, those have all been shared. The bigger picture issue is that this is not an isolated incident. We have had multiple Cayes near Placencia dredged and filled for development. So, my concern is that there is no oversight, no direction for developers that may even want to do the least damage – where do they go? Do they go to Coastal Zone? Do they go to Fisheries? Do they go to DOE? So, it is a complicated process here as you may know. It is the Department of Mines within the Ministry of Natural Resources that issues the permits and yet it is up to DOE to decide if there needs to be an EIA or some other level of stakeholder consultation for different development projects. So, it is a little confusing the way it is set up. And our biggest request is that we are asking for a temporary moratorium on all these near shore dredging permits until such time we can map these inner patch reefs because we already know that many of them contain the critically endangered Acropora corals – these are the Staghorn and the Elkhorn. These were listed on the ICUN red list in 2008 as critically endangered, which means one step away from extinct in the wild. So, they are super important and we have a lot of them in the inner reef near Placencia. There are other endemic, meaning they only live in this area, critters like the Maya Hamlet – a bright blue fish that only lives in southern Belize reef habitat. So, we are asking government to consider the temporary moratorium until such point when we can actually map all of these near shore patch reef and see what’s out there before they keep digging up more.”

Channel 5